William Eichler 07 October 2020

Council leaders see ‘community wealth building’ as post-COVID priority

Councils should focus on policies that strengthen and protect the health, wealth and wellbeing of local communities as they attempt to recover from the pandemic, a new report says.

A poll of 1,700 organisations and individuals by the design and consultancy for natural and built assets, Arcadis, found that more than 60% of local government respondents agreed that a focus on ‘community wealth building’ would help to revitalise town centres.

It also found that more than one in three members of the general public wanted a prioritisation of improvements to the high street.

Arcadis’ poll, published in their report Our Shared Recovery: Solutions for Stronger Communities, revealed that local authority leaders saw investment in active travel schemes that support walking and cycling, as well as measures to increase public transport capacity, as some of the most achievable short-term goals.

Amongst the general public, the polling showed that investment in green transport and home energy efficiency measures to tackle climate change ranked among the top priorities for local spending overall.

‘The spread of COVID-19 has dramatically changed how communities live, travel and behave. From breaking old certainties to the acceleration of new trends, it has forced us to quickly adapt to new ways of living,’ said Mark Cowlard CEO of Arcadis UK and Ireland.

‘While some of the longer-term effects may take years to be fully understood, there is a now a pressing need for action to rebuild our economy and tackle wider societal challenges.

‘We must work to understand the new landscape and the opportunities it could bring across business, public sector and political leadership. Most importantly, we have the chance to radically re-think how we view our communities and live our lives.’

Arcadis’ report calls for greater collaboration between local authorities and the private sector in order to help local communities recover from the impact of the pandemic.

It also sets out five ‘levers’ for a shared recovery:

• Embracing the principles of 15-minute communities

• Creating the right homes in the right places

• Re-imagining town centres and high streets

• Putting digital inclusivity at the heart of the health and wellbeing agenda

• Actively exploring new forms of mobility

‘We hope that through close collaboration between all groups involved in building back better, the benefits of the post-COVID recovery will extend well beyond simply bringing GDP back to pre-pandemic levels, but will also embed sustainable long-lasting change in our towns and cities, and for the people who live within them,’ added Mr Cowlard.

Lord Barwell, a strategic advisor to Arcadis and former housing and planning minister said: ‘The pandemic may have taken the climate debate off the front pages, but it will be back with bigger and bolder ambitions. As we look to forge a successful post-COVID recovery, it is crucial local decision makers, business leaders, and developers take note of this report and not only build back better, but build a healthier, greener and more inclusive society.’

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