THE BLOG

Why We Need a Great North Plan

21/11/2014 11:45 GMT | Updated 21/01/2015 10:59 GMT

According to the National Infrastructure Plan, Crossrail, improvements to the London Underground and Thameslink will account for £34billion of public and private investment in infrastructure in the coming decade. Three projects totalling over than twice as much as all of the infrastructure investment in the North of England combined.

The scale of these projects is unquestionably transformational - bringing jobs and investment into the local economy and providing long-term economic benefits that will affect generations to come. What is more, a much larger proportion of infrastructure projects in London are already underway compared with Northern projects that are still on the starting blocks.

With all the evidence showing the importance of infrastructure investment for long-term economic growth, it is little wonder then that in recent times politicians have recognised that such disparities in investment are at the heart of the challenge to rebalance the national economy.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has given every indication that he will announce significant infrastructure investment for the North of England in his forthcoming Autumn Statement. This is most welcome and one hopes will help the North to start to catch up with the capital city and more importantly with European neighbours. But the North of England needs a pipeline of proposals for future investment that not only ensure on-going investment, but also shape the kind of economy the North of England needs to become.

Next week, IPPR North will launch a prospectus that will achieve both of these ambitions. Our Great North Plan will contain a range of ideas that could define Northern economic development for the next generation.

Some of its ideas are already gaining much traction: OneNorth may well become the basis upon which the so-called 'Northern powerhouse' of interconnected cities will be built in the next two decades, a Green Cities initiative and an emphasis on hub airport slots as 'soft infrastructure' will also be instrumental in short-medium term prosperity.

But looking further into the future, energy-generating roads and a vacuum train to New York may presently sound like the crazy ideas of futurologists but in relatively short periods of time could become the basis for new industries and a more sustainable Northern economy. Who can say otherwise?

What is sure is that all the best plans start with a clear vision. If our prospectus achieves nothing else, then we hope that inspires others to pursue ideas that will define a new generation. We cannot go back in time to correct historical under-investment, but we can make plans for a future where once again the North will flourish.

IPPR North is holding a prize giving ceremony, where the winners of the two competitions will be announced and we will launch The Great North Plan Prospectus. It will take place on Monday 24th November in Meeting Room 1, Manchester Central Library from 4.30pm - 6.30pm. Please RSVP to t.evans@ippr.org if you would like to attend.