Think Piece

A Paper on the issue of Mass Transit in the future is published

By | News, Think Piece

The UK2070 Commission today publishes a Paper on the issue of Mass Transit in the future, written by Dr Peter Ewen. Mass Transit systems are fundamental to the Gross Value Added of Major Cities but are unaffordable to most and take too long to implement. The situation is set to worsen as by 2050 the number of people living in cities will grow by 60%.

Dr Ewen proposes that tinkering with current Mass Transit solutions will not meet the needs of today, let alone the future, and that a paradigm shift in how we provide Mass Transit solutions is required. Autonomous Network Transit systems provide a credible and affordable solution. They are cleaner, infinitely quicker to build and provide a much better service to the customer than traditional Mass Transit systems. Dr Ewen spent many years in aviation before moving into Mass Transit rail where he soon realised that the time has come to think differently and embrace the opportunities presented by technology for the people of our cities.

Report on Economic Performance of British Cities submitted by

By | Think Piece

Our weekly series of Think Pieces continues today with a report published by Structural Transformation, Adaptability and City Economic Evolutions and entitled The Economic Performance of Britain’s Cities: Patterns, Processes and Policy Implications. Written by seven academics at five universities, the report seeks to analyse the economic evolution of Britain’s cities since 1971 by considering their Travel To Work Areas (TTWAs) to construct an annual data series on employment, output, labour productivity, skills and wages for 85 cities in the United Kingdom. This unique dataset was then used to consider how cities have differed in their growth patterns since 1971; how they have adapted to the major shifts in the structure of the UK’s national economy; what impact four major recessions have had on British cities; and lastly to establish the extent to which the UK’s ‘productivity problem’ is itself a problem with a city dimension.

To read City Evolutions’ report in full, please click here.

Professor Ron Martin is Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Cambridge; Research Associate of the Centre for Business Research at the Judge Business School; and is a Professorial Fellowship at St Catharine’s College.

Professor David Bailey, is an expert on economic restructuring and industrial policy, but is perhaps best known for his knowledge of the British and West Midlands car manufacturing. He sits as Professor of Industrial Strategy at Aston Business School.

Dr. Emil Evenhuis is Research Fellow in Economic Geography at The University of Southampton. His research is focused on how cities and regions cope with economic change, and in particular on the role of institutions and policies in facilitating this.

Ben Gardiner is director of the Regions, Cities and Local Areas team at Cambridge Econometrics, having previously worked for the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Directorate-General.

Professor Andy Pike is the Sir Henry Daysh Chair of Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University. His central research interest is the geographical political economy of local, regional and urban development, governance and policy.

Professor Peter Sunley is Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Southampton. His research is focused on regional development and growth; venture capital and firm finance; the innovation and creative industries and the geographies of labour and welfare policy.

Professor Peter Tyler sits as Professor of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Cambridge and President and Fellow of St. Catharine’s College. He has served as a Project Director for over seventy major research projects for the UK Government.

Collaborative Think Piece by UCL and Newcastle Universities on ‘left-behind-places’.

By | Think Piece

The UK2070 Commission has today published a ‘provocation’ submitted to our Call For Evidence written by three academics at the Bartlett School of Planning and the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies entitled Land use planning, inequality and the problem of ‘left-behind-places’.

Professor John Tomaney, Professor Andy Pike and Dr. Lucy Natarajan argue that to find new ways to address the problems of ‘left-behind-places’ is of critical concern for the future of the United Kingdom, and that any forthcoming reform of the planning system should make this a policy priority. Their report considers ‘left-behind-places’ – typically formerly industrial regions – to discover the political economy of these ‘left-behind’ regions; to critically account recent efforts to ‘regenerate’ deindustrialised regions; to outline new policy prescriptions for ‘left-behind’ regions and to consider the politics of local and regional economic development, including the kinds of institutions that are required to affect a new economic future in such disadvantaged places.

They find that former industrial regions have presented a persistent problem for public policy for several decades, both in the UK and abroad – before detailing the scale of these inequalities in the UK, and discussing whether a new politics of redistribution is required. To read their Think Piece in full, please click here.

Professor John Tomaney is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. He has published over 100 books and articles on questions of local and regional development including Local and Regional Development (2nd Edition, Routledge, 2017) and the Handbook of Local and Regional Development (Routledge 2011) co-authored with Andy Pike and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose. Professor Tomaney has conducted research for, amongst many others, the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and both Government Departments and regional development agencies at home and overseas. Professor Tomaney also sits as a Commissioner for UK2070.

Professor Andy Pike is the Sir Henry Daysh Chair of Regional Development Studies at the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, Newcastle University with a central research interest in the geographical political economy of local, regional and urban development, governance and policy. His research has informed local, regional and urban development, governance and policy for international (e.g. the United Nations International-Labour Organization (UN-ILO); national (e.g. the National Audit Office, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation); regional (e.g. Local Enterprise Partnerships, trade unions, voluntary organisations) and local (e.g. Local Authorities, Development Agencies) institutions.

Dr. Lucy Natarajan works at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London; whilst also lecturing at both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University and serving as a content editor for the Built Environment journal. Dr. Natarajan’s research centres on the relationship between the public and government, looking across diverse stakeholders, uses of new technologies, and building knowledge in public decision making. Her recent publications have both explained the value of lay knowledge to spatial planning and also the difficulties in involving communities with major renewable infrastructure.


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

By | Think Piece

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

By | Think Piece

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

By | Think Piece

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

By | Think Piece

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

By | Think Piece

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.