How we can boost local productivity through planning and design

Realising our potential productivity is the most influential factor in determining our future prosperity and quality of life, so raising productivity is understandably a key priority for the UK Government. The challenge remains that, despite economic growth and regulatory interventions, productivity in the UK has failed to rebound from the downturn a decade ago.

“Our current approach to the productivity puzzle is currently missing two things: a real focus on the local dimension and a recognition that the built environment makes a key contribution to driving productivity”
Ian Liddell Managing Director, Planning & Advisory, WSP

Praise should be given where it is due. We should be positive that the UK now has an Industrial Strategy, which is providing an effective framework to activate key productivity levers at a national level. Thanks to it, more opportunities are starting to materialise especially around innovations in technology, mobility and clean growth.

However, it seems that two things could be added in our drive for productivity – the first is a real focus on the local dimension of the productivity puzzle, and the other is a recognition of the contribution of our built environment to achieving it. Indeed, adopted national and local planning guidance do not currently focus on the opportunities for productivity to be maximised through urban design. 

Encouragingly, the draft Local Industrial Strategies recently published by the Greater Manchester and West Midlands Combined Authorities do acknowledge the role of the built environment in boosting local productivity. We must now ensure all local authorities are given the means and empowerment to take a similar approach and I hope this paper will contribute to this agenda. 

“Through a combination of strategic projects and the accumulation of “marginal gains”, we should seek every opportunity to increase local productivity as a means to boost economic prosperity and quality of life”
Ian Liddell Managing Director, Planning  and Advisory

Local Industrial Strategies provide us with an opportunity to go further still, and embed a productivity culture across the planning, implementation and use of new local developments, strategies and projects. Through a combination of strategic projects and the accumulation of “marginal gains”, we should seek every opportunity to increase local productivity as a means to boost economic prosperity and quality of life.

Creating truly productive and future ready places up and down the country will require engagement and collaboration. We kick-started the process with a roundtable involving the public and private sector, academia and think-tanks to discuss the value of a productivity-focused approach and what the next steps might be. We now aim to open this discussion to all, and I am keen that WSP continues to play its part in this endeavour.

Ian Liddell, 
Managing Director
UK Planning and Advisory,
WSP 

Ian.Liddell@wsp.com

 

 
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