Rede von Mr. Prescott auf dem CEU Kongress am 10. September 2005

(load as PDF-File)

Rede von Dr. Man­fred Stol­pe

Thanks to the CEU for making the DPM and the rest of the ODPM team so wel­co­me in Ber­lin! The DPM’s spee­ch is given below.

All the best

Juli­an

Juli­an Smith
Speech­wri­ter for the Depu­ty Pri­me Minis­ter
Office of the Depu­ty Pri­me Minis­ter
RB.1.19
26 Whi­te­hall
Lon­don SW1A 2WH

Depu­ty Pri­me Minis­ter:
Inter­na­tio­nal Con­gress of the Coun­cil for Euro­pean Urba­nism
Ber­lin
10 Sep­tem­ber 2005

It’s a great plea­su­re to be in Ber­lin. I want to thank Dr Man­fred Stol­pe [Federal Minis­ter for Trans­port, Hou­sing and Con­struc­tion], for wel­co­m­ing me to his Minis­try today, espe­cial­ly in the midd­le of an elec­tion cam­pai­gn!

Over the first day of this con­fe­ren­ce, you’ve heard how the great city of Ber­lin — which was cut in two by fear and ideo­lo­gy for 45 years — has beco­me the focus of a remar­ka­ble pro­gram­me of rege­ne­ra­ti­on and rene­wal.

It’s a reu­ni­ted capi­tal, in a reu­ni­ted Ger­many, in a reu­ni­ted Euro­pe.

Ber­lin shows how superb new archi­tec­tu­re can lift con­fi­den­ce in our cities and give peop­le a real sen­se of pri­de in whe­re they live.

I call it the ‚wow fac­tor‘ — and I’m deligh­ted that Bri­tain has brought a bit of ‚wow‘ to Ber­lin with our new Embas­sy buil­ding, and I’m loo­king for­ward to see­ing the rebuilt Reichs­tag with Lord Foster’s ama­zing spi­ral stair­ca­se.

Today, we have a num­ber of Ame­ri­can fri­en­ds with us, and I want to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to express our soli­da­ri­ty and com­pas­si­on after the havoc of Hur­ri­ca­ne Kat­ri­na.

As a Euro­pean nego­tia­tor at the Kyo­to cli­ma­te chan­ge con­ven­ti­on, I was ful­ly awa­re that cli­ma­te chan­ge is chan­ging wea­ther pat­terns and rai­sing sea levels.

The hor­ri­fic flood of New Orleans brings home to us the con­cern of lea­ders of coun­tries like the Mal­di­ves, who­se nati­ons are at risk of disap­pearing com­ple­te­ly.

I’m proud that Bri­tain has alre­a­dy achie­ved its Kyo­to tar­get on green­hou­se gas emis­si­ons – 6 years ahead of time, with a gro­wing eco­no­my.

The­re has been resis­tan­ce by the United Sta­tes Govern­ment to Kyo­to — which I belie­ve is wrong.

On a recent visit to the United Sta­tes, I was deligh­ted to see that city mayors are taking their own envi­ron­men­tal initia­ti­ve on Kyo­to.

This year, 178 mayors, repre­sen­ting over 36 mil­lion Ame­ri­cans, have signed up to the goals of Kyo­to – along with 60 Mayors from cities like Lon­don, Shang­hai, Moscow and Rio, who have agreed to take 21 prac­tical actions on ener­gy, was­te, urban desi­gn, health, water and trans­port.

It’s a tru­ly glo­bal initia­ti­ve by cities.

A recent report by the United Nati­ons clai­med that cities con­su­me 75% of the world’s natu­ral resour­ces and pro­du­ce 75% of its was­te.

50% of all humans will be living in cities — com­pa­red to just 15% a hund­red years ago. In 1950, 83 cities had a popu­la­ti­on of over a mil­lion, and now it’s over 400. This mass urba­ni­sa­ti­on is one of the grea­test chal­len­ges fac­ing the world today.

Across Euro­pe we have crea­ted superb towns and cities, and not just for the last 30 years.

Des­pi­te the slums and pover­ty, Euro­pean cities offe­red safe­ty and secu­ri­ty to the peop­le — and gave rise to an asto­nis­hing expres­si­on of human crea­ti­vi­ty through magni­fi­cent art, cul­tu­re and archi­tec­tu­re. Old Roman cities like my home town of Ches­ter have been sustainable for over 2,000 years.

Yet somehow we lost our way.

During the 20th Cen­tu­ry, mil­li­ons of peop­le gave up living in cities.
They got in their cars and left for the sub­urbs — dri­ven out for a varie­ty of rea­sons inclu­ding poor edu­ca­ti­on, the fear of cri­me, pol­lu­ti­on and con­ges­ti­on and the domi­na­ti­on of the motor car.

