Mike Schorah, group managing director with national architects The Harris Partnership.
Nick Hill

What a Northern Powerhouse in Yorkshire means to: Mike Schorah of The Harris Partnership

As Bdaily’s Northern Powerhouse series continues to give the business people of Yorkshire the opportunity to voice their opinions on the the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, we speak with Mike Schorah, group managing director with national architects The Harris Partnership.

Wakefield headquartered, The Harris Partnership is working on some of the largest new developments and regeneration schemes currently underway in Yorkshire and the North East-West.

What do you think the Northern Powerhouse will do for Yorkshire?

In reality it would only reinforce what we already know; that Yorkshire has a strong national presence and a clear identity that can be creatively marketed, as demonstrated by the recent work done by the likes of Yorkshire Forward and Welcome to Yorkshire and for which they must be commended. There are many ‘small giants’ across various professions and industries in this county who, if stood together, would be a force to be reckoned with.

What will the Northern Powerhouse do for The Harris Partnership?

A difficult one but answering as an architect, the Northern Powerhouse coupled with Britexit could help our sector enormously. It is frustrating that any decent sized local government building design project has to be tendered on a European wide basis. With Britexit this rule could be disbanded allowing local councils to appoint local consultants and builders putting money back into the local area.

European red tape and tendering processes just add additional barriers and discourage local ‘small giant’ consultants and builders from entering the long convoluted process required to obtain any work from local councils. I believe the same rules apply to all major suppliers.

Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?

No, spending in the North needs bringing in line with the South. Simply compare the sums spent on Crossrail to the budget given for the East-West links we desperately need in the North. Why shouldn’t Leeds tram, guided bus, or whatever the politicians finally agree on, be prioritised over those down south? In comparison, cost wise, the transformation it would make to Leeds is a total no brainer.

Connectivity has been a major driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve the economic climate in the North?

The key to improvements in the North is the East-West road and rail linkages. I can already catch a train from Wakefield to Kings Cross in1 hour 50 minutes. What is five minutes difference worth? A train to Liverpool or Manchester can take just as long with numerous changes. To drive to a 9.00 am meeting in Manchester takes at least 2hours to travel just 45 miles which is totally unacceptable. As most people know the M62 is a relative car park between 8.00 and 9.00 am.

What, if any, other sectors/industries should the government key in on to achieve a Northern Powerhouse?

More decentralisation is key. Take tourism for instance. It is truly shocking that The National Media Museum archive is being moved to London from Bradford. Why not invest more in Bradford where the centre really needs it? Tourism is strong in Yorkshire and getting stronger but relocating key assets such as this back to London weakens it and that is a disgrace.

Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?

Outsource key services to the regions. Take design for instance. Our practice has opened a northern design hub in central London. This gives us a touch down base and direct contact with the funds and developers we work with. This is the hub to the spokes of the Harris wheel. Projects sourced from the London market are produced at our Manchester, Wakefield, Milton Keynes and Reading offices. This lowers our costs base and makes us more competitive. It’s a simple but effective formula that can be applied to other professional fields.

As with Sheffield, should the other regions in Yorkshire try to strike a devolution deal with the government?

Yes. They should stop messing about and get to the table soon whilst there is something left to distribute, and or before a change in Government.

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in Yorkshire?

I hope so, bring it on!

Thank you Mike.

Don’t miss our latest Northern Powerhouse coveragehere. To nominate a Yorkshire business leader to be part of our new series, contact Nick at nick.hill@bdaily.co.uk

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