I promised in last week's column to review the draft North East Strategic Economic Plan.
This is now open for consultation until 25 February and I urge everyone to read and respond – www.nelep.co.uk/agenda-for-growth . The draft starts with two important stated intentions: We need to change the way we work with the Government and with each other; and strong governance structures are being put in place.
Both are crucial to ensure the plan has a chance to succeed. The plan proposes a long-term planning and devolution of infrastructure spending by a locally-managed capital finance deal for transport and commercial property, with control over all Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) assets and an affordable homes programme.
In relation to property, the plan recognises that changing economic conditions will not alter existing barriers to housing and commercial development. The plan proposes to bring forward strategic sites. This is expanded by using the North East Investment Fund. At present the fund is operating successfully to help to kick-start development, such as the Stephenson Quarter, Newcastle.
The intention is to expand the fund with proceeds from the HCA’s commercial property estate and set proceeds from the NELEP Enterprise Zones. This can be further expanded for commercial development and infrastructure with the approval of the draft bid for the European JESSICA Fund. Housing development is to have a long-term investment programme with co-funding of an £880m 10-year Housing Investment Programme by devolved resources from the HCA.
This will be programmed through co-ordinated intelligence, planning and policy. It will be delivered with development partners to understand the barriers to growth and using the Unlocking Economic Potential Investment Fund to accelerate and de-risk new infrastructure and development. It will also use partners’ land assets as a catalyst for development.
The plan recognises the need to provide a balanced portfolio of residential sites and to roll out tolls that can support affordable housing development, providing new delivery arrangements for housing growth. To succeed with the plan an increase in demand is essential.
An integrated approach to trade, inward investment and business tourism is proposed through the emerging Combined Authority’s co-ordinated inward investment strategy, under the title of North East International. A systematic approach to economic linkages and connectivity are needed that secure new opportunities in the global economy. I have only one objection to the plan and that is the branding of the region under the name of North East International.
I have always considered that branding must identify the uniqueness of the product with its potential customers. I repeat my plea to the CA and NELEP to adopt a name that symbolises what the North East represents to its customers by asking them. I make no apology in repeating my other plea from last week’s column. Collaboration among the seven local councils and the private sector must be at the heart of what we do in the future.
This will give those who seek to invest in the North East the confidence that it is a dynamic and successful region.
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, the policy spokesman for RICS North East, a mediator, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and Chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution, a mediator appointment service.