Spatial planning links promised in northern transport blueprint

The emerging strategic transport plan for the north of England will seek to support councils' spatial and economic planning functions in developing an integrated approach to transport and land-use planning, its authors have promised.

Rail: new Northern links proposed
Rail: new Northern links proposed

Major transport investment is earmarked for rail and road improvements across the north of England over the next 30 years under Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) draft strategic plan (STP), launched for a 13-week consultation yesterday.

TfN said that local partners will be able to use the STP to "support the case for local investment" and "see what it means for their respective spatial plans".

It suggested that major strategic investment can support local growth plans and help align planned future development sites.

"It is envisaged that the STP and the long-term investment programme will become more aligned with spatial land-use plans, such as those around transport hubs, maximising the opportunities for economic growth and for users to access the transport network, with good land-use planning also contributing towards changing people’s use of the transport network, including shorter trips," the plan explains.

"Planned strategic transport investment can help support schemes seeking funding through mechanisms, such as the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will provide infrastructure to unlock new private housebuilding in the areas where housing need is greatest," it adds.

As part of the strategy, TfN unveiled plans for its east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail programme. This is intended to complement the planned High Speed Two network to create a "rapid, reliable and resilient" rail network between the north’s six biggest cities and other economic centres.

The plan also identifies seven strategic "corridors" linking important assets and major economic centres where transport improvements are needed to allow businesses to grow and job prospects to be increased.

They include a "Southern Pennines" corridor from the Port of Liverpool through Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire to the Humber ports, with stronger cross-border links into the East Midlands.

Another corridor outlined in the plan, termed "Connecting the Energy Coasts", explores ways to improve travel between renewable energy and research assets in Cumbria, north Lancashire, North Yorkshire, the North East and the Tees Valley.

Five other strategic corridors are defined, contemplating better linkages across the Central Pennines, along the East Coast Main Line into Scotland, between the North West and the Sheffield city-region, between the North West, north Wales and West Midlands, and between West Yorkshire and Scotland.

TfN said the plan, which was agreed by local authority and business leaders on its partnership board last month, is aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy through a sustained programme of transport infrastructure investment that could deliver a £100 billion economic boost and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

TfN chairman John Cridland said: "The north is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. TfN’s vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life."

TfN is due to became England’s first statutory sub-national transport body later this year, which means that its plans must be formally considered by government when taking decisions on transport investment. It said a final version of the STP will be published later in the year and submitted for ministerial consideration.

Neil Carberry, managing director for infrastructure and people at business body the CBI, said the plan is a "significant milestone" in delivering the infrastructure needed to boost productivity across the north.

"Its plans for improved connections between the towns, cities and economic centres that will drive long-term growth reflect many of the priorities highlighted by businesses in the north," he said.

Dan Mitchell, partner at consultancy Barton Willmore’s Manchester office, said: "To really unleash the economic might of the Northern Powerhouse, the existing economic centres and hubs across the north need to be better connected. It’s vital that we join the dots more effectively so that people can live, work and do business more easily and more interchangeably across these neighbouring markets."

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