Render of Addis Ababa project. Credit: Arup.; Render of Addis Ababa project. Credit: Arup.;

Urban economic planning

How to plan and fund sustainable and inclusive city development

How to plan and fund sustainable and inclusive city development

For cities of all sizes, attracting investment, developing robust business case and establishing new models of funding and delivery make the difference between hopeful ambitions and deliverable realities. Having strong supporting evidence and a clear purpose enables projects to maintain consensus and withstand political and economic change. We act as urban economic planning consultants to many cities worldwide, helping leaders to align deep planning insights to local need and longer-term social and economic goals.

Arup’s international experience and deep understanding of the connections between local economies, funding sources and viability means we are able to develop policies and plans grounded in the specific context of a place, while addressing commitments to net zero, resilience and social value in parallel. We help clients understand the economic potential or impact of proposals or policies, developing strategic responses, comprehensive solutions and area plans across the built environment.

We know first-hand that economics can make or break a project. We help leaders navigate uncertainty, align with policy impetus and deliver a more inclusive, sustainable future for communities. ” Joanna Rowelle Joanna Rowelle City Economics Leader

Analyse, synthesise, advise

Our Urban Economics team brings together politicians, funders, transport authorities, and community leaders to agree a collective vision alongside practical, investable plans. We support cities to revitalise districts, develop innovation hubs, deliver appropriate housing, attract green finance, and protect what makes a place unique while reinventing themselves for the future.

Cities are shaped by a huge variety of human and economic factors. Every urban planning and design process is a chance to get ahead of emerging social trends, explore the development scenarios a city might face and produce a shared vision of a more prosperous, sustainable future. Our urban planners and economic specialists engage at a strategic, analytical and technical level, drawing on complex datasets to produce insights into everything from future housing needs to transport system requirements or ways to lower emissions in a growing city.

How we help you

Providing research

Urban investment has to respond to what the latest trends and behaviours tell us. We develop proposals and business cases that draw on the latest research and policy advice that address the full breadth of economic development and governance topics.

Define inclusive economic growth

We enable clients to develop local economic development strategies and make the case for public infrastructure investment, for example, transport interventions. Through analysis of economic outputs such as jobs, training, home working, travel behaviour or shifting retail habits we explore possible futures. By synthesising this data, we can model complex scenarios, recommend policy interventions and develop a strategic plan for urban economies to support sustainable, equitable recoveries and long-term growth.

Develop finance and business cases

Understanding the wide economic benefits of urban development and appraising the cost-benefit analysis can shape the intended outcome of a project at the outset. Our approach helps to understand how urban interventions can maximise return on investment, demonstrate value to society, and improve overall city resilience.

Working with stakeholders, planning and design colleagues and technical experts, we establish the wide economic benefits of urban development from diverse perspectives to make the case for investment, providing joined-up advice that makes complex projects work in practice.

Impact assessment and evalutations

We help clients understand the economic potential or impact of proposals as well as the relevant policy, and to frame their strategies in response to both. We work closely with our in-house technical and financial experts to deliver comprehensive solutions and area plans across the built environment.

Every stage of a project offers valuable lessons for other urban interventions in future – from design choices and engineering techniques to environmental, economic and social implications. We deliver robust monitoring and evaluation approaches for policies and programmes to understand the impact of development at a granular level and share lessons to inform future projects.

Integrate land and finance priorities

Connecting land use decisions in the business case stage to a viable, deliverable reality provides confidence to project leaders, funders and investors. We work with spatial planning and design colleagues to provide an integrated solution which we test in line with planning compliance, carbon goals and return on investment.

Stimulate regional growth

Local and regional communities’ access to funding and improvement requires deep understanding of local governance, devolved funding mechanisms and how national funds can be aligned.

We work with leaders, communities and governance bodies to build capacity in understanding and securing funding. We support clients in establishing delivery organisations and help position them for green economy opportunities.

Learn from our global economic expertise

Here are just some of the ways we are helping clients

Analysing the Elizabeth line's impact on London

Analysing the Elizabeth line's impact on London

The Elizabeth line is the most significant addition to London’s transport network in a generation, transforming life and travel across the city and the south east. Our economists delivered a baseline evaluation study to understand how the new line changes travel through London, bringing places closer with reduced journey times, leading to benefits that ripple out from new employment, public space and housing, as well access to leisure, healthcare and a wider labour market for employers. The study captures many valuable lessons applicable to other major metro projects around the world, from economic planning and social implications.

Learn more about the Elizabeth line

Economic masterplan for Southern Auckland

Economic masterplan for Southern Auckland

We helped Southern Auckland explore a new emerging urban future by creating an economic masterplan – the first of its kind in New Zealand. Our approach links the physical environment to the most impactful opportunities for industry and employment, working with a steering group with people from government, industry, landowners, residents and iwi (tribal entities of the Māori people) to inform our design and decision making. To avoid multiple conflicting masterplans for individual landowners, we proposed a holistic approach which identifies five economic hubs and creates easily adoptable and sustainable investment opportunities. This approach gives the public and private sector guidance and confidence to plan sustainable future investment decisions.

Learn more about the Southern Auckland Economic Masterplan

Catalysing Norway’s space economy

Catalysing Norway’s space economy

Working with Innovation Norway, municipal and regional governments, and local businesses and residents, we considered how the soon to be completed Andøya Spaceport can act as a catalyst for wider economic development. The resulting Strategic Framework Andøy sets out a multi-stakeholder consensus around a vision, spatial strategies, and clear actions that will help establish Andøy and Norway as a leader in the New Space Economy – a burgeoning industry expected to reach a revenue of more than 1 trillion USD by 2040. As Norway progressively reduces its dependence on the oil and gas sector, our work identifies new opportunities for sustainable growth, cooperation with parallel space-industry clusters, value chain development and the need for supporting infrastructure.


Meet our people