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Underfunded south-east needs ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision, says Aecom

6 November 2015

The south east of England is facing a widening gap between the infrastructure needed to support the delivery of new homes and available funding, according to a study by Aecom and Kent County Council.

It argues that the south east outside London needs a region-wide vision to enable it to become a functional economic region – a model similar to the Northern Powerhouse.

Analysis by Aecom shows that Kent and Medway alone have a £2bn infrastructure funding gap, and it believes this shortfall is consistent across the south east and the region needs fresh thinking to promote growth.

Failure to address the issue could not only stifle growth across the south east but also curtail the additional economic benefits that arise from the increasing interdependency between London and its surrounding counties.

The analysis is published today in the Kent and Medway Growth and Infrastructure Framework (GIF), prepared by Aecom for Kent County Council in partnership with Medway Council and the 12 district and borough councils in Kent.

"The south east is facing multiple challenges that have the potential to limit economic growth in the region. Capitalising on the region’s unique relationship with London could help it become an influential economic powerhouse in its own right."

Tom Venables, director of design, planning and economics at Aecom

Believed to be the first of its type in the UK, the GIF provides a snapshot of planned growth and its required supporting infrastructure across Kent between now and 2031.

Part of the study shows that Kent and Medway needs to deliver approximately 160,000 homes across the area to 2031 to meet planned growth, an average of 7,925 homes a year. Yet between 2003 and 2014 the average number of homes built each year in the region was only 6,076.

To meet the targeted output, Aecom calculates a £6.74bn bill for infrastructure, of which £2bn is unfunded. Aecom analysed the costs of infrastructure to support the new homes needed in Kent up to 2031 compared with the identified funding and potential funding from public, private and developer contributions.

The study also concludes that the local plan system and site-by-site Community Infrastructure Levy limit the ability to take a strategic approach.

And it argues that the current “Duty to Cooperate” across local authority boundaries is not working, and considers the omission of large-scale housing delivery from the remit of the newly formed National Infrastructure Commission a missed opportunity.

Tom Venables, director of design, planning and economics at Aecom, said: “The south east is facing multiple challenges that have the potential to limit economic growth in the region. Capitalising on the region’s unique relationship with London could help it become an influential economic powerhouse in its own right.

“For this to be achieved, the region must facilitate growth through new, joined-up approaches that connect housing provision with infrastructure investment. As a responsible, progressive council, Kent has recognised the scale of the challenge. Publication of the GIF is an important first step towards realising the county’s growth and economic potential.”

Paul Carter CBE, leader, Kent County Council, said: “The GIF is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to set the terms of the agenda for infrastructure in Kent and Medway with government and the private sector. It tells a sobering story about the challenge we face in delivering the growth to which the 12 districts aspire, but it also gives us a unique chance to do something about it.

“The solution to this challenge will not come from the public sector alone, nor can we simply expect to get all of this from the industry; rather we need real innovation in how we work with the private sector and government to get the most out of the resources we have, whilst introducing new ways of leveraging funding and capturing value from development.”

The GIF is available on Kent County Council’s website.

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