Our Towns: A Forgotten Asset in Need of Support?

Towns have been something of a forgotten asset across the country for a series of years as both large cities and out of centre developments (for example through initiatives such as Enterprise Zones) have provided the focus for economic growth and investment. For many, towns remain a focus for work, shopping and leisure time but in too many cases towns are not delivering to their economic potential.

Some of the existing challenges facing many towns across the country, such as an ageing population, pockets of deprivation and declining high streets, which already helped to present a strong case for investment, have been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Coastal Towns in particular, whose economies are reliant on the visitor and leisure sector, are likely to be severely hit.

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, was reported in Place North West suggesting that regional towns could “hit hard times” in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak “if they are allowed to drift” without sufficient funding or focus. But he also suggested that the disruptive impact of the pandemic, presents an opportunity to reshape how town centres are developed. Plans need to be developed that are ambitious and recognise the changing role that towns can play as centres for living, working and leisure, beyond traditional retail.

Taking Advantage of the Current Funding Opportunity

The £3.6 billion Towns Fund, launched in 2019, invited 101 disadvantaged towns (including 45 across the North and 30 in the Midlands) to develop proposals to revive their towns and address growth constraints. With each place able to bid for up to £25 million of funding, this is an opportunity for many parts of the country that have not received high levels of regeneration funding for many years to make their case, on the basis of both need and opportunity.

As part of the government’s effort to reduce geographic inequalities, the Towns Fund awards will help to raise productivity and improve infrastructure in those parts of the country where economies lag furthest behind. Now more than ever, the Towns Fund, alongside other funding pots such as Future High Streets Fund, will be crucial to kick-starting development and play a role in supporting economic recovery in many towns and cities.

Examples of new Town Deals are expected to include the development of new homes or commercial buildings by redeveloping vacant buildings or land; improved transport infrastructure and broadband connectivity; and social and cultural infrastructure, from libraries and art centres to parks.

Each area has the flexibility to develop a plan that is right for them with a collaborative approach, which harnesses the perspectives of diverse partners, expected to shape proposals.

With Towns Fund Boards now established, the focus is shifting to the development of locally responsive Town Investment Plans, for submission in the summer. Key requirements will be:

  • An evidence based plan which outlines the area’s assets, opportunities and challenges and the resulting investment priorities to drive growth.
  • Strategic alignment with national and local economic strategies showing that proposals are locally grounded and responsive to national policy ambitions.
  • Proposals need to be shown to be deliverable and affordable.
  • Securing local engagement throughout the development process, ensuring the Town Investment Plans are locally supported and respond to recognised needs.

Let ekosgen support you to develop and agree a Town Deal

ekosgen has an extensive track record of producing successful investment propositions, underpinned by robust evidence bases that have helped clients secure public sector funding for transformational projects across the country. We are currently preparing a series of Future High Streets business cases and have experience of securing large scale funding awards through MHCLG and DCMS. Our team is available to support towns to develop the Town Deal Investment Plan needed to reach their Town Deal agreement, as well as subsequent Green Book compliant business cases.

For more information please contact Kirsten Powell on kirsten.powell@ekosgen.co.uk