Mid-sized cities and the Government should work together to make their city centres more attractive to businesses a new report suggests. The Hidden Potential report from the Centre for Cities think tank calls for a £500 million investment fund to be established to improve the city centre environment and increase the provision of commercial property space.
Many mid-sized cities are being held back by their underperforming city centres, the report says. This has restricted growth and business diversity which, in turn, has had a negative impact on employment and career progression in locations like Sunderland, Preston and Derby.
The mid-sized cities fund would combine public money from existing regional growth projects, local authority assets and European funding with private sector investment. This would be used to boost city centre regeneration and provide the offices and other commercial properties that a diverse business base requires.
In addition local councils should manage empty public sector office space more effectively by offering flexible space provision along with flexible leases. This would test demand and help shape future development plans, the report says.
Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities believes it’s vital that mid-sized cities create the right environment for business. She said;
“The government has already been looking at the issue of weak city centres through the Portas Review of high streets, but we need to go further. Businesses are the real backbone of economic growth in cities and cities with weak centres need to be supported to build a strong and diverse business base.”
She went on to explain that the investment fund would allow mid-sized cities to unlock their potential leading to growth and the creation of new jobs.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, welcomed the recommendations saying that mid-sized cities have been overlooked for too long. “Some creative thinking is what is needed to turn these city centres around,” he added.
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