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In the 21st century major economic and social inequalities still divide England, both between our regions and within them. Many in our workforce are denied the chance either to contribute to our economic prosperity or to benefit from it. Key infrastructure improvements, vital to help resolve these divisions, suffer repeated delays. Delays of this kind provoke doubts about our capacity to deliver national programmes for growth and regeneration.
The Board of the TCPA (a body elected by members of the Association) therefore set up a Commission in October 2004 to examine these issues, with the remit: to consider what decisions need to be taken at a national level to support the strategies and aspirations of the individual regions; and, in particular, to consider the need for a Development Framework for England (DFE), its possible form and content, and the process by which it would be prepared.
The Commission was set up under the independent Chairmanship of Peter Hetherington, former Regional Affairs Editor of The Guardian and a Vice President of the TCPA. Sixteen other Commissioners were appointed representing the three main political parties, as well as from the public and private sectors, to provide expertise in the subjects concerned and to bring experience from across all regions of the country and from abroad.
The Commissioners took verbal and written evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations. The inquiry was structured into four categories: (a) jobs and the regions, (b) transport, energy and communications infrastructure, (c) growth and environmental impact, and (d) social needs and the environment. Individuals and organisations were invited to make submissions in writing on one or more of these topics.
Verbal evidence was gathered from invited speakers and members of the audience, and considered by the Commissioners, through events and meetings held in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Truro and York. The proceedings of the public seminars are available, along with all the evidence received, at http://www.tcpa.org.uk. To supplement the findings and help Commissioners to answer key questions that arose from their discussions, a variety of work was commissioned (also listed among the evidence). This was supplemented further by specific meetings with the Treasury, the English Regions Network, the regional development agencies (RDAs), the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Royal Town Planning Institute.
This final report is in six parts.
First, it identifies the nature and scale of the challenges to the future well-being and prosperity of England and the English population of the TCPA Commission Composition and Remit 6 Connecting England.
Secondly, it analyses the causes of these challenges, in particular the deep structural forces in our economy, seeking to identify those challenges that need to be addressed at the national level. It goes on, in the third, fourth and fifth parts, to consider current policies and their limits, and then to set out some of the country’s development needs and priorities and the lessons from elsewhere on how to address development issues of national significance.
Finally, this report explains how a Development Framework for England could take forward the agenda for action contained in the recommendations, which are summarised on pages 8-10 and explained throughout the report.
In addition to the specific recommendations, the report includes panels showing in more detail the kinds of key projects that Commissioners believe are worthy of consideration in the context of any Development Framework for England being contemplated. Other panels contain excerpts from evidence submitted to the Commission.
The Commissioners are not presenting a fully detailed Development Framework for England but are setting out some of the key issues in the country’s development that the Government and others need to address, whether or not a national framework is employed to assist in taking the actions forward. These, like the basic recommendations, are for wider consideration and debate. The Commission hopes that they may usefully inform other related work, in particular by the English Regions Network, the RDAs network, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the National Planning Forum.