Leaders debate devolution journey at Brabners event

By Brabners LLP

16 May 2024

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Lancashire’s devolution deal will give the county a greater voice to speak with government on key regional investment priorities, but the county must put party politics aside to maximise the opportunities.

This was the consensus from speakers at Brabners’ latest Building Links event, held at the firm’s Lancashire office. The event was attended by around 50 business owners and directors from the property and construction industry who heard from a panel of business and local authority leaders.

The session was hosted by Jennie Jones, partner in Brabners’ Construction team. It began with an overview of Lancashire’s devolution deal and future steps from Simon Lawrence, director of growth and regeneration at Lancashire County Council.

Simon highlighted that Lancashire’s deal is only the start of the county’s devolution journey and said its structure gives business and political leaders in Lancashire a single, democratically-led voice to speak to government on key issues and attract greater funding.

He was followed by Robert White, Brabners’ chief executive officer, who discussed the True North network which was established by Brabners in 2023 and is made up of over 150 organisations committed to supporting the future of the North.

In particular, he highlighted findings from its Defining Northern Ambition report, including that decision-making on economic issues had historically been too influenced by short-term political cycles.

Robert was followed by Rob Huntington, chief executive, Rossendale Borough Council, who highlighted some of the borough’s key development projects in its main towns and discussed the political and funding challenges Lancashire’s current democratic structure presented.

Nicola Rigby, principal at commercial real estate adviser Avison Young, discussed the wider implications of the devolution deal, such as the potential for closer relationships with areas such as Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region. She said this had the potential to give the North a more united voice and tackle common issues such as transport, infrastructure and skills.

The four speakers then joined a panel discussion chaired by Jennie Jones, which included audience questions and discussed topics such as public reaction to the devolution deal and the future of growth funding in Lancashire.

Discussing the event, Jennie said: “Brabners advises a range of organisations which will be impacted by Lancashire’s devolution journey, from local authorities to some of the county’s leading businesses.

“The devolution agreement includes greater powers to shape local skills and transport provision, as well as £20m capital investment which has the potential to provide a real boost to the region’s property and construction industry in particular.

“It was fantastic to gather some of the region’s most prominent developers, investors and construction firms to gain real insight into the economic opportunities and political challenges from our panel of expert speakers, while making new connections and contacts.”

Brabners’ Robert White added: “Our Defining Northern Ambition report highlighted that current government-led funding structures can pit individual towns and cities against each other. There was a real feeling at the Building Links event that regions across the North will benefit from collaboration rather than competition.”

Brabners’ Building Links is a network of construction and property professionals who want to collaborate and share best practice. The quarterly events are centred around professional development and training, with the aim to drive innovation and education. 

The next Brabners Building Links event will be held in July 2024. Property and construction professionals interested in attending the next event can enquire by contacting [email protected]

Brabners’ property and construction team is one of the largest in the North West. It includes leading experts in construction, commercial property, development and investment, planning and environmental and property litigation. 

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