By Leigh Bramall, Director
The political environment looks set to continue the febrile theme we witnessed in 2016 and the first half of this year. As we progress ever closer towards Brexit becoming a reality, there are signs that nervousness and caution among investors is growing. Equally as concerning is the uncertainty emanating from our own UK Government. With a weakened prime minister and a split in Cabinet on Brexit direction, the policy positions of the UK Government seem fragile at best.
In the North of England, we now have our first elected mayors for City Regions. Nationally however, despite re-affirmations of a commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, actions have spoken louder than the lukewarm words. The Government’s commitment to Cross Rail 2 came at the same time Chris Grayling seemed to be blowing distinctly cool (if not cold), on Northern Powerhouse Rail and announced a backtrack on electrification of the Midland Mainline.
The combination of a focus on Brexit, at the same time as a cooling on the Northern Powerhouse, reinforces the view that the case to government for investment outside London is never definitively won. It requires constant pressure. The case for pressing national government for investment to boost growth, and good policy locally to drive innovation and development, is clearer than ever before.
A good public affairs strategy will be extremely valuable in helping developers, investors and public institutions alike to strengthen their case.
The political environment can often influence the success of developments. An example is the trend of universities investing in their estate to compete nationally and internationally. Universities are becoming more prominent in driving local economies, playing a leading role in public-private partnerships. However, as highlighted by Brexit, divides can exist between elite institutions and significant sections of the wider public. When universities do expand, these dynamics need to be understood and addressed carefully and strategically.
In our experience of working with universities on their capital estates programmes, we have delivered strategic, thoughtful and robust stakeholder engagement and public consultation. This involves engaging a wide number of stakeholders such as university employees, local MPs and councillors, community and special interest groups and the media, to increase awareness, understanding and support for the programme.