riting about economic recovery may seem somewhat counterintuitive given the current uncertainty around Covid-19. The only thing I can say with any degree of confidence is that the situation may well be very different by the time you read these words. However, while the timing on recovery may be fluid, my thoughts around the type of recovery we need are not.
When the time is right, we will need to “Build Back Better”, as the prime minister is so fond of saying, to create the flexible and resilient post-pandemic communities that society will be demanding. To do this we will need to empower our local leaders to invest now in designing and developing regeneration plans, central to a COVID recovery that builds resilient communities.
Recent proposals shared by ACE in our representation on the comprehensive spending review (CSR) and through the Construction Leadership Council (CLC)’s Greener Regeneration Investment Fund are about giving local leaders the tools and assurances to do this confidently.
The CSR was a great opportunity for ACE to put forward a range of practical proposals, including financial support from central government for social infrastructure like new schools and hospitals. Furthermore, we championed the idea that local authorities and LEPs should be given a bolstered role as leaders of our regeneration efforts and through imaginative planning and design reform encourage flexible, multi-use local infrastructure, as well as housing.
We championed the idea that local authorities and LEPs should be given a bolstered role as leaders of our regeneration efforts. Hannah Vickers
ACE has also spearheaded the development of the Greener Regeneration Investment Fund within the Construction Leadership Council. This new £40bn proposal would challenge existing regeneration models, providing access to affordable capital and specialist development expertise. The sums saved would then be reinvested in community, social and environmental projects.
The proposals were launched during this year’s Construction Week by myself, ACE chair Paul Reilly of Stantec and Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds. We were all in agreement that this new approach would enable better regeneration but more than this, it could deliver new revenue guarantees for local leaders which would help mitigate against an uncertain future.
COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief the need for more resilience. Commuter patterns and behaviours, the importance of open spaces and the delivery of local services have all been turned on their head by the pandemic. We will also need to overcome historic obstacles if we are to deliver faster, better and greener.
Boosting the confidence of local authorities, LEPs and metro mayors to explore options and develop plans for a post-pandemic future now is the only way they will be delivered swiftly. Waiting for the COVID storm to pass will only lessen the impact of this investment for local communities and for employment.
This blog originally appeared as a comment piece in November's Infrastructure Intelligence.