Johnson’s Sketchy Levelling Up Plan – National Spatial Planning?

Here

10 times more content than a normal PM speech. No short paras here. Giant run on paras. A few takeaways.

government is there to provide a strategic lead but that requires consistency from government – not chopping and changing – in the last 40 years we have had 40 different schemes or bodies to boost local or regional growth- we had the Abercrombie plan in London, the new towns, the economic development committees, the urban regeneration corporations, the new deal for communities, the regional development agencies, and yet none of these initiatives have been powerful enough to deal with the long term secular trends- de-industrialisation or the decline of coastal resorts and that basic half-heartedness has been coupled with an unspoken assumption by policy makers that investment should always follow success- so that to use a football metaphor the approach has always been to hang around the goal mouth rather than being the playmaker.

Watch out when a PM mentions the Abercrombie Plan in speech. You tend as a result to get less of a strategic lead and less strategic planning as a result.

The PM was vocal on inequality and centralisation. He made the point clearly that levelling up did not imply levelling down of weathy areas.

let us be clear about the difference between this project and levelling down. We don’t want to level down. We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies, we don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer and you can’t hope to stimulate growth around the country by actually constraining companies from developing as the Labour government did in the 1960s, with the ludicrous industrial development certificates…

levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation, it’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul, its not zero sum it’s win win for the whole United Kingdom

But that was contradicted by other parts of the speech.

governments have created a sort of Matthew effect to him that hath shall be given so you end up investing in areas where house prices are already sky high and where transport is already congested and by turbo charging those areas, especially in London and the south east – you drive prices even higher and you force more and more people to move to the same expensive areas- and two thirds of graduates from our top 30 universities end up in London – and the result is that their commutes are longer, their trains are more crowded, they have less time with their kids, they worry at the same time that the younger generation won’t be able to get a home and that their leafy suburb or village will be engulfed by new housing development but without the infrastructure to go with it.

Which implies less investment in wealthy areas?

Prices are only higher in the South East, overheating only ever happens when you don’t build enough houses to match the jobs, and when infrastructure doesn’t keep apace.

I Boris saying don’t build houses here or build houses matched with investment so overheating doesn’t happen?

You can only make sense of this with a spatial plan. If there is an area where because of environmental constraints – lets says villages in the North Downs, you absolutely must constrain jobs growth there so they don’t overheat and force long commutes. Equally though you need to build enough houses where they are not strict constraints otherwise the overheating gets worse and worse and the commutes longer and longer and the infrastructure deficit gets worse and worse.

Lets define overheating – overheating is the negative environmental consequences of not building enough houses to meet economic growth because of land or policy constraints, or the negative environmental consequences of building too many houses in areas of environmental constraint rather than in accessible less constrained areas.

Hence housing has to go somewhere. The implication of the speech that you can force relocation of jobs to the North – that is tried and failed regional policy and the Arc will grow.

the golden triangle of Oxford London Cambridge – the greatest scientific constellation anywhere in this hemisphere

But which areas will go and which constrained? Where there is overheating from environmental (as opposed to policy) constraints where will the shortfall of housing be met?

Is the implication, for example, that South Bucks is overheating and growth areas like North Bucks will take the strain? If so that means much more than a million homes which only included a component for land constrained areas around 1/3rd the size it should have been if you had for example an Abercrombie type scheme of suitable areas growing and other areas not.

Also what now is a growth deal? It seems the government no longer likes them after incoming Nimby politicians in the likes of Bucks and Oxfordshire choose to break the deals. Now what is the plan, to broker directly with County Level Mayors?

We need to re-write the rulebook, with new deals for the counties. There is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we have devolved to city leaders so that they can take charge of levelling up local infrastructure …As I say, we will not be proceeding with a one size fits all template. One possibility is a directly elected mayor for individual counties but there are other possibilities. We could devolve power for a specific local purpose like a county or city coming together to improve local services like buses. So my offer to you – and I am talking to all those who see a role for yourselves in this local leadership- come to us, come to Neil O Brien or to me with your vision for how you will level up, back business, attract more good jobs and improve your local services.

Err what about build more housing?

One thought on “Johnson’s Sketchy Levelling Up Plan – National Spatial Planning?

  1. Pingback: What does the focus on ‘overheating’ mean for Strategic Planning | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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