Glasgow City Region is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the UK. Kevin Rush outlines progress being made by the partnership of eight councils and plans to accelerate growth and investment
I n the past decade Glasgow City Region’s economy and population have grown substantially. And in the next few years our productivity is projected to be higher than other UK post-industrial regions including Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff.
We recognise this success has not been shared by all of our residents. But our £1bn UK and Scottish Government-funded City Deal is providing us with an opportunity to deliver real social and physical transformation and to share this prosperity with everyone in the wider region.
Last year we celebrated the first five years of the City Deal. It remains one of the largest and the most advanced in the UK and significant progress has been made – with many projects completed and most underway, more than £183m spent and City Region businesses benefitting from a £50m boost in contracts won.
But what will the next five years bring and what are our plans for 2020?
Firstly, we plan to accelerate projects, where possible, to enable the delivery of economic benefits sooner. In fact, by 2024 – half way through the City Deal programme – we expect contracts to be let and construction completed for most infrastructure projects. This presents an enormous opportunity for local businesses, with spend on infrastructure over the next five years expected to be more than £700m, four times what we have spent to date.
City Deal funding for improved connectivity and remediation is already unlocking land in key locations for private development and generating substantial follow on investment. This includes the upcoming £400m Barclays Hub which will employ 5,000 people – the most significant inward investment ever made in Glasgow – and the region’s three developing Innovation Districts.
The next five years will see further extensive housebuilding, with more than 7,700 new homes built and around 500 hectares of land brought back into use. Our balance of focus will move from delivering projects to maximising the extensive private sector follow on investment from new roads built and remediated land. In fact, we expect over 400,000 square metres of commercial, industrial and residential floor space to be realised through projected follow-on investment. Clearly this is an enormous opportunity for developers and investors.
This year is set to be a momentous one for Glasgow and the wider region. The UN Climate Change Conference COP26 takes place in Glasgow in November, the biggest event the country has ever hosted. The benefit to the hospitality sector alone is expected to be more than £70m and the unprecedented international exposure will promote the region to a wider global audience. COP26 will also help to accelerate our efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth.
In the next month, we’ll hear back from Government partners on the outcome of our first Gateway Review which is set to release the next tranche of £250m in funding.
Ambitious proposals for a Glasgow metro system continue to move forward – a sustainable transport solution which would greatly improve connectivity, access to jobs and build on our potential as a global city region. And a new initiative, launched this year, will boost the role of the river Clyde in the region’s future economic success, focusing on drawing further investment to key sites along the spine of the river, including City Deal-remediated land.
Progress will continue with City Deal projects including the £18m ‘street in the sky’ bridge at Sighthill, one of the largest regeneration projects of its type outside of London. Europe’s first Smart Canal will soon be complete, a unique scheme combining a 250 year old heritage asset with 21st Century technology to free up land for development and housing.
Our new Intelligence Hub will provide a detailed, ongoing picture of the region’s economic health, and better places us to understand evolving challenges and opportunities. Powering-up our evidenced based decision-making will help to direct our priorities to deliver economic growth for all and support a refreshed regional economic strategy due later this year.
We’ll continue to work closely with partners to grow our economy, create better life opportunities for our residents, accelerate our ambitions for business and place and position ourselves to most effectively compete with other city regions.
Kevin Rush is director of regional economic growth at Glasgow City Region