We began the year by exploring awareness and understanding of levelling up in our report on public attitudes to economic development. This revealed a mixed picture, with the high-profile policy meaning different things to different people. Twelve months on, the future direction of levelling up remains unclear, with the long-awaited White Paper not now expected until the New Year.
However, this hasn’t prevented public and private sector investment in places across the UK, with the challenges of the pandemic providing even greater motivation to make a difference. Copper’s economic development practice has played its part, whether delivering support to towns bidding for investment from the £3.4 billion Towns Fund, working with stakeholders to shape a strategy for transport in the East of England, or helping the Western Gateway make its case to be the location for a prototype fusion energy plant.
What these projects have in common is their potential positive impact on people living and working in places across the UK, which makes it even more important that the public has a say in shaping plans. The challenge of lockdowns and resulting changes to the way we live, work and socialise has driven the adoption of different methods of engagement that, while we must be mindful of the dangers of digital exclusion, have the potential to enhance community buy-in to projects. Kicking off with a clear statement of intent for levelling up, 2022 could be the year in which we bring even more voices into the conversation.