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Robin Sharp from DTM Legal attended Question Time in Manchester on 25th September, organised by Estates Gazette. The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham (AB), was the keynote speaker, and there was an open panel discussion with the audience afterwards. Panel members were Emma Greenwood (Youth MP, Bury), James Evans (Head of office at Savills), Ian Gibbs (Director of Neighbourhoods at Get Living), and Sacha Lord (Night-time economy advisor, Manchester).

Andy Burnham spoke passionately about the importance of the green agenda and his desire to move towards a zero-carbon future. Some 200,000 new homes were needed for the Greater Manchester Area and he wanted to see new developments achieving a zero-carbon footprint. He was also discussing policies around the retrofitting of existing vacant properties. He was keen for Manchester to be the example and lead. He wants developments to stop building for the car and wants to focus on revitalising satellite towns. He was proud of Stockport being designated as the first Mayoral Development Corporation created to lead the regeneration of the area, and to make the town centre a residential destination of choice. Wants it to be the ‘newest, greenest and coolest’.

Acknowledges that the council must stop doing the easy thing in relation to green spaces, must improve public transport, we need to have a new inclusive approach to growth. Does not want Manchester to be about division politics like Westminster, and believes in devolution allowing more local thinking and output. Likes the fact Manchester is about place not party. Young people should not have to feel they needed to leave Manchester to get along in life.

When quizzed on what the hardest thing was to change – said it was the homelessness issue, but he was proud that in GMR rough sleeping was falling for the first time in a decade. Allied to this was the Our Pass which allowed youngsters (16 to 18) free bus passes across GMR and into a variety of social and leisure events. Was proud of this.

AB was asked about why the Spatial Framework for GMR was being delayed again and whether there was a probable time for it being finalised. AB said it was not entirely down to the council – some frustrations with Westminster – but the strategic vision needed the buy-in of all 10 local councils. AB hoped that things would be concluded end of 2020/ early 2021. He sees the outlying towns as a great opportunity for development – mentioned Stalybridge, Prestwich and Swinton.

The panel discussion then focused on ‘Places and Spaces for Everyone’.

James Evans started the discussion by mentioning the residential towers that were going up and that significant foreign investment was coming in, with buy to let being the outcome. Thus strategy was needed in how to persuade business to invest in outlying towns.

Emma Greenwood saying that consultation with young people was lacking – there were few green places for young people to go.

Sacha Lord saying that the night time economy was important to factor in when planning development, especially for young people. Don’t just look to the city centre. It is the 5th biggest industry in the UK and employs 10% of the workforce. Mentioning Altrincham and its transformation from the dark days post Trafford Centre into the new modern area around the transformed market hall and the independent operators.

Panel agreeing that public transport was poor. In respect of the night-time economy especially so – transport needed to be better and available later. How can the transport system keep pace with demand and a growing local economy. Local people need to be able to utilise good transport links – there had been problems with privatisation and a lack of accountability for poor service levels. EG saying convenient, reliable and affordable transport was needed.

JE reminding panel that there was a reality in that developers were driven by profit. Currently they were under increased pressure anyway as cost inflation was rising – and inflationary costs allied with requirements for zero carbon would have impacts on viability.

Panel agreeing that the average young Mancunian could not afford to buy houses. Rent was also very high, and public transport was costly. Council needed to adopt policies of inclusion not isolation.

Final panel question was what was the single greatest change the region could make to secure the (climate) future? Panel had a variety of thoughts – reduce reliance on cars, SL mentioning the importance for a common sense approach to development and its multi-faceted needs eg developers ensuring that homeowners are aware that they are moving to mixed-use neighbourhoods where eg night-time economy was an important part of a functioning society. EG saying that politicians and policy makers needed to put Planet before profit, and reminding the audience that everyone had a social network that should be utilised to influence the policy makers.


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