Nottingham is well placed to bounce back from the impact of Covid, as it boasts a number of strengths that a new national report says are needed for an effective recovery.

Research and policy institute Centre for Cities has published a report into the effect the pandemic has had on the UK’s Core Cities, including Nottingham. It finds that large cities have been disproportionately affected as office workers switched to home working and became cautious about spending leisure time there.

But it concludes that cities like Nottingham can recover if they excel in a number of areas, including:

  • Tackling air pollution
  • Encouraging public transport use once it’s safe
  • Focusing on commercial property
  • Improving local skills.

These are among the key ambitions identified in the Nottingham Economic Recovery and Renewal Plan developed by the Nottingham Growth Board, a bold vision to address the major economic challenges Covid has created or accelerated.

Tackling air pollution Nottingham has set itself an ambitious target to become the first carbon neutral city in the UK by 2028. It is rolling out innovative retrofit schemes to drastically improve the carbon footprint and energy costs of old social housing stock, fitting solar panels to many council buildings and plugging thousands of homes and businesses into an energy-from-waste system – helping to meet its 2020 target of 20% of energy generation from low carbon sources. The Recovery and Renewal Plan proposes transforming green investment at scale to build on this track record.

Encouraging public transport use once it’s safe Nottingham already has among the highest public transport use in the UK outside London, having invested in a tram network and an increasingly green fleet of buses, part-funded through the country’s only Workplace Parking Levy. It continues to win Government grants for its pioneering approach to sustainable transport – a key contributor towards cleaner air – such as developing extensive cycling facilities and trialling wireless charging for taxis, with some schemes accelerated to encourage active travel during the pandemic.

Focusing on commercial property A huge amount of development was underway, and largely continued, when the pandemic hit. This included significant new office developments in the city centre including a new regional home for the HMRC, as well as two completely new neighbourhoods – sustainable waterside living at Trent Basin and the Island Quarter, one of the largest redevelopment sites in the country. An unexpected development opportunity also arose when Covid sent intu into administration, stopping the redevelopment of its Broadmarsh shopping centre in its tracks. A new masterplan is now being drawn up to re-imagine the whole 20 acre site.

Improving local skills Broadmarsh adjoins a site which is being transformed from a traffic-heavy part of the city to green and pedestrian-friendly, with a redeveloped Nottingham Castle experience at one end to attract thousands of visitors to the city, and a new college building at the other. The college specialises in running courses that meet the needs of local employers and wider efforts are underway through Nottingham Jobs – a partnership between the City Council and DwP – to reskill and upskill local people to take advantage of new opportunities. These opportunities might be in a number of growing sectors in the city – creative industries, digital enterprise and life sciences – as well as a burgeoning independent retail market and a strong night-time economy.

City Council Leader, Cllr David Mellen, said: “Beyond the obvious terrible health impact, the pandemic has dealt a particularly hard economic blow to cities like Nottingham – but there are reasons to be optimistic about our post-Covid future.

“A focus on carbon neutrality, and our second-to-none public transport system, help us stand out as a city to live and work in during the years ahead, and bring their own opportunities with them. We are in the midst of a transformation of large parts of the city which present opportunities to rethink things for a post-Covid future that other cities don’t have. And we have growing industries, and ways to connect local people to jobs within them, that will help drive prosperity.

“We will need Government to come forward with levelling-up funding so that areas like ours which have been under-funded and hit harder by Covid can make the investment in people and places that’s needed.”