Transforming a local centre
I’ve been busy these past three weeks helping a local authority finalise its Levelling Up Fund (LUF) bid for an urban regeneration project. This would transform what is currently a run-down local centre situated in an area of the city with high levels of deprivation.
For a comparatively modest investment, the LUF funding would deliver a range of measures including new public realm, a new library and educational facility, an expanded community centre, an outdoor sports facility, and clearance of vacant / derelict plots for affordable housing (flats and houses of varying sizes).
The local authority has engaged with local residents and grass roots organisations throughout, and taken an intelligent approach to make best use of space available – prioritising community facilities whilst also meeting the ever-present demand for new, good quality housing. Consultations have identified the need for new educational space and facilities to support training and up-skilling, and expanded provision of (currently over-subscribed) facilities to support local sporting, cultural and social activities.
In leading the economic appraisal and modelling, I’ve come to realize the breadth of different impacts. Using HMT Green Book as the guiding framework, the following 9 x benefit categories have been quantified in the appraisal:
1. Land value uplift from new development
2. Wider land value uplift – local residences and businesses
3. Increased worker productivity from up-skilling
4. Energy efficiency benefits – building reconstruction / refurbishment
5. Reduced crime
6. Improved health – affordable housing and community measures
7. Wider amenity benefit – cultural activity
8. Local employment impacts (place-based analysis)
9. Distributional impacts
Unsurprisingly, the extent of such benefits far exceeds the costs. Even when applying fairly conservative assumptions and applying a range of sensitivity tests, the breadth of impacts results in a consistently strong benefit-cost ratio (BCR).
The conclusion from this piece of work is that well-planned urban generation projects like this will typically deliver a robust business case when effectively planned and coordinated to meet local priorities.