HS2: The Regeneration Opportunity

Yesterday I spoke at a British Property Federation seminar (http://www.bpf.org.uk/en/newsroom/press_release/PR100529_Scale_of_HS2_regeneration_opportunities_revealed_at_BPF_seminar.php), on the potentially huge boost to regeneration from HS2. The HS2 Growth Taskforce has set our recommendations on what needs to be done to maximise the economic growth resulting from HS2 (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-growth-taskforce-a-report-to-government-on-maximising-the-benefits-of-hs2). The main message is clear: we need long-term planning, investment and focus on delivery to maximise the regeneration opportunities.

Beth West of HS2 spoke about international examples of high speed rail stations that have become hubs for development and regeneration as a result of proactive planning and public investment. But she also highlighted the risks of complacency, pointing to examples of high speed rail stations that stand in splendid isolation from surrounding development.

Lorraine Baldry, Chair of London and Continental Railways (LCR), spoke about the experience of HS1 where regeneration was integral to the vision, and indeed LCR had control of the land around the stations. The impacts at Kings Cross and Stratford are now there to see. An assessment of the economic impact of HS1 has shown that the regeneration impacts around the stations alone could amount to 15,000 new homes and 70,000 new jobs.

Richard Bowker, former Chair of the Strategic Rail Authority spoke about how existing methods of transport appraisal fail to capture the full positive land-use and growth impacts of transformational projects (a topic for a future post).

Steven Norris spoke about his experience as a Transport Minister when he approved the Jubilee Line Extension. That scheme that had been delayed because of doubts around economic benefits, but it is now difficult to imagine London’s Docklands without it.

I spoke about the huge opportunity in Leeds. The proposed HS2 station will be in the heart of Leeds South Bank, an area with significant potential for development and intensification on brownfield sites to enable the growth of Leeds City Centre. This 136ha area is of a similar size to Edinburgh New Town (which is 137ha), which indicates the scale and level of ambition of the project. I outlined five areas where we need to take action to make the most of the opportunity.

First, we need to ensure the plans for HS2 are integrated with those for regeneration of the areas surrounding the stations. We must avoid the HS2 station creating severance in the way in which the existing station and railways. We need to link HS2 and existing station in a way that makes interchange feel seamless, and also enables people to access easily surrounding buildings and spaces. We might also consider how the HS2 station could act as local and retail service hub, in the same way that Kings Cross and St Pancras stations are becoming the town centres for their surrounding communities.

Second, to spread the benefits of HS2 we need to connect it to a good quality local and regional transport network. We are planning to reorientate our city centre transport network to connect new areas of growth and make more areas pedestrian–friendly. We need better quality city regional rail connections between Leeds and other cities and towns such as Bradford, Halifax, Wakefield and Harrogate. It is not a case of investment in HS2 or investment in local and regional transport. It is about positioning HS2 as part of a coherent long-term strategy for the rail and transport network as a whole.

Third, we need to put in place the right delivery mechanisms. We will need to set out a clear long-term vision, coordinate investment, assemble land, and capture the benefits of value uplift. We are developing a proposition to Government to retain business rates growth in the area around the station, to create a revenue stream against which we can borrow to fund investment.

Fourth, we need to combine a long-term perspective with flexibility over the short to medium term. HS2 is a long term project. It will not reach Leeds until at least 2032. We should think about what our economy and what our cities will look like in 20 or 30 years. But Leeds South Bank is already an established and growing location for business, culture and learning. It is the home to Asda’s UK Head Office, and has seen major new developments such as Leeds City College’s Printworks Campus, The Tetley contemporary art gallery, and Sovereign Square, a new public space and a the new Leeds office for KPMG. In this respect the area is different to the environs of the HS2 stations in Birmingham and Manchester, which present more of a blank canvass suitable for a traditional masterplanning approach. We need to encourage the continued growth and regeneration of Leeds South Bank in advance of HS2, whilst not cutting off longer term opportunities.

Finally, we need to focus on people not just places. Leeds has widespread problems of poverty (see: https://citypolicy.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/more-jobs-better-jobs/) and some of our most deprived communities are in close proximity to Leeds South Bank. We need to address the physical severance between some of these neighbourhoods and the city centre. And we need to equip our people with the skills to access the jobs that will be created by HS2 and the regeneration and growth of Leeds South Bank and city centre. That is why we need to learn from best practice on other major construction projects such as Leeds Arena (http://newsfeed.leedsvirtualnewsroom.co.uk/2010/10/leeds-arena-employment-and-training.html) or Crossrail (http://www.crossrail.co.uk/careers/tuca). It is also why we are bidding to be the home of the proposed new HS2 college (http://www.leeds.gov.uk/news/pages/Council-in-bid-for-new-HS2-college.aspx)

In short, we cannot afford to adopt a strategy of “if we build it they will come”. We need a concerted, coordinated and long-term approach to exploit the huge regeneration opportunity presented by HS2.

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About citypolicy

Interested in what makes cities and regions dynamic, competitive and sustainable. I blog in a personal capacity. I work for Leeds City Council as Chief Economic Development Officer. Previously worked for Arup in their planning, policy and economics practice, and before that for London First.
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