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Regional Cities: Investment Review

Mark Hempshell reports

Many regional cities in the UK have been looking more attractive to property investors of late, with low capital values in many cases – and promises of regeneration and economic revival ahead. But which city, or cities, to focus on poses something of a dilemma. So in this report we will look at England’s six largest regional cities and at the prospects for investing in each location.

Birmingham has a population of 1.1m. ONS forecasts suggest it will be one of the fastest growing UK cities in future, with 18.5% growth or 200,000 more residents here by 2039.

Originally a manufacturing centre, the economy here is now diverse, although the automotive sector is still very significant. The Summer 2018 UK City Growth Tracker (produced by CEBR for Irwin Mitchell) forecasts the Birmingham economy will grow 0.8% per year on average until 2028. Interestingly, their forecasts say Cambridge and Milton Keynes will be the UK’s ‘top two’ fastest growing economies over the same period, each growing 1.6% annually.

The region is something of a trailblazer for the Government’s city devolution policy. With Conservative (and ex-John Lewis CEO) Andy Street as Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, recent achievements include raising regional annual housebuilding from 7,000 to 12,000 and securing funding towards a £1.3bn expansion programme for the Midland Metro tram system.

The Midlands Engine coalition is proving much more dynamic than its Northern Powerhouse counterpart. Its Strategic Programme Development Fund and separate Investment Fund are facilitating funding for investment. The organisation is organising overseas trade visits and Street has recently launched an ‘Investment Prospectus’, pitching the West Midlands as the UK’s ‘new growth capital’ and offering global companies £10bn of investment projects.

There is currently extensive development ongoing city-wide, but two future projects standout – both closely linked to the HS2
rail project due to open in 2026-27. The city centre HS2 station at Curzon Street is likely to be the busiest on the HS2 network. The adjacent 150ha area covering Eastside and Digbeth, within the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone, is earmarked for substantial regeneration over the next 20 years to include office, commercial, residential and student property developments. Estimates suggest that HS2 and associated developments will deliver an additional £14bn GVA for the regional economy.

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