The Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy – Realising the Wider Opportunity

Bob Pritchard takes a look at The Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy and what it could mean for infrastructure projects in the North.

One of the key aims of the devolution agenda in England is to rebalance the economy and ensure that city regions outside London realise their full economic potential.

On a smaller geographical scale, significant economic disparity also exists within city regions and there is a case for measures to be taken to ensure that the relative success of cities like Leeds and Manchester is spread as widely as possible. The Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy which is currently out for consultation seeks to address this challenge. The Strategy makes the point that despite recent economic progress in the city region, it is clear that not everyone is contributing to or benefiting from economic growth to their full potential. It provides the stark warning that issues of deprivation, unemployment, low pay and low skills levels are holding the city region economy and productivity back. The Strategy promotes the concept of inclusive growth and the notion of joining up policies and programmes to support business investment and growth with those to tackle poverty. So HS2 is not simply a transport project or a major piece of infrastructure that will improve the lot of long distance commuters, it has the potential to significantly enhance skills and job opportunities. In terms of the  proposals set out in the Strategy, these  range from the continued  regeneration of the South Bank area in which the HS2 Station will be situated, to measures to develop a HS2 Skills and Supply Chain Strategy to capitalise on the construction and operation of HS2.

Whilst the Strategy has much to commend it, its impact will be significantly enhanced if its aims and objectives are reflected in a spatial framework. Such a framework could identify the areas where investment can be most effectively targeted within the city region and can also offer further guidance on how the HS2 Growth Strategy can link into other initiatives across the Pennines and to the North and South. Happily, there is no need to start from scratch on such a framework as considerable time and effort has already been dedicated by the IPPR North and the RTPI in formulating a Great North Plan, which aims to provide a vision for the North, a set of collaborative strategies, a prospectus for investment and a programme for action. Future iterations of the Great North Plan offer an ideal opportunity to articulate just how the benefits of HS2 can extend well beyond Leeds City Centre and the South Bank.

Bob Pritchard is a Partner in the firm's planning & infrastructure team. He is a specialist planning solicitor and has also worked at a senior level in local government including in head of legal and monitoring officer roles so is able to offer particular expertise on the probity and governance implications of development schemes.

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