Back in 1961, the Ame­ri­can urba­nist Jane Jacobs sur­vey­ed the disastrous results of 20th Cen­tu­ry plan­ning, and urged us all to redis­co­ver the art of making pla­ces were peop­le can mix and meet.

She hel­ped defi­ne what today I call a sustainable com­mu­ni­ty.

Sustainable com­mu­nities balan­ce the soci­al, eco­no­mic and envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns of their com­mu­ni­ty – mee­ting the nee­ds of exis­ting and future gene­ra­ti­ons, and respec­ting the nee­ds of others in diver­se com­mu­nities.

And sustainable com­mu­nities are envi­ron­men­tal­ly sen­si­ti­ve, with high stan­dards of qua­li­ty and desi­gn.

This is not just about buil­dings and public spaces loo­king good — they’ve got to feel safe, secu­re, and fami­ly fri­end­ly, as well.

Sustainable com­mu­nities must have good local eco­no­mies and trans­port ser­vices – pro­vi­ding jobs, schools, health and other ser­vices that are acces­si­ble to all.

Yet in Bri­tain, suc­ces­si­ve govern­ments did exact­ly the oppo­si­te, with ter­ri­ble con­se­quen­ces.

Deca­des of indus­tri­al chan­ge under­mi­ned our major towns and cities.

Peop­le left the cities for the sub­urbs — and major out of town retail deve­lop­ments under­mi­ned many tra­di­tio­nal town cen­tres.

The­re was major dis­in­vest­ment in schools, hos­pi­tals and trans­port, record unem­ploy­ment, severe home­l­ess­ness, insuf­fi­ci­ent hou­sing, the public hou­sing sto­ck was in major dis­re­pair, and the­re was a wide­ning eco­no­mic gap bet­ween Nor­th and Sou­th.

For 2 deca­des befo­re our Govern­ment came into office in 1997, the pre­vai­ling phi­lo­so­phy had been a total faith in the ope­ra­ti­on of mar­ket forces, and the belief by Mrs That­cher that the­re was no such thing as socie­ty.

But our Labour Govern­ment knew that eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty and soci­al jus­ti­ce are two sides of the same coin – and they are essen­ti­al to the crea­ti­on of sustainable towns and cities.

So our first prio­ri­ty was to secu­re eco­no­mic sta­bi­li­ty.

Thanks to our poli­ci­es over the last 8 years, we’ve achie­ved the lon­ge­st recor­ded peri­od of con­ti­nuous eco­no­mic grow­th for over 200 years, the lowest infla­ti­on for 30 years,the lowest rate of unem­ploy­ment for 30 years, and record public invest­ment in our schools, hos­pi­tals and trans­port.

Our second prio­ri­ty was to reform gover­nan­ce.

That meant ensu­ring that our struc­tures at the natio­nal, regio­nal and local level were capa­ble of deli­ver­ing our pro­gram­mes — in part­nership with the peop­le affec­ted by such chan­ges.

We also saw the need to devol­ve power and resour­ces away from the high­ly cen­tra­li­sed form of govern­ment we inheri­ted.

Our reforms are giving peop­le in regi­ons, cities, towns and neigh­bourhoods more say over what hap­pens in their area. It impro­ves their con­fi­den­ce that they can make a real dif­fe­ren­ce to their own com­mu­ni­ty.

My depart­ment was esta­blis­hed with a bud­get of 78 bil­lion euros a year, to co-ordi­na­te and inte­gra­te the deci­si­on making pro­cess across govern­ment on trans­port, rege­ne­ra­ti­on, hou­sing, the envi­ron­ment, plan­ning, local govern­ment, and a new approach to regio­nal gover­nan­ce and deve­lop­ment.

This in turn led to a long term pro­gram­me of new legis­la­ti­on and reform for hou­sing, plan­ning, urban deve­lop­ment, neigh­bourhood rene­wal, local govern­ment and trans­port.

For exam­ple, we’re inves­ting 62 bil­lion euros of public and pri­va­te money to over­co­me the mas­si­ve dis­in­vest­ment in public hou­sing.

By 2010, all our publi­cly owned hou­sing will meet a decent stan­dard — com­pa­red to over 2 mil­lion non decent homes we inheri­ted in 1997.

The serious­ness of the chal­len­ges fac­ing our cities, in an increa­sin­gly glo­bal eco­no­my, meant that we had to deve­lop a more ambi­tious con­sen­sus for chan­ge.

We need to pro­mo­te new ide­as, new money and new approa­ches to crea­te more suc­cess­ful towns and cities.

