Thursday, June 23, 2005

Another day, another masterplan

The Northern Way, a joint project between the three RDAs covering the North of England, has just published its three-year masterplan. At first look, it's much what you'd expect - plans to promote innovation and enterprise in science and tech; improving transport infrastructure; marketing the region to grockles and investors - all under the seal of big John Prescott. The aim is, over the next 20 years, to narrow the estimated £30 billion output gap between the North and the average for England.
It's very easy to be cynical about all this, especially as Whitehall is already spending £60 billion in the North. This latest punnet of plans is backed by an extra £100 million growth fund, though of course it's difficult to say how new this new money really is.
One interesting feature is the focus on the North as a network of eight 'City Regions'. I think that's broadly a good approach, though some of these designated sub-regions (Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield) fit that title better than others (Central Lancashire, Tees Valley). Successful regeneration efforts elsewhere have seemed to have been focused on an urban core, with the benefits spreading out by degrees. It can also be important psychologically - people identify better with Liverpool or Newcastle than with compass-point regions like the North West or North East (Yorkshire being the exception as ever, even with the addition of the Humber). It's also good, of course, to see the development agencies in those three regions working together - the situation is often one of more or less friendly competition, especially when it comes to attracting the big inward investors.
Next step: action.

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