I went to a Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce event yesterday: “The Construction Voice”. It was well attended (~70 participants) and the Panel of three speakers certainly provided some interesting insights and raised some challenging issues. I heard lots of calls for a Master-Plan but I did not hear anyone offering to create one or to sponsor the creation of one.
The theme of this 4th Construction Voice event was:
The link above lists the Panel (note Angus Stenhouse could not make it) and the Chair.
Calls to action
A few soundbites:
“We need a Master-Plan”
“We want action now”
“A joined-up strategy is missing”
“Greater Vision – do more”
“Joined-up thinking needed”
I think one of the issues is deciding at what ‘level’ a master-plan is required.
The City Council may have a Master-Plan to cover all their infrastructure and built-environment projects. This would describe how all the component projects fit together at the strategic level to ensure that the outcomes from each project support each other and don’t work against each other. It would also make sure that no pieces are missing from the jigsaw. For example, I also heard a lot of concern expressed about transport infrastructure needed to link stand-alone regeneration projects. This suggests that even at City level the Master-Plan is incomplete or not widely socialised.
But the city of Brighton and Hove is just part of the Greater Brighton area which in turn is just part of the region supported by the Local Enterprise Partnership (Coast to Capital). I’d expect there to be a Master-Plan at each of these levels. Especially as there is active governance in place at each of these tiers. A Master-Plan at each level would demonstrate strategic alignment up and down the stack.
But a Master-Plan is just a tool of leadership. It enables a discussion to be had about where and how change is planned to happen. It forces issues to be addressed explicitly such as who is going to be disrupted, who is going to gain or lose footfall, who is going to see greater competition or growth or new opportunities.
Leading the discussion, at all levels, and aligning diverse stakeholders under a shared vision of the future takes bold leadership and lots of energy. I think I heard some wistful longing for an elected City Mayor bouncing off the walls in the debate. The caricature being one of a strong, decisive, bold figure-head that just bangs heads together and gets things done. High profile and high risk.
Brighton celebrates its quirky, diverse character and its tolerance of all its communities (resident and transient).
“There are so many different groups”
But maybe that same diversity, played out at the political level, is one of the attributes of the governance mechanism that is holding back faster and more decisive action?
A disgrace for the City
This blog might give the impression that this was a single-issue discussion. Far from it. There were a number of other ideas and issues discussed. Including the ‘embarrassing’ state of the public toilets in the City. This attracted a lot of energy in the room but probably does not figure high in the priorities of the regeneration portfolio. Maybe that will change.
‘Appreciative Inquiry’ is a change method that advocates identifying high profile opportunities to make a difference and targeting them. The public loos could be the place to start an appreciative inquiry across the City.