A MAJOR annual conference entitled the Northern Regeneration Summit is taking place in Manchester this week with many notable speakers, including some from the North East, considering how to secure investment and deliver sustainable communities in volatile economic times.
What do we expect to gain from such conferences, apart from the essential networking and business development elements needed in industry?
Lord Adonis, minister for local government and communities, will tell us about the Government’s strategy behind regeneration on a local and regional scale.
The one critical issue for the North East is the approach to be taken to the potential high-speed rail line for the North. Will it run through the North East? If not, why not?
Connectivity to our region would allow us to compete with other regions to attract business.
I am chairing four workshops dealing with funding and investment and the benefit of attracting low-carbon industries. I am also supporting The Northern Way in its campaign to achieve momentum in regeneration.
What is the public sector doing to rebuild that momentum after the recession? What new models will emerge to finance regeneration for the new market conditions? And how are we to engage a wider range of investors?
The forecast is that there will be less public sector money available next year, and I suspect for a few years. So how do we as a region create the opportunity to earn our living and grow our activities? I hope we will hear about the ideas and innovation to emerge from the exciting low-carbon sector, from alternative energy to electric vehicle development and all that spins out from there. From this we may hope to establish the North East as an innovative region which effectively manages change, something we have done reasonably well over the last 30 years of structural economic transformation.
We also need to box a bit more cleverly in using our assets. The public sector has a wealth of property assets. How can they be used in a more comprehensive and collaborative manner to bridge the gap in revenue funding from Government? Conversely, how can the private sector create new financial models that look at a longer term investment to develop properties that does not rely on short-term revenue demands, but accepts the need in regeneration for a longer term investment plan?
The IPD issued their autumn 2009 Regeneration Index which concludes "The longer-term incentives for investment in regeneration are not impaired. What is an issue is the shorter-term debt funding for regeneration." To create a new way of investing is a tall order where there are very different agencies and corporations in each phase of the development of regeneration schemes. What can be done is to break down the silos of different organisations and create a more collaborative way of working and, in doing so, look at new ways of doing things that remove the barriers which delay processes. The new Planning Mediation Service (of which more next week) is an excellent example of addressing litigious planning procedure by encouraging the parties to talk and reach agreement and thus speed up the planning service.
We may not get a shock/shift out of the Summit, but I have no doubt we will leave with a lot to think about and hopefully use to try to achieve progress.
Kevan Carrick is partner in JK Property Consulting LLP and policy spokesman for RICS North East