The UK government intends to lay the foundations for a fourth (green) industrial revolution, delivered by 2030. Plans aim to counteract the sharply falling levels of manufacturing in the UK.
Since the 2020 outbreak of COVID, production has recently hit its nadir. In CBI’s latest Industrial Trends Survey, which incorporated 223 manufacturing firms, they found that: output volumes fell (at a weighted balance of -6%, from -10% in the three months to May); total order books fell (-15% from -17%); export order books fell (-29% from -26%); and expectations for average selling price inflation fell (+19%, from +21%).
The UK government's 2022 ‘Levelling Up’ policy paper focuses on counteracting industrial decline, centred on three regions: Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Glasgow City. This article looks at projects and actions taken so far, which target the four objectives:
- Boosting productivity, pay, jobs, and living standards by growing the private sector.
- Spreading opportunities and improving public services.
- Restoring a sense of community, local pride, and belonging.
- Empowering local leaders and communities.
These four objectives are the government’s ‘Medici model’, a strategy that leverages the success of the Renaissance in Italy, ‘for a new Industrial Revolution’. The ‘Levelling Up’ policy outlines success as ‘combined innovation in finance with technological breakthroughs, the cultivation of learning, ground-breaking artistic endeavour, a beautiful built environment and strong civic leadership.’
Will Levelling Up Plans Create Industrial Success in the West Midlands?
To regenerate the infrastructure of the West Midlands, over £19 million will be invested into the A457 Dudley Road Improvement Scheme. The scheme is planned for delivery by 2024; improvements will target the widely used route of Dudley Road, removing delays and congestion and increasing public transport.
These plans facilitate a ‘green’ industrial revolution by accounting for sustainability and working towards a transition to net-zero carbon by 2030. Development sites for the scheme will also bring approximately 3,000 new homes and employment.
Councillor Zaffar, the Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for Transport and Environment, said the scheme “will catalyse the desperately needed economic growth and regeneration in the area; improving quality of life and bringing prosperity to an area of low productivity and connectivity”.
Although the Dudley Road scheme is planned to be delivered in 2024, leaving the question of its success for future analysis, the UK government has begun creating an environment for a green industrial revolution.
The city centre of Birmingham has become a ‘clean air zone’ since mid-2021, meaning the most polluting vehicles are charged £8 each time to enter the zone. Other clean zones reside in Bath, Bradford, Bristol, Greater Manchester, Portsmouth, Sheffield, and Tyneside.
In Birmingham’s clean air zone, the most polluting vehicles have reduced in the city centre from just over 15% in June 2021 to 7.3% in November 2022, and nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased by an average of 13%.
This brings confidence that the ‘Levelling Up’ goals will be achieved. As outlined by Arcadis UK cities director Peter Hogg: “With over £350m allocated to London and the South East, as well as vital schemes in the North and further afield, it's good to see levelling up moving away from Punch and Judy politics and looking more than ever like a serious policy to address inequality and ignite growth.”
Another large factor of the ‘Levelling Up’ strategy concerns the regeneration and transformation of brownfield land. This means improving standards of living, transport, affordability, and local economies in brownfield sites, which are derelict and underused.
In a press release on 9 October, £60 million was announced to transform brownfield land and build 6,000 homes. Across the country, derelict car parks, industrial sites, town centre buildings, and housing will benefit. Funding allocations in the West Midlands include £1,050,000 to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, £1,007,440 to Warwick District Council, and £477,903 to Gloucester City Council.
On the £60 million fund, Alex Burghart, Cabinet Office Minister, said: “This funding will unleash the much-needed redevelopment of brownfield sites: stimulating growth and helping local areas reach their full potential. [...] It’s fantastic news for business, and even better news for local people who will now see new investment, job opportunities, and family homes in their communities.”
These ‘Levelling Up’ projects are just a few of the UK government's plans. Whilst many projects are ambitious and are planned to be delivered over the upcoming years, initial steps taken so far are promising that the UK Government will follow through.
The ‘Levelling Up’ scheme aims to reverse the historic decline in manufacturing in the UK, and the sustainable regeneration so far paints a green industrial revolution which lies decades in the future.
Edited by: Anwen Venn
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