How Can Local Authorities Create Liveable Places?

Widespread housing inequality and ongoing challenges affecting the high street mean that the Government’s focus on town centre regeneration is more pertinent today than ever. Yet if Local Authorities are to maximise their chances of securing funding to transform their towns, they will need to balance ambition with realism around what is deliverable. Now with a chance to significantly revitalise the places where we live, work and play, as well as raise economic performance across all parts of the country, how can Local Authorities best respond to the opportunity and create liveable places for the community?

The scale of the opportunity

With a stable government now in place for the next five years, there seems to be a genuine commitment to deliver on the promise to ‘level-up’ the country by implementing town centre regeneration programmes. There is a political imperative behind this, but also huge challenges for towns which must be addressed.

There are over 200 live opportunities for towns, cities and regions to secure a share of the £3.6 billion of funding currently on the table. Further phases of the Future High Streets Fund and opportunities for Town Deals are due later this year, and there will surely be more to come in the upcoming budget. Meanwhile it is worth noting the evolution of Homes England to increasingly focus on regeneration and placemaking, reflecting the wider importance of creating happy, healthy, integrated and thriving new communities.

Creating Liveable Places

What do we mean by Liveable Places? For us, liveable places are those which;

  • put their community at their centre;
  • deliver long term social and economic value;
  • are well designed with high quality public spaces;
  • focus on collaboration and engagement; and
  • have sustainable solutions at their heart.

These liveable places will attract the critical mass of people necessary to support inclusive growth. They will be well-connected and able to respond to the challenges presented by a world that continues to change at pace.

Funding Liveable Places

The core requirements to secure funding to deliver this vision remain based on The Green Book, which offers guidance on how to evaluate projects, and The Five Case Model recommended by HM Treasury for developing business cases.

However, it is clear that changes are being considered to prioritise investment for left-behind locations, not just places which easily demonstrate land value uplift to support a Benefit-Cost Ratio. It is these ‘forgotten places’, which often sit outside major regional centres, that are crying out for town centre regeneration and investment to help them level-up and connect with their metropolitan neighbours. In response, the Towns Fund prospectus suggests that there is an ambition to have a more holistic and nuanced discussion about a comprehensive strategy for placemaking. This will help to create a better framework for responding and adapting to change in a way that ensures a broader spread of investment across the country.

Five key attributes for success

This is a fast moving and constantly changing environment, where programmes of intervention are being developed and evolving even as they are being actively rolled out.
Having worked with numerous combined authorities in the development and implementation of their devolution deals, as well as with Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Regions on their funding programmes, we have seen some recurring themes emerge. Our involvement in the award of over £500m of European Regional Development Funding has placed us in a unique position to identity what we see as five key attributes for success.

These are:

1.   Control of a well organised and structured team that builds confidence and makes it easy for government to engage;
2.   Evidence based proposals which demonstrate real need, clear impact and which align with programme objectives;
3.   Integration of multiple partners across government and the public and private sectors to maximise impact;
4.   Realism about what is achievable in terms of time, cost and quality;
5.   Ambition, to present innovative and transformative proposals.

Completing town centre regeneration successfully is going to be complex and will take time, but with multiple rounds of funding potentially up for grabs, we have a once in a generation opportunity to rise to the challenge.

Over the coming months we’ll be exploring other aspects of community and high street regeneration, drawing on our experience in local government to delve into the wider issues surrounding placemaking. From transport investment to heritage, culture, funding and community engagement, we’ll be unpacking some of the most important topics for Local Authorities committed to long term change. Creating Liveable Places is integral to the sustainable economic and social prosperity of the UK. We simply have to get this right.

 

David Jobling

UK Town Centre Lead Ask me a question
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