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Sealing the Deal: the Cardiff Capital Region needs homes
This blog forms the first in a series on the implications of the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal on planning for housing in South East Wales. With the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) City Deal programme now underway, there are compelling reasons to believe that South East Wales is an area on the up. The City Deal, worth £1.2 billion, aims to provide a 5% uplift in GVA and create up to 25,000 new jobs by 2036, representing a 40% increase above forecasted levels of growth. However, by taking a step back and viewing the CCR in its wider UK context, we see a less confident picture – one of a region with a smaller, more fragile economy that has the potential to fall behind in relation to the rest of the country if care is not taken to support its future growth. As we explore in this series of blogs and in our latest Insight Focus, a vital part of this support is the provision of a sufficient number and appropriate mix of new homes in the right locations. Cardiff is part of the Core Cities Group, which represents the ten largest and most economically important cities outside London. Each of the Core Cities is, in fact, a city region, which includes a number of local authority areas (see figure 1). These city regions have been identified as comparators by the Growth and Competitiveness Commission (established as part of the CCR City Deal). In this blog, I compare the economic performance of the CCR against these other areas and identify the initial implications for housing policy. Figure 1 Core City regions Source: The Core Cities Group Economic status With an annual GVA of £28.3 billion in 2017, the CCR has the second smallest economy of the 10 UK Core City regions. Taking into account its size, the CCR currently has the third lowest level of productivity, at £41,192 GVA created per workforce job, whilst Bristol has the highest at £47,129 per job (see figure 2). Interestingly, despite having the largest economy at £64.7bn, Leeds has the second lowest level of productivity at £40,718 per job. This highlights the importance of considering both indicators in assessing the economic well-being of an area. The fact that the CCR performs poorly in relation to each is troubling. Figure 2 Total GVA / productivity by Core City region (2017) Source: Lichfields analysis of Experian data (March 2017 release) The CCR achieved the second highest level of GVA growth among the Core Cities between 1997 and 2006. However, by 2014 its GVA growth had fallen to the lower half of the Core Cities group and it took nine years for its economy to recover to pre-recession levels following the financial crisis in 2007, such that by 2017 it was only middle-ranking in terms of GVA growth (see figure 3).   Figure 3 GVA all sectors: indexed to 1997 levels Source: Lichfields analysis of Experian data (March 2017 release) Similarly, the CCR experienced the highest level of workforce job growth of all of the Core Cities between 1997 and 2006 but had been overtaken by half of the other Core Cities by 2017. If current trends continue, the CCR’s economy is expected to remain in the middle of the group of Core Cities in terms of GVA, workforce jobs and full-time equivalent (FTE) job growth in the period from 2017 to 2037 (see figure 4). However, its productivity is anticipated to remain at the lower end of the Core Cities group, with the smallest increase (31.5%) of all of the city regions, compared to an average increase of 32.9%. Figure 4 Forecast productivity Source: Lichfields analysis of Experian data (March 2017 release) High tech sectors As key drivers of productivity and sources of well-paid jobs, the high tech sectors are an important indicator of economic health. Between 1997 and 2017, there was a 10% increase in high tech jobs in the CCR (the third lowest across the Core Cities), compared to the highest increase of 43.1% in Sheffield. From 2017 to 2037, the CCR’s high tech sectors are expected to grow by only 8.6%. This indicates that a continuation of current conditions will not be sufficient to deliver the desired boost in highly skilled jobs.   Figure 5 Index of high tech jobs by city region Source: Lichfields analysis of Experian data (March 2017 release) Part of this issue relates to the difficulty faced by the CCR in losing graduates, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, to other areas – despite benefiting from internationally competitive higher education and further education institutions.           Economic headlines Current economic status: 2nd smallest economy of the ten UK Core City regions, with an annual GVA of £28.3 billion in 2017 (see figure 2). 3rd lowest level of productivity (GVA per workforce job), with £41,192 GVA created per workforce job, whilst neighbouring Bristol has the highest productivity at £47,129 per job (see figure 2). Nine years for its economy to recover to pre-recession levels following the financial crisis in 2007. Experienced the third lowest increase (10.0%) in high technology jobs across the Core City regions between 1997 and 2017. If current conditions continue: Expected to remain at the middle of the group of Core City regions in terms of GVA, workforce jobs and FTE job growth in the period from 2017 to 2037. Anticipated to continue at the lower end of the Core Cities group in terms of productivity, with the smallest increase (31.5%) of all of the regions between 2017 and 2037. Only 8.6% growth expected in high tech sector jobs between 2017 and 2037.           The need for the CCR City Deal is clear. Without appropriate support and investment, the future success of the CCR economy is uncertain. It is also worth bearing in mind that a number of the other Core Cities have their own City Deals, and all will be seeking to improve their future economic performance. Even with the City Deal in place, meeting its goals will be challenging, particularly given the modest projected growth in high tech sectors in the CCR. In order to increase high tech growth, it will be important to address the issue of retention of graduates, particularly in STEM subjects. Making the link between the economy and housing: we need workers The vibrant economy of the CCR City Deal needs a vibrant and growing population, including young people and highly skilled workers. The CCR can only hope to attract and retain workers with these characteristics if it can offer a sufficient number of homes of the right type and quality in suitable, accessible and desirable locations. There is also the moral duty to accommodate the area’s ageing population and those who are unable to afford market housing, many of whom (in both categories) will still be active contributors to the local economy. The City Deal programme is taking place amid a complex policy landscape of adopted and emerging Local Development Plans and Plan Reviews, the proposed Strategic Development Plan at the regional level and the National Development Framework for Wales. There are a number of key questions which will need to be debated over the coming months, including how to coordinate the next set of development plans and their policies, how to boost housing delivery, and what constitutes an appropriate distribution of new homes across the region. We will explore these issues and what they mean for housing policy in South East Wales in our forthcoming blogs in this series.   © Lyndon Griffith / Alamy Stock Photo  

