The last two years have brought a significant rethink into the fabric of urban life. The shift to online retail and home working has opened up exciting conversations about the potential for the 15-minute city: areas in which residents can meet most of their daily needs, from work and school to healthcare and retail, while travelling mainly by foot, bike or public transport.
KPMG’s analysis suggests that while the increasing trend for working from home has encouraged growth in these localised neighbourhoods, in the longer-term this trend towards hybrid working will make employers want to consolidate their remaining workplaces into fewer larger sites and to base these in locations accessible for large numbers of part-time commuters. Inevitably these places will generally be the largest and strongest towns and cities in the UK.
The combination of these diverse effects illustrates that local authorities can no longer take a one-size-fits-all approach to their planning for the future as the impact of these trends, pulling in different directions, will vary enormously across different urban and suburban areas.
Instead, each locality needs to take a long hard look at its unique strengths– to consider where they need to focus on in order to create a place of well-defined purpose. A thorough diagnostic can help to establish each place’s unique identity and can help local authorities to tailor the range of interventions needed for it to attract the people and partnerships that fit with the opportunities it offers.
The additional opportunities, set out in the Government’s Levelling Up missions, for place based devolution, redistribution of grant funding and encouragement of local dynamism mean there’s never been a better time to act.
KPMG does not have all the answers for each area. But as the leading advisor on devolution, local government reorganisation and development of innovation districts, we can offer a process in which each location can best assess what makes it unique within the context of its wider area and network. Only by embracing its distinctiveness as an integral part of its planning can every town and city work to attract the residents, businesses and visitors needed to help each place achieve its purpose and potential.
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