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Dr. Nicholas Falk publishes ‘Making Fairer Places: A Think Piece on Land Values’ to UK2070 Commission

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The UK2070 Commission has today published a submission received through our Call For Evidence – Making Fairer Places: A Think Piece on Land Values – written by Dr. Nicholas Falk, Executive Director of the URBED Trust and co-winner of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize.

Dr. Falk’s paper seeks to discuss how the UK overcomes spatial inequalities by discussing both what presently works for other countries internationally, and also what has worked for the United Kingdom in the past. Dr. Falk describes his two other main aims as:

  • To explain why harnessing land values is crucial to creating a more effective, equitable and efficient UK, and rebalancing our cities.
  • To propose how progress could be achieved in stages, starting where it will be easiest before making more fundamental changes that may take longer.

Among a variety of other recommendations, Dr. Falk proposes that a first step in mobilising private and public investment to help in tackling spatial inequalities would be to review the property tax system, with the aim of implementing a new system on the 30th anniversary of the last revaluation of domestic rates in 1991. With this process presently being undertaken in Scotland, Dr. Falk writes that applying this change throughout the country may go a long way to reducing the lack of affordable housing and to diminish unfilled gaps in transport and energy infrastructure; adding that it may also give young people more of a stake in society by reducing inter-generational inequities.

Dr Falk also writes of seven ‘ideas proposals’ which local authorities could seek to apply, centred on: Spatial Growth Plans; a better model for land assembly; growth bonds; establishing Community Development Corporations, Community Land Trusts or Local Infrastructure Finance Trusts; the creation of a Ground Value Rating and a Municipal Investment Corporation; and the promotion of community or cooperative banks. To read about each of these and much more, click here to read Dr. Falk’s full report:


Dr Nicholas Falk, BA MBA Hon FRIBA Hon MRTPI is an economist, urbanist and strategic planner. He founded the consultancy URBED in 1976, which now specialises in masterplanning and urban design from their office in Manchester. He is currently Executive Director of The URBED Trust, and was co-winner of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize for showing how to build garden cities that are visionary, viable and popular.

His most recent commission has been to advise the Greater London Authority Deputy Mayor for Housing on international good practice published as Capital Gains: a better land assembly model for London.

Under The URBED Trust (urban and economic development), he is leading an innovative sustainable-housing project in India. In the last few years his work and interests has focused on new communities, the future of the suburbs, historic centres, and the adaptive reuse of old buildings. He has recently been advising on an urban extension to Oxford, and previously produced the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth.

He teaches the Economics of Regeneration and Reuse at New York University in London, and is a Visiting Professor at the School of the Built Environment, University of the West of England. He is a member of the Town and Country Planning Association’s Policy Advisory Council, an Academician of the Academy of Urbanism, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He lives in Stroud and London.

The Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place submit Think Piece to UK2070 on National Spatial Strategies

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The fourth edition of our weekly series of Think Pieces continues today with a recently published report by The University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place entitled ‘National’ Spatial Strategies in an Age of Inequality: Insights from the United Kingdom, Ireland & France. The report features a foreword written by the Chair of the UK2070 Commission, Lord Kerslake, and each of the seven chapters are variously written by ten academics, including UK2070 Commissoners Professors Ian Wray and Vincent Goodstadt. Together they bring into conversation the national spatial strategies currently being pursued in Wales, France, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland so as to extract lessons for England – which presently has a lack of consequential national spatial strategising.

The report seeks to ask: what spatial strategies exist in these jurisdictions? What have been their recent histories? What is the current status of spatial strategising? What kinds of politics surround plan-making and implementation? Who owns plans? Who funds plans? How are plans governed? What works and what does not?

The seven chapters of the report are authored as follows, and can be read in full on the following link:

Lord Kerslake, Chair of the UK2070 Commission.

1) Introducing ‘National’ Spatial Strategies In An Age Of Inequality: Insights From The United Kingdom, Ireland And France
Professor Mark Boyle, University of Liverpool; Dr. Aileen Jones, Liverpool City-Region Combined Authority; Dr. Olivier Sykes, University of Liverpool; and Professor Ian Wray, University of Liverpool.

2) The Evolution Of National-Level Planning In Wales: A Retrenchment From Spatial Planning To Land-Use Planning
Dr. Neil Harris, Cardiff University.

3) National Spatial Planning In France: From Nostalgia To Reinvention?
Professor Xavier Desjardins, Sorbonne Université.

