Rebalancing Britain

On the 24th June 2014, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne gave a speech in Manchester where he proposed a Northern Powerhouse – an agglomeration of core northern cities as an economic counterbalance to London. The most recent in a line of government policies intended to solve the problems of the 'North-South divide', this scheme has surfaced from a continued need for regional balance in Britain.

The genealogy of solutions to the North-South divide covers decades of nebulous, city-centric policy concerned with economic output over addressing regional inequalities. Subsequently, divides between urban and rural localities in Britain have grown wider, typified by the dispersal of votes in the EU Referendum; urban centres favoured a Remain vote, in contrast to a large Leave vote in rural peripheries. In a political climate characterised by disillusionment, this project highlights a need for increased democratic engagement. As town halls and civic centres - the very embodiment of local democracy - have morphed into fobbed-off office spaces, the disjuncture between the public and elected elites is only exacerbated.

Upon interrogation of the significance of place, space and proximity within Parliament in an era of globalised networks, the design facet of this thesis will reimagine the spaces of Parliament within a new facility in Huddersfield. A spatial strategy for central government dispersal will relocate government offices on place-based indices of deprivation. In the context of the decanting of Parliament from Westminster during a period of significant repair, an opportunity to reconnect with the rest of the nation is presented. This thesis posits that increased democratic engagement, through reimagining parliamentary architectures, could foster discourse on the creation of place-based solutions to regional disparities; putting into perspective the effectiveness of space-neutral economic agendas to date.

Rebalancing Britain is my Masters research thesis.