Martyn Evans: How brownfield regeneration in the North can unleash the Government’s levelling-up agenda

10 Jun

Martyn Evans is the Creative Director at U+I PLC.

Coronavirus has changed almost everything.

Like most businesses, developers have been hit hard by the pandemic. But as we emerge from lockdown, our industry has an incredible opportunity to deliver change and a real responsibility to make sure that change is positive.

This matters to everyone.

How we choose to emerge from the pandemic and reshape our economy to be more productive, socially inclusive, sustainable and strong enough to hold our own in a post-Brexit future, will define our communities for generations to come.

So the question we, as good developers, need to ask ourselves is: how do we do regeneration differently to deliver on the Government’s challenge to build back better?

The answers lie in the Government’s levelling-up agenda and mutually-beneficial, productive partnerships between the public and private sectors; defining what both actually mean to the communities seeking renewal.

U+I is a specialist regeneration developer, focused on working in partnership with the public sector to reinvigorate and transform forgotten places; pulling together and enriching the social fabric in the areas we work.

Our flagship Mayfield scheme in the heart of Manchester is a perfect example of this kind of partnership working; developing 24-acres of long-derelict land in the centre of the city with Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and LCR.

Through thoughtful and collaborative regeneration, Mayfield will revitalise a forgotten piece of former industrial land; delivering new homes, generating thousands of jobs, building the city’s first new public park for over 100 years and creating a thriving local economy outside of London and the South East.

Mayfield was a levelling-up project long before the term was understood. It stands out as a blueprint for local economic growth in a strategically important region outside of our nation’s Capital.

It delivers on all the Government’s ambitions and truly is levelling-up in action.

Last year the Government recognised this, and we secured £23 million in grant funding from the “Getting Building Fund”. This helped us create the park as the first intervention, unlocking the potential for more than £1 billion in private sector investment.

Mayfield puts meat on the bones of the Government’s levelling-up agenda; defining it and making it tangible to those who matter most – the electorate.

It’s projects like Mayfield that anchor the Government’s levelling-up agenda and helps the public associate the rising levels of investment in these previously forgotten regions with Government policy, using urban regeneration as a tool for sustainable social improvement.

But there is more we can do together.

The opportunity presenting itself for economic recovery and impactful levelling-up calls for bold action through targeted Government investment and collaborative working; enabling and then supporting real estate-led growth.

Development and the collaborative private and public investment it brings, can create the kind of sustainable, purpose-driven places that enhance the environment, encourage social inclusivity and drive economic impact.

But if we want to renew our commitment to levelling-up – to the regions and more importantly, to our communities – we need support.

Decisive action can accelerate the positive impact our sector can make.

We need to capitalise on regeneration opportunities like Mayfield; replicating the model we have used there; and co-investing alongside Government funding in the areas that need it most to build a lasting and more equal recovery.