Across Euro­pe and the world, cities face dif­fe­ring chal­len­ges which need their own solu­ti­ons.

So I want to con­gra­tu­la­te the Coun­cil for cham­pio­n­ing Euro­pean Urba­nism and for orga­ni­sing this major event at an import­ant time in the deba­te on the future of cities in Euro­pe and across the world.

Con­fe­ren­ces such as this, and the ones which I hosted in Bir­ming­ham and Man­ches­ter, dis­se­mi­na­te dif­fe­rent ide­as and help crea­te a new agen­da for sustainable com­mu­nities.

In Bri­tain in 2003, I publis­hed the Sustainable Com­mu­nities Plan, which will deli­ver a long term pro­gram­me of 59 bil­lion euros of invest­ment in our towns and cities.

It means dif­fe­ring solu­ti­ons for dif­fe­rent are­as – and this is just as true wit­hin regi­ons, as it is wit­hin nati­ons, or across con­ti­nents.

For exam­ple, we have old indus­tri­al are­as in the Nor­th and Mid­lands, whe­re the­re are depres­sed hou­sing mar­kets and col­lap­sed hou­se pri­ces.

Here in Ger­many, you have simi­lar issu­es on a much big­ger sca­le, bet­ween East and West.

So we’re also spen­ding over 1½ bil­lion euros to help are­as with low demand for homes restruc­tu­re their hou­sing mar­kets and crea­te com­mu­nities with the right mix of hou­sing for local nee­ds.

Adding green spaces and rebuil­ding neigh­bourhoods in a more sustainable way.

Con­ver­se­ly, in the Sou­th of Eng­land, a despe­ra­te shor­ta­ge of hou­sing has crea­ted are­as of high demand, which has been worsen­ed by resis­tan­ce to the need for grow­th.

Hou­se pri­ces have rocke­ted out of the reach of the key public ser­vice workers like nur­ses and teachers, who need to live near whe­re they work and pro­vi­de our essen­ti­al public ser­vices.

So we’re spen­ding over 1½ bil­lion euros to give key workers and first time buy­ers a chan­ce to own a home, whe­re homeow­nership of 70% is among­st the hig­hest in Euro­pe.

Clear­ly, we need to use land more effi­ci­ent­ly, and give prio­ri­ty to reu­sing old indus­tri­al land and buil­dings.

Our tough plan­ning con­trols are working to com­bat sprawl and ensu­re that we build more homes on less land, and in the right pla­ces.

In 1997, only 56% of new homes were built on brown­field land.
So we set a tar­get to rai­se that figu­re to 60% by 2008 — and I’m deligh­ted to say that we’ve alre­a­dy achie­ved 67%.

And we’re inves­ting 9 bil­lion euros in the rede­ve­lop­ment of the Tha­mes Gate­way and 3 new Grow­th Are­as.

This area of old indus­tri­al land to the East of Lon­don inclu­des our for­mer dock­lands, and it’s Wes­tern Europe’s lar­ge­st brown­field site.

The Tha­mes Gate­way is part of our plans for 1.1 mil­lion new homes in Lon­don and the wider Sou­th East, built on the same amount of land as the pre­vious Govern­ment set asi­de for 900,000 hou­ses.

This means we’re saving an area of green­field land the size of the city of Oxford, sim­ply by using more brown­field land and increa­sing the hou­sing den­si­ty plan­ning requi­re­ments.

Even though we’ve dou­bled invest­ment in soci­al hou­sing, and we’ve unlo­cked disu­s­ed land for new deve­lop­ment, the demand for homes in Sou­th East Eng­land is still grea­ter than the sup­ply.

Suc­ces­si­ve govern­ments befo­re us fai­led to build enough homes, and so hou­se pri­ces have been rising fas­ter than wages for key public ser­vice workers like nur­ses and teachers.

Ten years ago hou­se pri­ces were 3½ times people’s annu­al sala­ry. Now they are 6 times the annu­al sala­ry, and pri­ces have been rising fas­ter than earnings.

I poin­ted out to our Tre­a­su­ry that the public sec­tor was sel­ling off land for hou­sing at the mar­ket pri­ce – only for me to ask the Tre­a­su­ry for as much as 120,000 euros to sub­si­di­se an afforda­ble home for a nur­se, a teacher or ano­ther key worker so they can live near whe­re they work.

Sin­ce the Govern­ment and the public sec­tor owns so much land, I asked, ins­tead of sel­ling off the land, why not lea­se it and offer peop­le an equi­ty share in the pri­ce of the home.

