Speaking at a housing, planning and regeneration seminar in Liverpool, Mr Rotheram urged the private sector to help create a ‘vision’ for the Liverpool city region. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has reached out to businesses and potential investors with a loud and clear ‘profit is good’ message.
Speaking at a housing, planning and regeneration seminar in Liverpool, organised by lobby and networking group Downtown in Business, Mr Rotheram said his plan for a “fully inclusive” economy would benefit the city’s region’s 1.6m residents and its businesses.
He is a Labour Mayor and the party’s significant shift to the left, and the rise at what has been perceived as anti-capitalist rhetoric, has caused unease in the business sector. Many in the Labour movement are vocal in their hostility towards so-called ‘neoliberalism’ and its focus on trickle down economics.
Mr Rotheram, however, said that the combined authority’s target of building 5,000 new homes a year across the city region would require a significant input from private sector investors and developers.
He added: “We will provide the right economic conditions to enable business to get a return on their investments. We will not shy away from using the ‘profit’ word.”
The Mayor said the Liverpool city region was now the fastest-growing city region in the country, outperforming the rest of the UK in terms of GVA by 1.5%, adding that it was also the best-performing region outside London for building new homes.
And he also hailed the success of the devolution model which he insists had got the city region’s six boroughs – Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton – working collaboratively for the first time in decades. He said that in recent month the combined authority has secured an extra £187m in funding from central Government.
He explained: “Until now we have not had a single body providing the strategic vision and direction like they have in places such as Manchester. Our boroughs did their own thing and have often competed against each other.
“Under the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority we now have all six boroughs working together. We need to offer a vision to the 1.6m people living in the city region.”
The main focus of the breakfast event was the emerging developments in Wirral Waters and other speakers included director of development for Wirral Waters, Richard Mawdsley, Catherine Holmes from Homes England and Simon Humphreys from developer Urban Splash.
Wirral Waters has been dubbed ‘Liverpool’s Left Bank’ and Mr Mawdsley said there were now three live housing projects on the 500-acre site as well as plans for logistics, manufacturing and training facilities.
Of the three residential projects, which will produce a total of 500 new homes, the £90m Legacy Foundation project is expected to be on-site by the end of 2019, helped by a £6m grant from Homes England.
Mr Mawdsley said much of the recent investment has gone into Liverpool adding that Wirral Waters was an opportunity to start to “redress the balance”. He added: “We see Liverpool and Wirral as two sides of the same coin – joined by the river, not separated by it. Liverpool has had more than Wirral and Wirral Waters will be a catalyst to regenerate that part of Birkenhead. A stronger Wirral is also good for Liverpool.”
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Homes England has now established a based in Liverpool’s Mann Island, the same location as the combined authority, and is looking to grow its headcount there from the current 40 to around 150.
Ms Holmes said the agency was committed to helping to build new homes across the Liverpool city region, with £49m already spent on affordable homes. She added the agency’s door was open for businesses to come forward with their ideas.
“We are looking to unlock both private and public sector land and invest in infrastructure,” she said. “We want to hear from smaller housebuilders and we want them to come forward with their ideas and proposals.”