Following the recent Glasgow Question Time event hosted by Estates Gazette, I’ve been reflecting on the discussion and what it means for the city. The City deal is a fantastic opportunity for both Glasgow and Edinburgh to set out a serious plan for change and delivery.
In Glasgow the key point being made by the EG panel with regards to the City Deal here, was very much an infrastructure focus, but also ensuring the visibility of investment, to secure public perception of benefits gained. This is an important point in all development delivery in our current climate as we seek to persuade local communities of the economic and real life change and opportunity development can offer.
Equally however I appreciated Paul Curran of Quartermile and the Scottish Property Federation’s point, that the City Deal funding has to date been devised behind closed doors by the public sector, with very little private sector involvement. In a development industry where the public sector calls for close collaboration and partnership it’s important that they reciprocate by ensuring the schemes being supported by the City Deal are the ones the private sector can fully commit to.
No debate in Scotland can go by without mention of IndyRef2 of course and there were no surprises here, when the panel pointed out the detrimental impact this uncertainty is having in terms of investor appeal. There was some positivity in that at least we are not facing a stagnant economy and volatility can still lead to opportunity, but the message was still loud and clear that the development industry needs to know the long term plan and work together, across the whole of Scotland to promote the opportunities we can offer in a cohesive and convincing manner.
The issue of residential opportunities was another understandably hot topic, with PRS still struggling to make a dent in the delivery of housing in any of our cities. Investment in this area remains low, compared to other cities – with just 2% of funding coming to Scotland in 2016. It is being actively encouraged by Glasgow council to try and support the growth of a broad range of tenure city wide, but we have a long way to go. Having talked about this with my colleagues operating south of the border, it seems Manchester has the most to offer in terms of how they are encouraging a good deal of this investment currently. They’re also learning some serious lessons around how to encourage the maturity of this market, to enable the delivery of more than simply high density, small unit developments, catering for the under 35s. I can’t help thinking that we can learn from other major UK cities to avoid the same trap.
By the end I hadn’t managed to find an opportune moment to ask my question of the panel – How will the new planning reform have an impact? – I would ask this as a Planner, I appreciate, but it did surprise me how little of the direct discussion was focused on planning. At the moment I’m not sure if this is a good thing in that for once planning isn’t being blamed for holding up development, or if it’s a bad thing in that planning is not currently entering their consciousness when discussing how to generate greater levels of development and investment. Surely strategic top level planning and a strong vision for where we want to be as a nation and as cities within that nation is a helpful, persuasive tool?...
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