Northern growth under threat unless Powerhouse targets housing

Cities and regions in the north face a looming housing crisis unless they take steps now to incorporate and accelerate residential development in their plans for the Northern Powerhouse, according to global infrastructure services firm AECOM. 

As key players arrive in Manchester for the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference on 21-22 February, AECOM argues that in addition to infrastructure, housing must become a vital element of Northern Powerhouse delivery if the north is to successfully achieve economic growth and rebalance the economy.

Housing has not figured conspicuously in discussions around government's Northern Powerhouse initiative thus far, but incorporating house-building into decision-making and planning now will help avoid a potential crisis, argues AECOM. The firm is urging decision makers to focus on improving existing housing stock, strengthening communities and building new homes to accommodate planned growth and ensure that people will want to live and work in the north. Local and regional authorities must not overlook housing when allocating funds associated with the Northern Powerhouse, AECOM says.   

The company's director and business unit lead for the North of England, Richard Green, said: “Discussions around the UK’s housing crisis focus on the south east where there is the greatest need for new homes, but it is just as important that housing also moves forward in the north to help fuel the Northern Powerhouse. Balanced UK economic growth can only be achieved if cities and regions in the north can successfully create well-connected communities close to transport links in areas where people want to live.”

AECOM says that areas earmarked for major industrial and infrastructure investment, such as Cumbria, will need to plan how they will deliver appropriate housing and other vital social infrastructure that will help them attract and retain talent in the region. Key to successful housing development in these areas will be creating sustainable communities where aspirers and skilled professionals want to live, believes AECOM. As regions develop and change in the north, the housing mix will need to reflect the diverse communities that emerge.

AECOM also argues that investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail and other bold new transport initiatives should not focus exclusively on connectivity. Transport developments also present opportunities for local and regional authorities to develop long-term, strategic growth plans that maximise the potential for housing along route corridors, which should be seen in the context of brownfield regeneration, garden towns and green belt review. These types of developments will not only attract more passengers onto transport routes, but also bring a range of economic and social benefits to the local area.  

According to AECOM, the north also has the opportunity to take advantage of growing support for innovative construction methods designed to speed up the delivery of new homes. 

Green said: “With the government’s support for off-site construction in its recent housing white paper, the north has an important opportunity to lead the way in the manufacture of custom-build and manufactured homes. Successful implementation in the UK requires a robust supply chain and the north has the skills to deliver.”

Green added: “Housing is key to economic growth. Its vital role must not be forgotten as Northern Powerhouse momentum turns to delivery and funds to accelerate growth are allocated.”

The UK Northern Powerhouse Conference is the biggest cross-sectoral gathering of northern businesses in the UK. It will be held in Manchester Central on 21 and 22 February and is expected to attract more than 3,000 delegates over two days.

Topics being addressed during the conference include manufacturing, transport and infrastructure, finance and delivery, devolution, competitiveness and productivity and energy. 

Infrastructure Intelligence readers can get a 25% discount off ticket prices for the event by entering the special discount code infraintel25% when booking tickets via the conference website.  

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