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The TCPA has a long history of promoting equity through the planning system, and in 2006 a cross-party ‘Connecting England’ Commission, serviced by the TCPA, made the case that England was not working to its full potential because it lacked a national development framework to make markets work better. A follow-up Connecting Local Economies report, produced with the Local Government Association in 2010, argued that city-regions, counties and communities need the certainty that their strategies are underpinned by a wider framework for England based on the needs of regional, sub-regional and local economies.
England in 2013 – unlike Scotland and Wales – has no government department, or agency, charged with addressing acute strategic, or ‘spatial’, problems across the country. A direct result is that England’s future is much more uncertain than it needs to be. In 2012 the TCPA published 'The Lie of the Land!' which looked at how the economic, social, environmental and political geographies overlapped and the need for a strategic framework to understand and plan for the future.
Of course England has many outstanding positive assets. It remains an economic world power, particularly in the knowledge economy, and is culturally rich and diverse. But England also faces a growing set of challenges. It is an increasingly divided nation in which social mobility and poverty remain entrenched and where access to economic opportunities can be restricted. Complex regional disparities go beyond simplistic arguments about a North-South divide. Significant islands of unemployment and economic disadvantage lie within London and the surrounding South East, but undoubtedly parts of the North and the Midlands are characterized by archipelagos of worklessness and related poverty. A range of indicators – health, education, job opportunities – underline a growing gap in economic performance not only between such places and nearby large ‘core’ cities, but, more significantly, between much of the wider North and Midlands and the Greater South East.
Alongside economic disparities, England faces renewed demographic pressures and the climate change and environmental resource challenge. It is clear that England is facing an intensifying set of challenges which require multi-faceted solutions at differing geographic scales.
Overview of 2014 'Lie of the Land!' regional events
The ‘Lie of the Land’ regional events will be an opportunity to discuss how each region – given the lack of a comprehensive planning framework to deal with issues across local authority and regional boundaries – can help promote economic growth and improve economic efficiency, reduce social inequality and increase resilience to climate change.
In the build up to the general election, the TCPA proposes to hold a series of high-profile regional events throughout 2014. The events will explore how communities, local government, universities and businesses in each region have adapted to a radically changed policy and financial landscape and debate how, through partnership working and new innovative approaches, each region can achieve the best outcome.
The events will provide an opportunity to take stock of the Coalition Government's policy changes, including regeneration funding and the radical reforms to planning, housing and benefit provision. As well as establishing the current political, policy, environmental and economic factors shaping the country's future, the events will also seek to create constructive recommendations from the view point of each region. The Association will then seek to feed these views back to the three main political parties with the aim of influencing election manifestos. Each event will also be written up in the TCPA’s highly acclaimed monthly journal Town & Country Planning.
Audience: Local authority leaders and senior officers, business and investment organisations, planners, developers, housing associations, utility providers and academics.
Event format: Each half-day seminar will be structured in two sessions. The first session will look at the existing impacts of the reform process and will provide an assessment of current and expected impacts on communities through a series of high-profile keynote speakers and a one-hour interactive debate which allows the opportunity for direct and powerful discussion on the future of the region. The second session will pose creative questions about how to respond, both in the short term and in the wider context of the region’s future. The debate will focus on the kinds of governance, regulation and investment which might be required to build a more efficient and fairer distribution of opportunity across the nation.