Written by Kevin Whitmore
Last week's IPPR North State of the North 2017 Report provides sobering reading with a dash of comfort for policy makers and those working in the built environment.
Its publication in the same week as media previews ahead of the opening of the Ordsall Chord in Manchester – the second-longest bridge in the world to carry twin heavy-rail tracks – illustrates the undoubted potential of our region as well as the challenges that Millennials (aged 22-37) and ‘Generation Z’ (aged 21 and younger) will face over the next two decades.
First the good news
- 46,000 new jobs in the digital sector will be created
- The North will reduce its carbon emissions faster than any other UK region or nation
- The North produces more than one third of the UK’s total renewable electricity
Now the bad news
- By 2030 BREXIT is likely to have twice the impact on the North’s GDP as it will on London’s
- Over 40% of northern jobs are at a high risk due to greater automation
The report follows the recent leak of the new statutory powers that Transport for the North is due to receive. This has left many, including former Treasury Minister Lord Jim O’Neill and GM Mayor Andy Burnham, frustrated that Government will continue to have a tin-ear when it comes to investment in the region’s creaking infrastructure.
When even northern Conservative MPs start to worry publicly that the Northern Powerhouse is becoming nothing more than “a wonderful phrase”, perhaps we should all wonder where this leaves the next generation.
The power of Generation Z
June’s general election proved how Millennials and ‘Generation Z’ can tip the balance of power at Westminster and politicians of all parties ignore them at their peril.
It isn’t hard to spot what their priorities are: affordable homes in the places they want to live; a transport system that works; towns and cities with strong digital infrastructure; schools and universities that provide skills fit for the 21st Century.
Those of us working in the built environment can do our bit by working with the region’s politicians to back calls for greater devolution; by getting on and delivering the new homes and infrastructure that is already consented; and by engaging more effectively with Millennials and ‘Generation Z’ during the planning process.
The Government also has an opportunity in this month’s budget to signal that the Northern Powerhouse isn’t merely a slogan and that it ‘gets it’ when it comes to the frustrations of northern voters of all ages. A real financial commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail followed by more devolved powers to our Metro Mayors is just the start.
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