The Government has published its ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper setting out 12 missions to level up the country by 2030.

In the White Paper, the Government has committed to work with local communities, relevant government bodies and the private sector to identify and focus funds where levelling-up investment can be maximized – importantly in respect of:

  • Public Transport – the stated ambition being for the country’s public transport infrastructure to be improved to “become much closer to London standards”;
  • Digital Infrastructure – promising “nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population” and harnessing the power of data at national and regional levels; and
  • Transformational Regeneration – as well as the often-cited housing, high-street and brownfield development, the White Paper recognises that transformational regeneration requires significant investment in a number of other areas – including health, education and community-focused sports teams and facilities.

At Ardent we have strength and depth of experience in supporting, advising and managing projects within all areas of infrastructure and regeneration, including telecoms, where compulsory powers of acquisition are required – even community-focused sports team, having supported the development of a new premier league football club stadium regeneration scheme

With the timely recent expansion of the Regeneration and Development team at Ardent, we welcome the Government’s restated commitment to holistic, and community-focused, regeneration. We set out below some further details on the regeneration ambitions within the White Paper, some Watch this Space queries and highlight where further detail is required.

Levelling Up Through Transformational Regeneration

Included in the White Paper is the announcement that the Government will make funds available from April 2022 (part of the £1.5 billion allocated in the October Budget 2021) to undertake “King’s Cross-style regeneration projects” in 20 towns and cities in England both by remediating and developing brownfield sites and by bringing forward transformational developments in collaboration with the private sector.  


The first prioritised areas to receive this investment will be Sheffield and Wolverhampton – with no further details at this time on the other 18 cities or towns that will benefit from the funding. However, the White Paper specifically references former mining communities, outlying urban estates and seaside towns as having the greatest levels of need and limited opportunities for the community.

Devolution and funding

The White Paper identifies that community-led regeneration has been hindered, in part, due to political short termism and a “stop-start” funding stream. It is identified that longevity is vital to the success of regeneration projects and part of the proposed solution is that, by 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution, as well as a simplified, long-term funding settlement. The aim of the proposals is to provide stability in local government to enable local leaders, who have historically complained of feeling restricted and held-back, to push forward with transformational change.   Levelling-up will be at the centre of the decision-making tree with a requirement that decisions detail how this has been taken into account.


The White Paper sets out that the 80/20 rule – which saw 80% of funding for housing supply directed at ‘maximum affordability areas’ – has been scrapped.  The rule effectively prioritised the South-East but, in contrast, a significant proportion of allocated brownfield funding will now be diverted to the Midlands and North of England.

The Government has also recommitted to “building more genuinely affordable housing” and to providing a secure path to home ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas and for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%.

High Street

It is identified in the White Paper that the strength of the traditional high street has been undermined by changes in consumer behaviour, and consequent lack of institutional investment, resulting in vacant units and town centres that are no longer fit for purpose.

The White Paper states the Government’s recognition that the issues facing high street reinvigoration are complex and require collaboration between government, local leaders and the private sector. It is also announced that the High Streets Task Force support will be extended to a further 68 local authorities including Southend-on-Sea, Somerset West and Taunton, Rossendale and Dudley.

Watch this Space

Encouragingly, it is acknowledged in the White Paper that successful regeneration relies on investment and support in a variety of sectors – not just housing and high-street – to produce lasting, transformational change. However, whether the 2030 ambitions can be achieved will, as is often the case, depend on further detail and specific proposals being announced (and then enacted into law or written into policy). Some queries and thoughts are set out below:

  • It is positive to hear that brownfield redevelopment is going to be prioritised in the Midlands and the North of England – relieving housing pressure in the South-East of England and funding transformation in areas that have historically been overlooked. However, a key piece in the regeneration puzzle is creating increased demand in these locations through improving the local jobs market, as well as improving local health and education services. More detail is required on how this demand will be stimulated.
  • It remains to be seen how schemes will be made viable and profitable in order to attract the private sector investment that many of the proposals within the White Paper rely on.
  • The 2030 timescale for regeneration projects in 20 cities and towns is very ambitious, particularly at a time when major reform of the planning system and enhancement of compulsory purchase powers are being promoted by the Government. Success will be contingent, inter alia, on effective reform in these areas to bring forward a transparent and efficient land assembly and consenting process. It will also rely on early identification of sites for transformation so that scheme design, owner engagement and referencing can commence at the earliest opportunity. The transformation of King’s Cross is used as an example of what the Government is seeking to achieve – however it should be noted that this project took circa 20 years.
  • The White Paper identifies Wolverhampton and Sheffield as the first two beneficiaries of funds for transformational regeneration projects. Further details are needed in respect of:

-How and when the further 18 towns or cities will be identified?

-What will the decision-making process look like and who will be involved from the government?

-Will towns and cities be able to ‘apply’ for funding and will there be clear requirements and key, transparent, factors taken into account (and when will these be announced)?

  • Will Promoters of schemes now be able to cite the White Paper and levelling-up agenda as a material planning consideration in support of their projects? And how much weight (if any) will planning decision makers give to this document?
  • Transformation of the high street is noted as a complex issue that will require collaboration between multiple stakeholders – however, the White Paper does not include any specific proposals other incentivising landlords to fill vacant units (potentially in conflict with PD rights) and a restatement of what is already being done (Business Rates Relief, freeze of the multiplier and support of the High Streets Task Force). It is unlikely that these measures will be sufficient to meet the stated aim of helping make “high streets and town centres the thriving hearts of our communities again”. It will be interesting to watch this space to see further detail on how this transformation will be approached.

In summary, there are some positive concepts within the White Paper. However, the proposals will require a rapid ‘levelling-up’ in detail to be able to meet the very ambitious 2030 timeframe and we can expect a number of challenges to the delivery timeframe at a time when the Government is in the process of promoting reform to the planning and compulsory purchase systems.

To discuss these issues or how we can support you in respect of a regeneration scheme you are promoting (or are impacted by), please contact Rob Quaile on 07355 035 049 or or Colin Cottage on 07768 070255 or

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