Integration of transport investment with planning vital for city growth, says report

The integration of transport investment with planning is 'central' to the economic growth of British cities, according to a new report.

A Greater Manchester tram. Pic: Gene Hunt, Flickr
A Greater Manchester tram. Pic: Gene Hunt, Flickr

The study on transport infrastructure investment, by economic consultancy Volterra Partners, calls for greater devolution of transport decisions and fiscal powers to city regions.

The report finds a "mismatch between central government’s ambition to boost jobs growth and economic prosperity in cities and the system used to prioritise transport investment and funding".

It states: "Britain’s cities are among the least devolved in the world, with very little control over services, funding, or borrowing, constraining their ability to give a clear focus across policies at the local level to promote sources of competitive advantage in the interests of local and national productivity."

The document goes on to say that "centralised decision-making means transport decisions are evaluated independently of their impact on the economy or interaction with other policies, something which astonishes non-economists and even some politicians".

The solution, it says, is "better transport, land use planning and devolution", three things which "go hand in hand".

It states: "Both for London and other cities, an integration of land use planning and development with the transport investment is central to economic growth and to future welfare."

The study calls for "the building of dense city centres" to maximise economic potential.

Denser cities "can accommodate productive workers in knowledge-intensive firms and sectors", such as bio-medical research, 3D printing, accounting and law. This would need the necessary planning policies to support development, the document adds.

Devolution would also allow city regions to "prioritise the investments which support growth in a manner that can be responsive to local economic conditions".

The report cites London as an example of a successful approach to transport planning.

It states: "Over the past decade, London has developed such an approach with the ability to consider both planning and transport strategies in parallel as a result of the creation of the Greater London Authority.

"Thus economic projections can be made over timescales which also enable views on transport investments to be made."

The report warns: "Without the proposed improvements outlined in this report, the UK will continue to miss out on the potential of its cities, as investment decisions, often heralded as economic decisions, are made without reference to their impact on the competitiveness and economic performance of its cities.

"Visionary schemes such as Crossrail, HS2, and the One North proposals rest precisely on their ability to be game-changers for city regions and the whole country; and they require complementary plans to be put in place to allow this to happen."

The report Investing in City Regions: the case for long-term investment in transport can be found here.

john.geoghegan@haymarket.com


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