Sin­ce then, our natio­nal land rege­ne­ra­ti­on agen­cy, Eng­lish Part­nerships has iden­ti­fied 700 sites of public sec­tor land that could be used for homes, inclu­ding Minis­try of Defen­ce land, sites around Lon­don rail­way sta­ti­ons, and 100 sur­p­lus NHS sites, which alo­ne have the poten­ti­al for 15,000 homes in this first sta­ge.

We’ve also suf­fe­red big increa­ses in con­struc­tion costs in recent years — they’ve gone up three times fas­ter than infla­ti­on.

But our con­struc­tion indus­try has also fai­led to make best use of modern methods of con­struc­tion, which you have done in Ger­many and elsew­he­re.

Last year, I chal­len­ged deve­l­o­pers to use modern methods of con­struc­tion to show how we can build a qua­li­ty 2 bed hou­se for 88,000 euros, com­pa­red to the 370,000 euro pri­ce of an aver­a­ge home in the Sou­th.

Our first con­tract for 1,000 of the­se homes is now out for com­pe­ti­ti­on. Deve­l­o­pers will build the win­ning designs on publi­cly owned land. We’ll keep the land in public ownership, and the home buy­ers will only have to pay for the cost of con­struc­tion and ser­vices.

I want to empha­sise that our Sustainable Com­mu­nities Plan is more than just a hou­sing pro­gram­me in an urban set­ting. It’s about mee­ting the nee­ds of peop­le for homes, jobs, public and pri­va­te ser­vices, and a decent qua­li­ty of life.

It invol­ves impro­ving the qua­li­ty of the public realm across the coun­try, crea­ting clea­ner, safer, gree­ner pla­ces to live.

An import­ant part of this is get­ting a bet­ter balan­ce bet­ween public and pri­va­te trans­port.

Back in the Six­ties, the famous Bri­tish plan­ner Colin Bucha­nan war­ned us again­st crea­ting cities for cars, ins­tead of peop­le, and we igno­red him.

We are now pay­ing the pri­ce in terms of con­ges­ti­on and costs to the envi­ron­ment.

In Bri­tain, we gave cities the power to intro­du­ce con­ges­ti­on char­ging for road traf­fic, and the inco­me could only be used for impro­ving city public trans­port.

In Lon­don alo­ne, this led to a 30% drop in con­ges­ti­on in the cen­tral area in the first year alo­ne, plus an increa­se in the use of buses and the Tube.

We also chan­ged the prio­ri­ties of trans­port, from a mas­si­ve road buil­ding pro­gram­me, to a balan­ced public trans­port plan with 265 bil­lion euros of invest­ment over 10 years.

This is now deli­ver­ing record levels of pas­sen­gers on our rail­ways, buses, and new light rail sys­tems. And in cities like Bir­ming­ham and Bris­tol, we are begin­ning to give our streets back to pede­stri­ans, moving away from the con­cept of motor­way cities of the 60’s.

I’m plea­sed to say that our poli­ci­es of enab­ling eco­no­mic sta­bi­li­ty and encou­ra­ging public pri­va­te part­nerships are working.

We are making sub­stan­ti­al pro­gress impro­ving the pro­spe­ri­ty and qua­li­ty of life in many of our urban are­as.

There’s been a sur­ge of grow­th and con­fi­den­ce in our regio­nal core cities in recent years. Peop­le are returning to our cities.

Across a ran­ge of key indi­ca­tors, our core cities are doing bet­ter than the natio­nal aver­a­ge. Unem­ploy­ment and cri­me are fal­ling. Eco­no­mic and edu­ca­tio­nal per­for­man­ce is impro­ving. There’s new invest­ment in qua­li­ty buil­ding, parks and green spaces.

In 1997, we used plan­ning con­trols to stop the huge out of town shop­ping cen­tres which had been under­mi­ning our town and city cen­tres. This has resul­ted in 22% more retail floor­space being built in town cen­tres.

Peop­le, shops, and busi­nes­ses are returning to our core cities.

Cities are the dri­ving force for grow­th and sustainable com­mu­nities.

This con­fe­ren­ce is focu­sing on the Euro­pean city, but the­re is a lot we can learn from the United Sta­tes.

I’m plea­sed that John Nor­quist and his col­leagues from the Con­gress for the New Urba­nism have joi­ned us today. I’ve seen how the New Urba­nists are working in com­mu­nities like Chi­ca­go, Washing­ton, Mil­wau­kee and in new pla­ces, like Sea­si­de in Flo­ri­da. They’re recon­nec­ting the art of buil­ding with the making of com­mu­nities.

The New Urba­nism is explai­ned in its Char­ter: strong gover­nan­ce, soci­al equi­ty, eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty and con­cen­tra­ted deve­lop­ment.

