The conference focused on the next steps for infrastructure in Liverpool and provided an opportunity to discuss the development of the first Spatial Development Strategy for the City Region - expected to be finalised and published within the next two years - which will set out a vision for housing, infrastructure and climate resilience across Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton & the Wirral.
Key stakeholders and policymakers discussed what the priorities should be for the Spatial Development Strategy in order to develop Liverpool’s infrastructure so that it can meet housing demand, address climate change and support regional economic growth. They also examined what is needed from national infrastructure policy to support the region, with the Government’s Infrastructure Strategy due to be released later this year, including projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Sessions assessed the progress of ongoing rail infrastructure projects, including Network Rail’s multi-billion pound Great North Rail programme of improvements, upgrades to the Halton Curve linking Liverpool with Cheshire and North Wales, and progress on HS2, as the Government announced a one-year delay on the Phase 2b Hybrid-Bill and following concerns as to whether a link to Liverpool will be developed.
The future of MerseyRail will also be discussed including potential new stations and the prospect of light rail being part of the Wirral Waters major regeneration project.
Delegates looked at how new investment should be targeted, with the city region due to receive £172.5m from the Transforming Cities Fund and an extra £1.1bn announced in the Budget to be allocated to Mayoral Authorities on a per capita basis - and with the Mayor outlining a £500m Strategic Investment Fund to encourage inclusive growth and support infrastructure, skills, culture and housing.
Further sessions discussed early progress on the City Region’s move towards a low-carbon economy, following the announcement of a zero-carbon target by 2040 and the trial of hydrogen buses.
As Liverpool City Council grants planning permission for a £31.3m ferry terminal funded by the Isle of Man Government and agrees to fund a £7.6m link road, the agenda looked at the future of Liverpool as a nationally important global trade hub, and priorities for the Port of Liverpool and multi-modal freight transportation, with further discussion on the role of the airport in providing Liverpool with an international gateway, as well as road and rail links to the airport.
Sessions also considered housing priorities including housebuilding targets and best new sites following the Mayor’s Brownfield First approach and discussions planned with Homes England on establishing new sites for housing.