Rebalancing the regions: How cities can help drive investment

The Gherkin in 2006: more than a decade on, London still dominates the UK commercial property market. Image: Getty.


In this sponsored post, the head of housing delivery and strategy at Capita Real Estate & Infrastructure talks about rebalancing Britain’s economy.

Attracting capital investment is vital to local authorities. City and regional authorities strive to create places where people want to live and work, and they cannot do this alone without commercial property investment.

With devolution and city deals being finalised, councils are looking to attract investors aligned with their values to help stimulate economic growth, and create new jobs and homes.

And yet new research has again revealed that, outside of London, places with the potential for enormous growth are still struggling to generate the levels of investment they need to be able to build communities for the future.

Centre for Cities and Capita have revealed more than half of all investment in Britain’s commercial property market – worth more than £43bn – was spent in London. This was significantly more than the South East, the second most successful region, which secured just under £5bn of investment, equivalent to 11 per cent of the total share across Britain.

The North East and Wales gained less than £1bn of commercial property investment each last year, with Wales attracting just 1 per cent of the total share of investment across Britain, the smallest amount of any region.

So, what can local authorities do to ensure they are attracting the level of investment necessary to meet the needs of their communities, both now and into the future?

Local authorities want to develop their understanding of what motivates investors and developers, allowing councils to unlock value in their region to stimulate economic growth.

And our report has highlighted five key characteristics investors say they are looking for: a strong economy with growth potential; excellent transport links; a pro-investment leadership; a strong focus and record on delivery; and a distinctive reputation which draws on the history or culture of a city.

While these characteristics may already be clear to city authorities, what is often less clear-cut is how to go about developing these favoured traits to get the attention of potential investors.

The report sets out the following roadmap for authorities:

  • Deploy the right resources: seek expert investment advice;
  • Know your product and audience: understand strengths and weaknesses;
  • Build networks to sell your product: investment industry is built on relationships and who you know is important;
  • Close the deal: Make it easy for investors to consider your opportunities by providing detailed information about each one.

Many cities around the UK are already making great strides in securing significant outside investment. Two examples, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Southampton City Council, have both been working with Capita for a number of years to help create better places for their communities.

Blackburn worked hard to attract investors and its new place based partnership with Capita, launched just a year ago on the back of 15 years of successful partnership, is all about promoting growth and being developer-friendly.

Through innovative shared management arrangements, the authority has gone from being a housing market renewal area with more demolition than growth, from net growth of only 17 houses a couple of years ago to now 460 on site with planning permission for 1,200. Meanwhile the regeneration of the bus station and Cathedral Quarter has resulted in a much more attractive city centre for visitors and residents alike and has contributed to it being a winner in the Great British High Street awards in the ‘Town Centre’ category in 2016.

Southampton’s approach to attracting investment has shifted from a laissez-faire approach, to proactively seeking investors and strategically planning the exact developments required to achieve the city’s vision. This approach has secured £2bn of city centre investment. 

The city has focused on raising the profile of the city amongst investors and agents, while its Masterplan has provided investors with certainty over the city’s future evolution.

While our research has revealed there is still a significant disparity in levels of investment around the UK, it’s clear that investors are ready to commit to cities given the right set of circumstances. Local authorities and city leaders up and down the country are working hard to deliver innovative investment for the future.

You can read the report here.

Deborah McLaughlin is head of housing delivery and strategy, Capita Real Estate & Infrastructure.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.