I belie­ve that sustainable com­mu­nities brings toge­ther two dif­fe­rent approa­ches – Ame­ri­can New Urba­nism and the Euro­pean tra­di­ti­on.

Com­pa­red to Ame­ri­can New Urba­nism, the Euro­pean approach — par­ti­cu­lar­ly in Bri­tain – uses a more inter­ven­tio­nist sty­le of Govern­ment to achie­ve envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, soci­al jus­ti­ce, and eco­no­mic pro­gress.

The Eng­lish plan­ning sys­tem was intro­du­ced in 1947, and it is a power­ful instru­ment for inter­ven­ti­on — but it beca­me ossi­fied and restric­tive to chan­ge.

We’re spen­ding 880 mil­lion euros to impro­ve the effi­ci­en­cy of the plan­ning sys­tem — so that we get bet­ter deci­si­ons fas­ter, we have more effec­tive public pri­va­te part­nerships and we ful­ly invol­ve the com­mu­ni­ty in what hap­pens to their area.

We’re imple­men­ting ide­as like desi­gn coding, which has been used by the New Urba­nists to pro­du­ce quicker deci­si­ons, bet­ter deve­lop­ment and stron­ger com­mu­ni­ty sup­port.

And we want the plan­ning sys­tem to link hou­sing, trans­port and eco­no­mic deve­lop­ment at the regio­nal and city level, help nar­row the eco­no­mic gap, crea­te mixed com­mu­nities, use land more effi­ci­ent­ly, pro­tect the coun­try­si­de, rever­se the grow­th in out of town retail, and encou­ra­ge peop­le and retailers back into our city cen­tres through mixed use deve­lop­ment.

Our latest impro­ve­ment is to intro­du­ce a new Plan­ning Poli­cy State­ment which makes sustainable deve­lop­ment a core prin­ci­ple of the plan­ning sys­tem.

In this way, plan­ning is a good exam­ple of how a strong degree of inter­ven­ti­on, wit­hin a demo­cra­tic frame­work, can pro­du­ce res­pon­si­ble and sustainable grow­th.

And sustaina­bi­li­ty is also about crea­ting superb buil­dings and open spaces – with their archi­tec­tu­ral ‚wow fac­tor.‘

It is also about reu­sing old indus­tri­al assets in order to crea­te homes, jobs and com­mu­nities.

The canals and water­ways used to be seen by Govern­ments and cities as deca­ying lia­bi­li­ties, but now they’re hel­ping to crea­te new sustainable com­mu­nities.

So our poli­cy in Bri­tain is based on focu­sed and prag­ma­tic inter­ven­ti­on by the public sec­tor to steer the mar­ket towards bet­ter out­co­mes — revi­ta­li­sing our was­ting cities, giving peop­le new oppor­tu­nities to ful­fil their poten­ti­al, nar­ro­wing the eco­no­mic divi­de bet­ween regi­ons, working for the bene­fit of the many not the few.

We knew that invest­ment by the Sta­te was never going to be enough on its own. But lea­ving it all up to the pri­va­te sec­tor would repeat the mis­ta­kes of the past. We nee­ded a radi­cal new approach, to unlo­ck huge amounts of pri­va­te sec­tor invest­ment to work along­s­ide our own public invest­ment to crea­te eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty and soci­al jus­ti­ce.

This is why we pro­mo­ted public and pri­va­te part­nerships and pri­va­te finan­ce initia­ti­ves to deli­ver chan­ge on the ground. I’m plea­sed to say that our Bri­tish Embas­sy is the first exam­ple of a pri­va­te finan­ce initia­ti­ve, here in Ber­lin.

We have deve­lo­ped public sec­tor agen­ci­es like Eng­lish Part­nerships to crea­te public pri­va­te part­nerships and pri­va­te finan­ce initia­ti­ves. They’ve been con­tro­ver­si­al – but they have been very suc­cess­ful, deli­ver­ing over £40 bil­lion of extra invest­ment in public ser­vices.

That means – 30 new hos­pi­tals, over 250 new or refur­bis­hed schools, more than 30 public trans­port sche­mes, and over 50 fire sta­ti­ons, poli­ce sta­ti­ons and court buil­dings.

All the­se public ser­vices are essen­ti­al to crea­ting sustainable com­mu­nities.

Just take one exam­ple of what I mean by a suc­cess­ful public pri­va­te part­nership.

The Nor­th Green­wich pen­in­su­la, the site of the famous Mill­en­ni­um Dome, used to be one of the most poi­sonous sites in Lon­don and the pri­va­te sec­tor could not afford to decon­ta­mi­na­te it.

Working in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the pri­va­te sec­tor, our public sec­tor rege­ne­ra­ti­on agen­cy Eng­lish Part­nerships has reme­dia­ted the land and tur­ned this site into a new con­cept of urban rene­wal, a mill­en­ni­um vil­la­ge.

