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Investment Market Report: North West Towns

Mark Hempshell reports

We have previously reported on the markets in the major northwest cities of Manchester and Liverpool. But it is easy to forget that there are other significant towns and smaller cities in the northwest of England. So in this report we will review the market in these locations.

First a little background: The northwest as a whole has a population of approximately 7m, making it the third largest region after Greater London and the southeast. ONS figures suggest the population will grow by 6.6% by 2036, half the English average. However, they also show that some areas (for example Blackburn and parts of Cumbria) will lose population slightly while others such as the cities of Manchester and Salford, the Greater Manchester borough of Trafford together with Warrington could see population growth of 10-15% each.

As to the regional economy, official figures say the northwest had the highest level of economic growth in 2015 (3.6% compared to 2.9% nationally). However, over five years the northwest had the lowest economic growth after Yorkshire and Humberside, the south west and Northern Ireland.

Many of the major towns of the northwest previously had economies based on cotton textile manufacturing and related engineering. Since the decline of textiles different towns have experienced different economic fortunes, with some adapting and benefitting from new industries but with others struggling. Most towns in the region benefit from high quality motorway links, which have made them attractive to logistics/distribution industries, and for development of new business parks.

The Northern Powerhouse project – a proposal to link the individual economies of towns and cities in the north to create a unified economic unit – could potentially have implications for the future of the region. However, since being announced by the then-Chancellor George Osborne in 2014, it’s probably fair to say that progress on creating it has been minimal. Some relevant developments include formation of Transport for the North or TfN (a body which aims to acquire TfL type powers), some city devolution, and funding to look at HS2 connectivity. Theresa May stated that the Government is still committed to the concept in October and commentators suggest November’s Autumn Budget may provide a clue as to the future prospects for the idea.

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