The Northern Powerhouse concept has helped generate “massive interest” in the region from overseas investors during the past year, according to a leading property expert.
Speaking in an International Property Forum panel debate yesterday (22 June), Lindsey Ashworth, development director of Peel Holdings, welcomed the impact the idea has had so far on moving projects forward.
During the conference at Exhibition Centre Liverpool, which was part of the International Festival for Business (IFB2016), Ashworth said: “We’re competing with places like China where some provinces have got more population than the whole of the United Kingdom, so while we say we’ve got half a million people in Liverpool it doesn’t quite bode well when some of these provinces have 60 or 70 million.
“You need to big up your numbers, so the Northern Powerhouse is something that’s now actually saying the North West is this super region outside of London. It was very difficult a few years ago to get people who had come from overseas to invest into London to actually come here into the sticks, into the North West, and over the last year there has been a massive interest.”
Fellow panellist Simon Marshall, investment manager at Scarborough Investments added: “When we go to China now we find our Chinese friends talking more to us about the Northern Powerhouse than we to them. It’s given them a way of framing that region.
“So much of it is about familiarity and it’s a journey, it’s step by step, so really silly things like the fact Liverpool and Manchester have football teams people have heard of has a resonance. What adding other cities regions to this northern region has done is put them on the same platform.”
Marshall added that the government’s backing of the agenda has provided further strength when it comes to attracting overseas investors.
He said: “When a Northern Powerhouse delegation goes to China, Singapore or Asia and it’s fronted by the Prime Minister, Chancellor or the business secretary, immediately the credibility and offering steps up, the quality of investors you’re able to pull in steps up.
“It’s been fascinating for us to see as a business that’s been out in China for 15 years, but now to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with senior government officials is incredibly empowering.”
The discussion, which also featured participants including UKTI’s Gavin Winbanks; Pete Gladwell, head of public sector partnerships at Legal & General Real Assets; and Mark Beardwood, partner at DLA Piper, followed further debate on the Northern Powerhouse from city leaders across the region.
Manchester City Council’s chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein also stressed the need for work on the concept to continue to allow the North to compete.
Debating the issue alongside Liverpool City Council CEO, Ged Fitzgerald; leaders Pat Ritchie and Martin Farrington from Newcastle and Leeds city councils respectively; and the secretary of state for Wales, the Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP, Sir Bernstein said: “When Ged [Fitzgerald] and I were in Munich making a presentation about the Northern Powerhouse to an international investor audience, we heard from Dutch cities and you heard exactly the same thing which we’re talking about here.
“How do they connect themselves to each other much better? How do they evaluate their key sectoral strengths? How do they synergise their labour markets in order to drive those key sectors to provide platforms for better trading and more effective activities globally?
“So if we don’t do this I absolutely guarantee our competitors will continue to do it and it’s absolutely essential that this process continues.”