They have cut con­struc­tion was­te by 30% and impro­ved ener­gy effi­ci­en­cy by 65%.

13,000 new homes are on the way, as well as a new school, open spaces and a new sports arena and retail, con­nec­ted to a new Under­ground sys­tem, all in the cen­tre of Lon­don.

So our approach has allo­wed us to har­ness the strengths of the public and pri­va­te sec­tors, and as a result, we’ve achie­ved a lot over the last 8 years.

But we know there’s still a long way to go – com­pa­ri­son with Euro­pean city regi­ons tells us that.

Cities like Liver­pool and Man­ches­ter were still well down in the ran­kings of Euro­pean cities by GDP per head in 2001. 5 out of the top 6 Euro­pean cities are in Ger­many – a coun­try which has strong core cities in a strong regio­nal con­text. We have a lot to learn from you, espe­cial­ly as Ber­lin is inde­ed a city regi­on.

Inde­ed, we’ve just heard from Dr Man­fred Stol­pe how Ger­many its­elf is still over­co­m­ing the chal­len­ges of indus­tri­al chan­ge in parts of the for­mer East Ger­many, which echoes some of our own chal­len­ges in Nort­hern Eng­land.

The regi­ons of Eas­tern Ger­many actual­ly have about the same popu­la­ti­on as our 3 Nort­hern indus­tri­al regi­ons in Bri­tain – the Nor­th West, Nor­th East and York­shire and the Hum­ber. They have 15 mil­lion peop­le and 8 city regi­ons.

Alt­hough the chal­len­ges faced by Eas­tern Ger­many are on a dif­fe­rent sca­le and have dif­fe­rent cau­ses to ours, I am intrigued by what we have in com­mon.

As in Ger­many, we have an his­to­ric eco­no­mic gap, which runs north/ sou­th in Eng­land, not east/ west.

This eco­no­mic gap has got wider and wider over the years. There’s – hig­her unem­ploy­ment in the Nor­th, more peop­le inac­tive and on bene­fit, more lower skil­led jobs, and fewer busi­ness start ups.

More young peop­le lea­ve school at 16 in the Nor­th than in the rest of the coun­try com­bi­ned. Nort­hern peop­le on aver­a­ge have shor­ter life spans and poo­r­er health.

But the Nor­th has huge poten­ti­al. Brin­ging the 3 Nort­hern regi­ons up to the natio­nal aver­a­ge of eco­no­mic grow­th would mean we would be 43 bil­lion euros a year bet­ter off, and ano­ther 80,000 extra busi­nes­ses up and run­ning.

So we have deve­lo­ped a new approach cal­led the Nort­hern Way to pro­mo­te jobs and grow­th across the 3 Nort­hern regi­ons and in tho­se cities.

The Nort­hern Way runs from Liver­pool, to Man­ches­ter, Leeds and then to Hull, and New­cast­le.

In par­ti­cu­lar, the Nort­hern Way will deve­lop the strengths of their 8 city regi­ons in which 90% of the popu­la­ti­on lives, so that they can co-ordi­na­te public invest­ment plans across the 3 regi­ons.

In the past, the­se city regi­ons were the wealth crea­tors of the Indus­tri­al Revo­lu­ti­on, but after deca­des of decli­ne in which they com­pe­ted again­st each other, now they are rea­li­sing the power of pul­ling toge­ther.

The chal­len­ge of coping with de-indus­tria­li­sa­ti­on is seen across Euro­pe.

In par­ti­cu­lar, most of the 10 sta­tes which have recent­ly joi­ned the Euro­pean Uni­on are from Eas­tern Euro­pe, and they are tack­ling a lega­cy of dis­in­vest­ment in their cities.

And even wit­hin cities and coun­tries in Wes­tern Euro­pe, the­re are pockets of severe depri­va­ti­on, con­cea­led by appa­r­ent­ly healthy over­all GDP figu­res.

So I belie­ve that the expan­si­on of the Euro­pean Uni­on requi­res a new approach to urban and regio­nal poli­cy across Euro­pe which is fle­xi­ble enough to cope with the com­ple­xi­ties and dif­fe­ren­ces of 25 nati­ons.

For two gene­ra­ti­ons, a line was drawn across Euro­pe, East and West. (We are only 200 metres away from the site of the Ber­lin Wall).

In the East, the­re was com­mand and con­trol. Uni­form poli­ci­es, with no demo­cra­cy resul­ted in mise­ry for mil­li­ons of peop­le. In parts of the West, a wide­ning gap bet­ween rich and poor, and deca­des of boom bust eco­no­mics.