4) The Regional Development Strategy Northern Ireland, Inequality And Balanced Development
Dr. Brendan Murtagh, Queen’s University Belfast.

5) National Strategic Planning In Scotland: Past, Present And Future
Professor Greg Lloyd, Ulster University and Wageningen University.

6) Project Ireland 2040: Business As Usual Or A New Dawn?
Dr. Niamh Moore-Cherry, University College Dublin.

7) A New Agenda For England and The UK: The Missing Pieces In The Jigsaw
Professor Vincent Goodstadt, Common Futures Network and University of Manchester.

Think Piece on the UK’s regional disparities and development published by Dr. David Nguyen of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research

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Our weekly series of Think Pieces continues today with our third paper, Regional disparities and development in the UK written by Dr. David Nguyen, a Research Economist in the Trade, Investment and Productivity Directorate at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). The report uses data to show how the UK’s regional disparities have varied over time from the 1960s to the present day; before seeking to model the ‘under-performance’ of regions in order to establish what a ‘spatially rebalanced’ region may look like.

Dr. Nguyen comes to a number of conclusions, including finding that labour productivity differs across the UK’s regions – with 72% of the UK having an output per hour worked below the national average (NUTS-3 regions). Indeed, using data for regional labour productivity from the Office for National Statistic’s Gross Value Added dataset at a local authority level he finds that the absolute difference in regional productivity can vary by as much as 107 percentage points, from just 65% of average productivity in Powys to 172% above the national average in Tower Hamlets.

However, Dr. Nguyen goes on to state that by definition regional disparities are relative, and that they are meaningless without a politically agreed benchmark. Combined with the question of whether both Greater London and the South East of England over-performs at the expense of the rest of the UK; or if indeed other regions of the UK are in fact ‘under-performing’, Dr. Nguyen adds that there should be a national conversation about regional economic performance. This conversation could focus on whether improvements should be compared against either national performance, or the long-term potential of the region itself.

Read Dr. Nguyen’s Think Piece in full here:

Dr. Nguyen is also a Research Associate for the Office for National Statistics’ Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE). His main research interest is to analyse, measure and understand modern economies, with his present work focused on improving measurements of GDP and welfare, focusing on the importance of intangible inputs in an increasingly digital economy (e.g. cloud services, AI, data).

The Spatial Policy and Analysis Laboratory at The Manchester Urban Institute publish Think Piece on spatial inequality in the UK

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In the second of the UK2070 Commission’s weekly series of Think Pieces, The Spatial Policy and Analysis Laboratory at The Manchester Urban Institute have today published a new paper entitled ‘Measuring Spatial Inequality in the UK: What We Know and What We Should Know?’

Written by a team of academics from The University of Manchester, the piece compares methods to measure spatial inequality, including the Gini coefficient and the related Luxembourg Income Study; the United Nations’ Human Development and City Prosperity Indexes; and the Inclusive Growth Monitor approach, created by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the University of Manchester. The paper offers a critique of these measures of spatial inequality, and assesses how the United Kingdom fares on each scale.

The paper then looks at the spatial nature of the UK’s infrastructure investment and consider if this reinforces spatial inequality in favour of Greater London over the rest of the country. The report also considers if investment in infrastructure should be taken with a greater focus on the needs of society as a whole, rather than on an individual or population basis.

Lastly, the report investigates if there is a need to adopt greater use of mapping analysis to better demonstrate the distribution of capacities and resources.

Read the report in full by clicking here:

Cecilia Wong is Professor of Spatial Planning at Manchester Urban Institute, and a Fellow of both the Academy of Social Sciences and of the Royal Town Planning Institute. She is Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Research Approvals and Data Acquisition Committees and sits as a Commissioner for UK2070.
Tom Arnold is a Doctoral Researcher at The University of Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development, researching transport planning and devolution in the North of England.
Mark Baker is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Manchester Urban Institute and a chartered town planner with previous professional experience at Durham County Council and at the Government Offices for both North East England and North West England.
Dr. Caglar Koksal is a Research Associate and Lecturer in Urban Planning at the University of Manchester, with research interests including critical urban theory; political economy; infrastructure financing and funding; and public policy making.
Dr. Andreas Schulze Bäing is Lecturer in Urban Development at The University of Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development with research interests in deprivation patterns and regeneration policies.
Dr Helen Wei Zheng is a Postdoc Research Associate at the Manchester Urban Institute working on the ‘Eco-urbanisation: Promoting Sustainable Development in Metropolitan Regions of China’ project.

