Covid has made the levelling up and regeneration agenda even more urgent. The pandemic has been an economic catastrophe, especially for the self-employed and those running small businesses. But it has also brought about a tectonic shift that could revitalise the regeneration debate. The new reality of virtual working and the hub-and-spoke office could enable the reversal of the unhealthy migration of many decades and the ‘brain drain’ to London and offer opportunities to those in ‘left behind’ areas if the right components can be put in place.
The key is how. Through the Big Tent Foundation, I’ve been working around the country on a range of regeneration projects including the Norfolk Enterprise Festival and the Bridge of Hope. Having spoken with entrepreneurs, councillors and businesses, I believe the missing link in our levelling up debate lies in Local Regeneration Corporations. They should be as dedicated vehicles and not a LEP, financed from a mix of private and public funding and have the ability to access multiple pots. They also need compulsory purchase powers, land value capture, tax increment financing and tax breaks for freeports.
The results could be transformational. With local leadership and new freedoms to Build Back Better, the Boris and Rishi Development Corporations could be as totemic as Right to Buy or Big Bang in the 1980s. It could be the defining legacy of the 2020s. It would give ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Build Back Better’ real local meaning and unlock a wall of local investment. Now is the moment for such boldness.
Best articles to integrate:
13th June 2018 The time to reform Britain and tackle the generational divide is now, not after Brexit | Daily Telegraph
29th November 2011 History shows that leaders often turn to national infrastructure projects at times of historic economic crisis. | ConservativeHome
9th October 2011 Infrastructure investment is essential to a coherent plan for growth and economic recovery. | Respublica