Now we’re in a new era whe­re East and West are com­ing toge­ther, won­der­ful­ly evi­dent here in Ber­lin. The expan­si­on of the Euro­pean Uni­on, to form 25 nati­ons with 450 mil­lion peop­le, has brought a new politi­cal order and a new com­mit­ment to do things dif­fer­ent­ly.

The Euro­pean Uni­on is a major force in the glo­bal tra­ding eco­no­my. But the­re are huge chal­len­ges in the new Euro­pe, and one of the most import­ant issu­es we face is ensu­ring the future pro­spe­ri­ty and sustaina­bi­li­ty of our towns and cities.

I belie­ve that the time is right to dis­cuss a com­mon approach to sustainable com­mu­nities, which reflects the rich diver­si­ty of Euro­pe, and is more capa­ble of direc­ting invest­ment and Euro­pean finan­ce whe­re it can make the big­ge­st impact on jobs, grow­th and qua­li­ty of life.

But ins­tead 55% of the Euro­pean bud­get in 2013 will be spent on agri­cul­tu­re or on sub­si­dies for the richest coun­tries of the Euro­pean Uni­on or in a huge aba­te­ment to com­pen­sa­te for the main­ten­an­ce of the Com­mon Agri­cul­tu­ral Poli­cy. A modern Euro­pe nee­ds to deli­ver chan­ge rather than con­ser­va­ti­on, which is what the Com­mon Agri­cul­tu­ral Poli­cy is lar­ge­ly about.

It can’t be right that 3 bil­lion peop­le in the world live on less than 2 dol­lars a day — whi­le each Euro­pean cow gets a CAP sub­s­idy of 2 dol­lars 50 a day.

I’ve got not­hing again­st cows, but qui­te fran­k­ly I’d rather spend more of that money on jobs and trai­ning, infra­struc­tu­re and a decent qua­li­ty of life for peop­le living in our most depri­ved com­mu­nities.

Euro­pe nee­ds a modern finan­ci­al frame­work to help our cities com­pe­te in a rapidly chan­ging glo­bal eco­no­my — this is espe­cial­ly true for the 10 new mem­ber sta­tes of the Euro­pean Uni­on.

Many of the­se new mem­ber sta­tes are signi­fi­cant­ly poo­r­er than the exis­ting mem­bers, and ine­vi­ta­b­ly this means that struc­tu­re funds should be diver­ted to the East.

But in the more aff­lu­ent mem­ber sta­tes, the­re are still pockets of depri­va­ti­on which we need to help.

We’ve got to find ways for the richer coun­tries to spend more of their own money sup­porting their poo­r­er com­mu­nities mee­ting indus­tri­al chan­ge without it being stop­ped becau­se the Com­mis­si­on says it’s sta­te aid, and it’s in con­flict with the regio­nal struc­tu­re fund rules.

We’ve got to reform the way Euro­pe spends its money. Euro­pe should be inves­ting in sci­en­ce, skills and infra­struc­tu­re to help us cope with glo­bal chan­ge. That requi­res a com­ple­te­ly new way of loo­king at the prio­ri­ties of Euro­pean resour­ce expen­ditu­re.

That’s why, under the cur­rent UK Pre­si­den­cy of the Euro­pean Uni­on, we’re deve­lo­ping a clear, prac­tical, Euro­pean approach to crea­ting sustainable com­mu­nities.

Our aim is to help nati­ons, regi­ons and cities across Euro­pe deli­ver hou­sing, eco­no­mic grow­th, soci­al jus­ti­ce and clea­ner, safer, gree­ner com­mu­nities. This will requi­re what has alre­a­dy begun – rethin­king the prio­ri­ties of the Euro­pean Struc­tu­ral Funds.

So, during the UK Pre­si­den­cy of the Euro­pean Uni­on, I’m brin­ging
28 nati­ons toge­ther at a Minis­te­ri­al ‘infor­mal’ mee­ting in Bris­tol in Decem­ber – to begin crea­ting an accord for sustainable com­mu­nities.

But a stran­ge thing hap­pe­n­ed when I asked my offi­ci­als to set up this Infor­mal. They said, „Who should we invi­te? The urban minis­ters, or the regio­nal minis­ters, or the hou­sing minis­ters, or the local govern­ment minis­ters?”

This is becau­se govern­ments in Euro­pe tend to ope­ra­te in silos — this is also reflec­ted in the struc­tu­re of the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on its­elf.

The­re is usual­ly no com­mon, united approach to urban poli­cy which brings toge­ther hou­sing, plan­ning, trans­port, skills, public ser­vices and rege­ne­ra­ti­on.