Professor Philip McCann publishes Think Piece on Perceptions of Regional Inequality

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In the first of a weekly series of posts, the UK2070 Commission are today publishing the first in a series of Think Pieces submitted to the Commission as part of its recent Call For Evidence, and which the Commission has received permission of the author(s) to publish to a wider audience on our website.

The first of these think pieces is written by Professor Philip McCann, Chair of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Sheffield Management School, and is entitled Perceptions of Regional Inequality and the Geography of Discontent: Insights from the UK. The paper examines whether the United Kingdom displays high or average levels of interregional inequality, by comparing the UK to 30 other OECD countries across 28 different indicators.

Professor McCann not only concludes that the UK is one of most regionally unbalanced countries in the industrialised world; but also notes that this is something rarely accurately reported, or even understood, by the national media. The report studies online debate about the publication by The Economist on 21st October 2018 of a diagram which sought to show the differences in productivity between UK regions when compared with other countries; a written response to this by the organisation, FullFact; and the tweets of political commentators discussing the accuracy of both reports and their own opinions.

The report also considers the usefulness and interpretation of different measures of inequality; the logic, construction and use of the various OECD regional and urban datasets, and uses both of these to revisit the debate between The Economist and FullFact.

Read the report in full here.

Professor Philip McCann is also the Tagliaferri Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge and has been special adviser to two different European Commissioners for Regional and Urban Policy, and to a range of international bodies, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Investment Bank. He sits as a Commissioner for UK2070.

UK2070 Commission opens Call For Evidence after successful launch at House of Lords

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The UK 2070 Commission – an independent inquiry into the UK’s regional inequalities – was today (9 October 2018) launched at a reception in the House of Lords, with Commission chairman Lord Kerslake also opening the Commission’s Call For Evidence with submissions from all interested individuals parties welcome before the deadline of Friday 16 November.

The Commission will examine the nature of inequalities across the regions and nations of the UK, explore the costs and consequences, identify underlying causes, and make recommendations for new policies to tackle the problems of poorer places, whilst supporting the sustainable growth of successful places.

The Commission’s membership includes academics from five universities and the USA’s Lincoln Institute for Land Policy (Cambridge, MA), as well representatives from the Confederation of British Industry, Core Cities, Institute for Public Policy Research North, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the North West Business Leadership Team, West Midlands Combined Authority, and the consultancies AECOM and Barton Willmore.

They will be supported by a research partnership involving the University of Sheffield, the University of Manchester, University College London, the University of Liverpool and the University of Cambridge, along with additional support from the Sir Hugh and Lady Sykes Charitable Trust, the Heseltine Institute at the University of Liverpool, the University of Cambridge and the RSA.

“There will always be differences between places, but Britain has some of the most extreme regional disparities in the developed world – these impose great costs on society, and handicap our economic performance and productivity,” said former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake.

“It does not have to be like this – as many other countries demonstrate.”

Professor Alasdair Rae, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and one of the Commissioners, said: “I’m delighted to be involved in the UK 2070 Commission, but not because it draws upon my experience as an urban and regional analyst. Instead, I’m excited by the fact that our Chair, Lord Kerslake, is starting this critically important work by listening to what others have to say about the state of urban and regional inequalities in the UK.”

He added: “Expert commentators often assume that they know what the problems are, and that it’s just the political will to fix them that we’re missing. This may be the case, but it may not, so through the work of the UK 2070 Commission we’re seeking to go beyond tired ideas of ‘north vs south’ or ‘London vs the rest’ to truly understand the nature of the UK’s persistent regional inequalities and what can be done about it.

“It is only by taking a long-term approach that something can be done, and that’s why we’re looking to the long-term with this Commission.”

The Commission will carry out its work over the next 12 months, delivering a final report in January 2020.

“We need strategies for places left behind as much as places with economic potential, in Britain and America alike,” said Armando Carbonell from the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, which is also helping to fund the study. “Laissez faire and abandonment is just not an option – the social and political consequences are too damaging, and could put our social cohesion and democratic institutions at risk. We hope to learn much from this inquiry, which will be of relevance to both Britain and to the USA.”

Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities, said: “In part the problems are caused by historic factors, but we need to find out whether they are also shaped by government decisions which have not been thought through.

“These may include concentrating resources for growth and development in congested places and generating demands for new infrastructure, whilst putting pressure on the environment.”


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