The right infrastructure is key - John O'Neill
The election of December 2019 certainly changed the political landscape and has finally allowed us to get away from the deadlock that Brexit caused and actually look to the future. Of course, the discussion is all about big infrastructure projects such as HS2, but what is the end benefit for the District. Some would say it just benefits the larger metro areas and, of course, London.
As I write, it seems that HS2 will be given the green light so, if it comes as far north as Lancaster, we have a fight on our hands to ensure we are not disadvantaged. Current plans show that most passenger transfers will occur at Preston with only a once-an-hour stop at Lancaster, down from twice hourly. What this will do to local GDP is anyone’s guess, but we have to make sure that we build in local resilience by championing local as much as possible. This isn’t an argument against HS2 but getting the right type of HS2!
We have already seen the great benefit that infrastructure such as the Bay Gateway can bring so let’s not allow that to be undone. We have to consider the fact that Lancaster boasts two great universities, with the soon-to-open world-class Health Innovation Hub, and, of course, the Eden Project in Morecambe will cause greater focus on the area. The last thing we need is to allow HS2 to basically bypass us therefore negating much of the hard work and investment put in over the recent years.
Exciting times for the North, yes, but the investment balance locally and across the North must be sustainable and justifiable, not just vanity projects. Additionally, these projects must be run locally by locals and not from Westminster otherwise we will continue making the same mistakes.