And becau­se the con­cept of sustainable com­mu­nities also app­lies just as much to the rural as well as urban set­ting, this cau­sed even more dif­fi­cul­ty, becau­se rural minis­ters are dif­fe­rent to urban or regio­nal minis­ters.

This silo approach also app­lies at the Euro­pean level. In the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the­re is no com­mit­tee which looks at the nee­ds of cities in total and same goes for the Com­mis­si­on, too.

And right now we don’t even have the words to express the idea of sustainable com­mu­nities across Euro­pe. Inde­ed, the inter­pre­ta­ti­on and trans­la­ti­on of sustainable com­mu­nities in dif­fe­rent lan­gua­ges cau­ses its own dif­fi­cul­ties.

Of cour­se, peop­le in main­land Euro­pe recognise the ingre­dients of a sustainable com­mu­ni­ty. They know the import­an­ce of a bet­ter qua­li­ty of life, soci­al jus­ti­ce and eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty — but they’ve not always pul­led them toge­ther into a cohe­rent, inte­gra­ted approach.

So we are in the ear­ly sta­ges of a fasci­na­ting dis­cus­sion about sustainable com­mu­nities in Euro­pe. This dis­cus­sion will lead to new expres­si­ons, new poli­ci­es and new struc­tures to crea­te stron­ger and more suc­cess­ful towns and cities – and rural towns and vil­la­ges.

I belie­ve that we should crea­te a new Euro­pean Uni­on regio­nal poli­cy to help deli­ver our recent agree­ments — on eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty and soci­al invest­ment agreed in the Lis­bon Accord, envi­ron­ment sustaina­bi­li­ty in the Gothen­burg Accord, the urban acquis in Rot­ter­dam and effec­tive demo­cra­tic gover­nan­ce, agreed in the War­saw Accord.

Now hope­ful­ly we will deve­lop a Bris­tol Accord which will put all the­se agree­ments into a Euro­pean Uni­on sustainable com­mu­nities frame­work.

We can only achie­ve our aims if our poli­ci­es and struc­tures reflect the com­ple­xi­ty of a Euro­pean Uni­on of 25 sta­tes.

The cur­rent regio­nal poli­cy is not desi­gned to cope effec­tive­ly with the diver­si­ty of nati­on sizes and the dif­fe­ren­ti­als of wealth and pover­ty.

A regio­nal poli­cy which is lar­ge­ly based on GDP is not sophi­s­ti­ca­ted enough to cope with the fact that cities, regi­ons or sta­tes which have a high aver­a­ge GDP have wit­hin them pockets of severe depri­va­ti­on fac­ing indus­tri­al chan­ge.

So I belie­ve that we need a deba­te about the future direc­tion of regio­nal poli­cy, its finan­cing and how we can deve­lop the pro­fes­sio­nal skills nee­ded to crea­te sustainable com­mu­nities and streng­t­hen eco­no­mic pro­spe­ri­ty, use natu­ral resour­ces effec­tive­ly, enhan­ce the envi­ron­ment and pro­mo­te soci­al cohe­si­on and inclu­si­on.

To this end, Britain’s new natio­nal Aca­de­my for Sustainable Com­mu­nities in Leeds will col­la­bo­ra­te with part­ners across Euro­pe to impro­ve skills and part­nerships bet­ween the pro­fes­si­ons to deli­ver sustainable com­mu­nities.

And we’ll be working with the Euro­pean Invest­ment Bank to encou­ra­ge invest­ment in inno­va­ti­ve pro­jects that deli­ver sustainable com­mu­nities.

Of cour­se, all Euro­pean mem­ber sta­tes face many prac­tical chal­len­ges to make sustainable com­mu­nities more of a rea­li­ty, and we should all learn from our past suc­ces­ses and mis­ta­kes.

Sustainable com­mu­nities is a big idea for a big­ger Euro­pe, a stron­ger Euro­pe and a more demo­cra­tic Euro­pe. Sustainable com­mu­nities is a visi­on which is excit­ing and will bene­fit more peop­le.

It’s a belief that we can do things bet­ter. That we can — once again — crea­te strong and sustainable com­mu­nities. Pla­ces that can stand the test of time and reflect the pri­de of citi­zens in their com­mu­ni­ty.

This is a big idea for a big­ger Euro­pe in which cities will be the dri­ving force for chan­ge.

As Dani­el Burn­ham, the visio­na­ry plan­ner of Chi­ca­go, once said: „Make no litt­le plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.…Make big plans…aim high in hope and work”.

Let’s make our cities thri­ve and pro­sper. Let’s crea­te pla­ces whe­re peop­le can aim high in hope and work. Let’s crea­te sustainable com­mu­nities.

ENDS
4,858 word

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