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On a recent trip to New York City I visited the High Line, a 1.5 mile-long former elevated railway line built in 1934 to carry goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district. Its elevated position allowed trains to load and unload their cargo inside buildings, without disturbing road traffic. The last train ran along the railway in 1980, leaving its obsolete infrastructure standing above the Meatpacking and Chelsea Districts of the city. It was envisaged that the structure would be demolished and indeed that was the call from local property owners in the 1980s. However the structure was not demolished and in 1999, in true Jane Jacobs’ style, ‘Friends of the High Line’ was founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond[1], residents of the High Line neighbourhood, to advocate the High Line’s preservation and re-use as public open space. The inspiration was the Promenade Plantée in Paris, an elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in Paris which opened in 1993. Local support for the retention of the line grew and in 2004, the New York City government - spearheaded by the new business savvy mayor Michael Bloomberg - committed $50 million to help establish the proposed park. Construction began in 2006, with the design being led by landscape architect James Corner Field Operations. Whilst the initial idea was not that of urban planners, the project and the regeneration of the area were boosted by designation in June 2005 as the ‘The West Chelsea Special District’ by City planners - no doubt influenced by Bloomberg. This designation assisted in unlocking opportunities for new residential and commercial development, as well as facilitating the reuse of the High Line as a unique park and thoroughfare. The designation also set out regulations to ensure the preservation of light, air and views around the High Line so as to maintain the openness of the space.[2] Rather than destroying this valuable piece of our history, we have recycled it into an innovative and exciting park that will provide more outdoor space for our citizens and create jobs and economic benefits for our City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Today, the High Line is a hive of activity, not only a valuable public open space for local residents but a tourist attraction in its own right, especially for an urban planner like me! The public park weaves itself around and underneath high rise buildings and above the busy car-dominated streets below. There is even an amphitheatre looking down at the traffic on 10th The landscaping is brilliantly designed and combines vegetation with remnants of, and references to the old railway, to create a truly fascinating sense of place. Whilst walking along the route I couldn’t help noticing the scale and intensity of development taking place alongside the route and the fact that the High Line is being used as an unique selling point for a number of schemes. It became clear that the public open space attracts high density, private development and that homes in close proximity to the asset are using the High Line to justify higher house prices. For a project that cost approximately $260 million to build, it is estimated that tax revenues from the impact of the High Line due to new development and increased local property values was $900 million over a 20 year period[3]. An additional $2 billion in new economic activity[4] is attributed to the High Line. On top of this, millions of tourists (7.6 million in 2015[5]) visit the park every year and spend money in the local area. The public open space is clearly an economic success. Interestingly, the delivery of the project was financed by a combination of public funds, money raised by the ‘Friends of the High Line’ group (including monetary gifts from wealthy backers) as well as finance from a planning obligation-style deal that allowed developers at three sites to build additional floors in exchange for improvements[6] (to the value of $22 million) to the High Line. Whilst walking along the route I couldn’t help noticing the scale and intensity of development taking place alongside the route and the fact that the High Line is being used as an unique selling point for a number of schemes. It became clear that the public open space attracts high density, private development and that homes in close proximity to the asset are using the High Line to justify higher house prices. What Joshua David and Robert Hammond have done (with the help of some imaginative and persuasive residents, wealthy financial backers and New York City planners) is to successfully rethink the notion of traditional public open space by reusing leftover railway infrastructure. There is most definitely a lesson to be learnt for councils, developers and built environment professionals in the UK that public open space doesn’t have to be a swing, slide and roundabout and that open space doesn’t have to adhere to strict regulations such as the commonly-used FIT Standards in order to be successful. Similar schemes are now emerging across London such as the Peckham Coal Line, Southwark Low Line and Camden High Line suggesting that local authorities are starting to understand the benefits of alternative forms of open space. The notion of public open space is often thought of in the traditional sense as a play area or a playing field. However as shown in New York City, public open space can be inherently different and when done well can act as a key catalyst for positive change. It can have a substantial positive impact on the economy, in parallel with the more obvious social and environmental benefits that are normally derived from open spaces.   [1] http://www.thehighline.org/about[2] http://global.ctbuh.org/resources/papers/download/2463-the-high-line-effect.pdf[3] New York’s High Line Park: An Example of Successful Economic Development by John Rainey http://greenplayllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Highline.pdf[4] New York’s High Line Park: An Example of Successful Economic Development by John Rainey http://greenplayllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Highline.pdf[5] http://www.thehighline.org/blog/2017/01/10/high-line-magazine-b1g-da-a-and-parks[6] http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/108-06/mayor-bloomberg-friends-the-high-line-host-rail-lifting-ceremony-mark-start-of#/0

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