Clyde Waterfront - the first 5 years

David Eiser, Senior Consultant at Gen Consulting, explores the economic growth which has characterised the first five years of the Clyde Waterfront Regeneration Initiative.

The Clyde Waterfront Regeneration Initiative is a 25-year programme to transform the Clyde into a new vibrant location. The Initiative was established in recognition of the potential that the Clyde Waterfront has to act as an engine for economic growth across the whole of the city-region.  We recently carried out a detailed evaluation to assess what progress has been made towards the vision during the first five years of the initiative (2003-2008).

A buoyant private sector

In recent years the Clyde Waterfront economy has diversified and strengthened significantly. Between 2003 and 2008 over 250,000 sq m of commercial floorspace was developed in the Clyde Waterfront. This has accommodated employment growth of 17,000 new jobs. This rate of employment growth is significantly higher than the rate of employment growth in Glasgow, and across Scotland as a whole during the same period.

A large part of Clyde Waterfront's jobs growth has come from the banking and finance sector, which expanded significantly over the period to 2008, accounting for over one third of the area's job growth. Manufacturing employment in the Clyde Waterfront also grew, at a time when manufacturing jobs were generally in decline across Scotland.

The strong jobs growth demonstrates that the Clyde Waterfront area is living up to its billing as a key driver for economic growth across the West of Scotland. This is especially the case given that a large part of the employment expansion has come from the private sector, at a time when large parts of the rest of Scotland have been reliant on the public sector as a source of job growth.

But Clyde Waterfront has not just been growing in employment terms. Almost 6,000 residential units were completed between 2003-8. As a result, the working age population in Clyde Waterfront has grown at almost double the rate of the working age population in the rest of Scotland, reversing the longer term trend of employment decline that some parts of the Clyde have experienced in recent decades.

The estimated value of private sector investment associated with the completed Clyde Waterfront developments between 2003-8 is £1.1 billion. Investment of around £360m by public sector partners to remediate sites and create the necessary infrastructure and public realm has played an important role in creating the catalyst for this private investment to happen.

City centre growth

Although economic growth is evident throughout the Clyde Waterfront area, some parts have performed more strongly than others. Glasgow City Centre accounts for around 60% of the new jobs created, while Pacific Quay accounts for around 25%. Employment growth in outlying areas of the Clyde Waterfront has been less substantial, but still important in the context of the local economies. The areas closest to Glasgow city centre have also performed strongest in terms of population growth, reflecting a nationally observed resurgence in city living.

Local people have benefited, with unemployment rates falling in all areas of the Clyde Waterfront between 2003-8. However, unemployment rates have not, on the whole, fallen more quickly in the Clyde Waterfront than they have across the whole city-region. This suggests that, although the Clyde Waterfront has punched significantly above its weight in accommodating new jobs growth, local residents are arguably not benefiting to the extent that they might.

New times: new challenges

The Clyde Waterfront Regeneration Initiative was established in 2003, in recognition of the role that the area could play as one of the 'engines' of growth for the West of Scotland. The first five years of the Initiative have been a real success - with targeted investments by the public sector partners acting as the catalyst for significant job and population growth in the area. In this respect, the Clyde Waterfront is living up to its expectation as a major engine of regional growth, and is well on the way to achieving its 25-year vision of becoming a new, vibrant location.

We are now entering what is likely to be a much more difficult phase. Since the beginning of the recession in the last quarter of 2008, rates of development in the Clyde Waterfront have slowed, as they have elsewhere, and some high-profile development sites have hit the buffers. Across the UK, unemployment has increased rapidly, undoing many of the gains made since the late 1990s.

Clyde Waterfront is not immune from these wider trends. But Clyde Waterfront can continue to act as an engine and a catalyst for future growth. The Clyde Waterfront partners remain committed to the regeneration of the Waterfront, and are putting in place measures to ensure that future waterfront activity contributes to the overall vision once the market upturn begins.

Ongoing investment in infrastructure - including the recently opened Broomielaw -Tradeston Footbridge - continuing work to improve the waterfront's greenspace and public realm, and efforts to improve access to the waterfront for pedestrians and water users all contribute to the ongoing progress towards Clyde Waterfront's 25-year vision. The foundations have been laid for the Clyde Waterfront to continue to act as the key focus and engine for city-regional growth for years to come.

David Eiser
Gen Consulting

15th October 2009

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