Time to join up all the dots across the North

Henry Brooks

Joined up planning is vital across the North to deliver growth and prosperity to all of its communities – according to a new report.

The ‘Ambitions for the North’ report was launched by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in Leeds with a keynote speech by Lord Heseltine.

It calls for “an overarching spatial vision for the North” supported by strategies similar to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for each functional area.

The report warns the current “fragmented and under-resourced planning of the North” must be addressed head on and called on decision makers not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Its authors say several government departments, Transport for the North, NP11, combined authorities and other bodies have together “made significant progress in driving forward the Northern Powerhouse”.

However they stress that those bodies individual plans need to be “knitted together” into a coherent whole.

Taking that approach would direct development and regeneration strategically to break with unsustainable patterns of land use, road-based housing development and city-oriented investment and help to rebalance the North.

A spatial framework would allow the region to respond better to social, economic and climatic changes and address the needs of settlements outside the influence of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, such as coastal towns and deep rural areas.

The report adds: “This kind of pan-North collaborative planning is essential for understanding the impact of major investment and development on people and the environment, and for communities’ views to be taken into account before decisions are made.”

Ian Tant, president of the RTPI, says: “At a time when the North looks set to receive unprecedented levels of investment, we must think hard about how to capitalise on this to ensure that change benefits everyone over the long term.

“Entrenched ways of delivering housing and infrastructure through silo working will only repeat mistakes of the past.
“This is the moment to reinvest in good planning – from the most local level to strategically across boundaries – to create not only a prosperous North but greener, healthier, more inclusive and sustainable places that people proudly call home.”

The report says that distinctive northern assets such as heritage in town centres and national parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty should also be better used and integrated with the overall spatial vision.

Henry Brooks, managing director of the Tatton Estate in Cheshire, backs the call for a spatial framework for the whole region.

He says: “We need a joined up approach which talks about growth as well as investment. If you have a spatial plan for the North then you have got something that you can work with.”

Brooks believes the NP11 group of Local Enterprise Partnership leaders could be given “the challenge” of delivering such a plan.