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‘Great northern infrastructure plan’ needed to transform economy

The north of England needs infrastructure projects capable of genuinely transforming the economy, a new Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North report says.

Authors Ed Cox and Bill Davies argue that the way the government spends money is out of balance.

Despite OECD research showing that money wisely invested in weaker economic regions can deliver higher rates of return through economic growth, in the UK it is London, with its already-dense infrastructure provision, that is the overwhelming beneficiary of publicly leveraged investment.

To support a rebalancing of the economy they have recommended that public and private stakeholders in the north of England should up their efforts to develop and promote transformational infrastructure projects in the north, with a view to bringing them to a national audience.

Additionally, northern leaders should work together to bring forward a long-term Northern Infrastructure Strategy, including a small number of key transformational infrastructure priorities.

The authors added: “This strategy should build on the ‘One North’ plan for transport connectivity and Rail North body to galvanise collaboration in relation to rail franchising in the north.”

IPPR North has also proposed that an incoming government in 2015 should undertake a radical review of the national infrastructure pipeline in order to bring forward plans for a more balanced approach to infrastructure spending in the UK, with greater emphasis on transformational infrastructure projects in the north of England.

Ed Cox, the director of IPPR North, said: “Effective infrastructure is the bedrock of an effective and efficient economy. Transport connections, flood defences and high-speed broadband networks all allow people and goods to move quickly from place to place and for business to flourish.

“It is widely recognised that the north of England loses out as government spending on infrastructure is continuously skewed towards London.”

The think tank has also launched a competition to find new projects which address existing and future infrastructure needs of the north of England.

The Great North Plan competition is looking for ideas to rival major infrastructure schemes which currently exist in London and the south-east. The competition is open to people aged 25 or under and there will be a £1,000 prize for the winning entry. The closing date for entries is midday, 12 September 2014.

Last week councils in the north of England – Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, and Leeds – asked George Osborne to approve a £15bn to revamp transport infrastructure and help the north compete with London. Although the chancellor voiced support for the proposals, he made no firm commitment on them.

(Image: c. Joe Mott)

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