COVID-19 Committee Contents

Chapter 7: Towns and Cities: Local Power is the Path to Recovery

92.Towns and cities are vital to the social and economic wellbeing of the UK, as they provide many of us with the building blocks for our lives—housing, public transport, green spaces, workspaces, public services and leisure opportunities. If towns and cities become dilapidated, with poor housing and green spaces, limited public transport, public transport and leisure opportunities, it is inevitable that people’s wellbeing will suffer. If towns and cities are vibrant, with a plentiful supply of high-quality housing and green spaces, reliable and affordable public transport, and a wide range of public services, workspaces and leisure opportunities people’s wellbeing will tend to improve and people may feel better about themselves and their lives.

93.Towns and cities are at the very heart of our country, with approximately 55% of the population living in these urban areas, and these areas representing approximately 60% of the economy, on a jobs and output measure.37 As such, the importance of towns and cities to our lives cannot be overemphasised, and neither can the impact of the pandemic on our urban areas. The seismic changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—in our shopping habits, working patterns, and leisure activities—has had a devastating impact on our towns and cities. As such, we no longer have any choice, but to reimagine the towns and cities of the future, as any attempt to revert to business as usual is likely to be like trying to stop the tide.

94.This is why our last substantive inquiry concentrated on towns and cities, and specifically on larger towns and smaller cities—defined as cities outside London and the 11 core cities of Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.38

95.As part of this inquiry, we developed our proposals for the future of our towns and cities, by exploring the impact of COVID-19 on towns and cities, and how it has changed our relationship with, and the dynamic within, those urban areas. Our inquiry concentrated on the long-term impact of the pandemic on large towns and smaller cities, focussing particularly on housing and green spaces, the changing nature of employment and public transport provision. Building on the evidence received from businesses, town planners, transport providers, think tanks and academics, we then explored, with local authority leaders, the potential to develop and implement an innovative plan for the future of our towns and cities. Transcripts of these sessions are available on our website,39 alongside our report—Towns and Cities: Local Power is the Path to Recovery—which outlines our key findings and recommendations.40

96.Underlying our plan for the future of towns and cities is a need to empower town and city leadership. We want to see:

97.Our most successful towns and cities have a strong blend of housing, retail, workplaces and leisure opportunities. To bring about this blended approach in all our towns and cities, we want to see:

98.We want to see tackling inequalities at the heart of local authorities’ regeneration plans by:

99.We were unable to undertake a detailed exploration of all aspects of the future of towns and cities, and would like to see other Select Committees exploring some of the emerging themes from our work, including:

37 Q 2 (Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities)

38 Core Cities UK, ‘The 11 core cities’: [accessed 1 December 2021]

39 Oral evidence taken before the COVID-19 Committee, inquiry on The long-term impact of the pandemic on towns and cities (Session 2021–22) : [accessed 19 November 2021]

40 COVID-19 Committee, Towns and Cities: Local Power is the Path to Recovery (2nd Report, Session 2021–22, HL Paper 115)

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