White intricate roofing of King's Cross Station

Levelling up regeneration schemes need significant public funding to maximise private investment opportunities

For the Government's regeneration schemes to succeed, they must prioritise city centres and be backed by substantial public funding to maximise private investment opportunities.

Press release published on 11 October 2022

  • Levelling Up White Paper announced plans to redevelop 20 UK areas in mould of King’s Cross.
  • Schemes should focus on city centres and be backed by public funding and planning reform.
  • Every £1 invested by public sector in these schemes could unlock £5 of private investment.

The Government’s plans to deliver King’s Cross-style regeneration projects across the country must prioritise city centres and be backed by substantial public funding to maximise private investment opportunities, according to a new report published by Centre for Cities today (Tuesday 11 October).

As part of the Levelling Up White paper, announced in February, ministers outlined proposals to redevelop 20 UK areas – which so far include Blackpool, Sheffield, and Wolverhampton – in the mould of the projects that saw the regeneration of Kings Cross and Stratford in London.

In a report published in partnership with Aviva, entitled Making places: The role of regeneration in levelling up, Centre for Cities sets out how these projects should sit at the heart of the new Government’s agenda to deliver swift, economic growth by attracting private sector investment.

However, to ensure these schemes are a success, Whitehall will need to take effective action to alleviate financial risks and create incentives for businesses to invest in redeveloped areas. Today’s report therefore calls on the Government to:

1.Facilitate substantial public investment to kickstart projects

The King’s Cross regeneration plan benefitted significantly from public investment. Such funding for new projects would go towards delivering schemes that encourage private sector firms to locate to target areas. Centre for Cities estimates that for every public sector pound contributed, £5 of private sector investment can be unlocked.

The money should be complemented by a mix of other tools that can alleviate risk on investments, such as using public sector tenants as first movers on to a site and providing guarantees on occupancy.

2.Focus schemes on city centre locations

To achieve levelling up, these regeneration schemes need to attract high-skilled firms and workers – both of which tend to prefer to locate in city centres.

Successful city centres are the most productive parts of the UK economy and have seen an increasing number of high-skilled jobs in recent decades. This gives them the higher levels of economic potential that attract business and help regeneration projects thrive.

Many city centres in the UK currently underperform, pulling down the local and national economies but if this policy can unlock their potential, the headroom for growth in these areas would be significant.

3. Accelerate planning reform

England’s fragmented and inefficient planning system creates unnecessary risks for developers, which consequently slow down urban regeneration projects. Prioritising the delivery of Levelling Up Bill policies to kickstart planning reform would increase the system’s certainty and flexibility, making it easier for businesses to invest and relocate to regenerated areas.

In the short-term, local government should use the tools they already have, such as local development orders and mayoral development corporations.

4. Commit to a long-term development approach in association with the private sector

Regeneration schemes can take many years to come to fruition, so a long-term stable investment commitment is needed to ensure projects survive economic pressures.

When delivering each scheme, both the public and private sectors should also work together to consolidate land ownership into one owner where possible, as this would allow master plans to be drafted and implemented much more easily.


Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter said:
“These plans to regenerate sites across the UK should sit at the heart of the new Government’s plans to level up by attracting private sector investment to left-behind areas and boosting regional economies.

“For these schemes to be a success, though, they will need to be seen as suitable places to do business. Our proposals provide a clear plan of action for Whitehall to do this by capitalising on the potential of city centres and delivering targeted investment and planning reforms to get these projects off the ground.”

Aviva Chief Executive Amanda Blanc said:
“No matter where people live and work in the UK they should have the same opportunities to thrive. Tackling the inequalities that exist within different regions to build a fairer and prosperous nation has to be a priority for our country.

“As a major UK institutional investor, companies like Aviva can play a big role in helping such regeneration succeed. We can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy. And the investment can lead to long-term, reliable returns that in turn support the retirement income of UK pensioners.”


About Centre for Cities

  • Centre for Cities is a research and policy institute, dedicated to improving the economic success of UK cities.
  • We are a charity that works with cities, business and Whitehall to develop and implement policy that supports the performance of urban economies. We do this through impartial research and knowledge exchange.

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