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Karuna Tharmananthar (West of England)

North Somerset Council's Deputy Director of Development and Environment, Karuna Tharmananthar
(here representing the West of England), shares his experiences of drawing together a strategic framework of four upper-tier authorities focused on delivering outcomes. 

See Karuna's Presentation
Understanding our hopes and fears, is fundamental to understanding how we may deliver truly sustainable growth and share prosperity across our communities in the West of England.

We need to understand the global context, and respond to the pressures facing our generation today in order to make a sustainable, prosperous future a reality for our future generations.

This will require us to think innovatively, and to use the frameworks within which we operate in new ways.  For example by using the potential of localism to create places in which people wish to live and work.  Jane Jacobs an activist who championed new community based approaches to urban planning captured the challenge we face:

“Designing a dream [city] is easy, rebuilding a living one takes imagination"- Jane Jacobs

Delivery requires strong leadership, and a clearly articulated Vision. In the West of England we have prepared a strategic framework that pulls together the Vision and shared priorities from the authorities four core strategies. The framework acknowledges that creating successful places requires balancing a number of factors.

 “Focus on striking the correct balance between the social, economic and environmental factors that are so vital to delivering sustainable growth and prosperity" - West of England Strategic Framework 2012

Too often the focus is on delivery for delivery’s sake, instead of focusing on the outcomes and that place-making is ultimately about people. The characteristics to support sustainable communities are therefore complex and have many inter-relating aspects including; Place-making, Quality and character, Community building, Context for jobs growth and businesses, meeting community aspirations.

Our West of England Framework takes these principles and considers how places function spatially, as a sub-region, as local authorities and the relationship between places. We have articulated our growth strategy, which is focussed on our Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone (EZ) and five Enterprise Areas (EAs), alongside other complimentary priority growth locations as identified in core strategies. Each EZ and EA has a unique offer, a strong identity and investment potential.  Together they provide the West of England with an opportunity to attract significant investment and to make our contribution to the national economic recovery. 

We hope that this approach will enable us to balance our economy, to maximise investment and enabling opportunities and to accelerate growth. We hope the outcome will be to deliver sustainable communities with an appropriate mix of housing, job opportunities, leisure, amenities and green space. 

Finally it is clear that delivery cannot be achieved in isolation.The West of England has worked successfully as a Partnership for many years, recognising that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Working in Partnership, and insisting the expertise knowledge and experience of our partners is critical to achieving delivery. Crucially this requires building trust and relationships with our delivery partners. Through the LEP, the West of England has been able to access more levers, achieve more flexibilities and an enhanced way of working together. Together, we have accessed significant infrastructure and transport funds, we have aligned our spatial priorities with skills and inward investment agendas. As a result we have more influence to deliver our priorities.

I started by making reference to our hopes and fears. We have travelled a long way on our journey, and we have more distance to travel. With the key commitment of our partners, our firm foundations, our existing links and strong record of partnership we now have the opportunity to be more in control of our own future than ever before and to make our hopes a reality.
Strategic Framework Focused on Delivery

Karuna Tharmananthar, Deputy Director, Development & Environment, North Somerset Council (representing West of England)

Read other comments and observations from the event:

Prof Martin Boddy (UWE / SWO)

Nick Boles MP (Planning Minister)

Prof Glen Bramley (Heriot Watt)

Paul Swinney (Centre for Cities)

Simon Prescott (Barton Willmore)