Last month, ACE North West explored regeneration in Manchester focusing on people, places and communities. Hamish Dunlop (ACE North West Group & Unity Partnership) reports on the panel discussion.
Moving home at the best of times is a stressful affair, let alone when the entire community is facing the same challenge. This was summed up beautifully by Agnes, an elderly resident of the Cardroom Estate, which later became New Islington in Manchester, who discussed her anguish at moving to the unknown. Since hearing it at the webinar on 12 May, Agnes’ story has stuck in my mind.
With cities and regions facing significant funding constraints, regeneration is often the fall-back for local government with aspirations for levelling up. However, how can we ensure people feel ownership of their new neighbourhoods and how can opportunities be realised for all?
This is a question that Manchester City Council (MCC) has been considering over the past 30 years and through the Hulme and New Islington regeneration schemes it has a track record in transformational schemes for communities.
Joining Jordan McGlacken (North West Emerging Professionals chair & Burrows Graham engineer) was Len Grant (sketcher, writer, and photographer), Patricia Bartoli (director of city centre regeneration and infrastructure, MCC), and Matt Doran (Victoria North, strategy & coordination lead, MCC) to discuss the lessons learnt and how exciting opportunities are being driven by Manchester’s council.
The engrossing conversation turned to issues such as funding, vision and strategy, people, diversity, housing and procurement as the panel explored the drivers for successful regeneration schemes.
With funding not always forthcoming, local authorities are forced into being creative in how they generate the funds to drive regeneration. MCC was a trailblazer in the early 1990s with public/private partnerships working in partnership with the voluntary sector to reignite Hulme and other deprived neighbourhoods. This model continues today, with the Far East Consortium (FEC) and MCC on the Victoria North Regeneration Project, previously Manchester’s Northern Gateway, which is set to create over 15,000 new homes and over £4 billion Gross Development Value (GDV). Although we wait to see more details, the Levelling Up Fund will also give a much-needed boost to local authorities in the North West seeking funds for development.
Vision and strategy
As with any transformation, a clear vision and strategy are essential to joining up the dots. Manchester’s approach focuses on people, place and prosperity, as well as becoming a zero-carbon city by 2038.
National and local planning policy both have a large part to play in this. Manchester's Core Strategy includes a range of policies which must be considered, including policies relating to character areas and design principles; change and renewal; green infrastructure; development management; and many others. Then layered on to the formal planning policies, Manchester has a very clear vision for the city as set out through a series of strategies and policies, including: the Our Manchester Strategy, the Residential Growth Strategy, Inclusive Economy Strategy, Ageing Strategy, and Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, amongst others.
For key regeneration areas, even greater clarity is provided to developers in the form of Strategic Regeneration Frameworks (SRFs) or Neighbourhood Development Frameworks (NDFs). These documents generally present a vision, core objectives as well as a series of high level, strategic design and development principles. SRFs/NDFs are used as a material consideration in the determination of planning applications relevant to the study area.
People make communities
Yes, infrastructure is often the catalyst but at the end of the day, it is the people who make communities. Manchester is renowned for its vibrancy and culture, with diverse communities across the city. Historically, many of these communities are deprived and decisions were taken by the more affluent areas of the city. This changed with Hulme, which created a model of effective public consultation and community engagement which is now being used across the country. Of course, challenges remain, and in todays’ digital world with extensive reach and swaths of data, it is important not to forget the Agnes’ of this world who live and breathe their local community.
Young, enthusiastic, driven – and from Hulme – Jordan McGlacken, the chair of the panel discussion, highlighted the importance of diverse design teams bringing the community’s vision to life. Diverse teams have had different challenges and, as a result, solutions will naturally encapsulate a wider school of thought.
With approximately 10,000 people moving to Manchester every year, the population of the city centre has increased from approximately 10,000 to 72,000 in the last three decades. This increased population as well as the UK’s homelessness crisis, makes it ever more important that regeneration considers social and affordable housing in deprived neighbourhoods. The value of stable and good quality living spaces that support people’s recovery cannot be underestimated.
Effective procurement from project inception is key to driving social value and ensuring zero-carbon targets are met. Future contracts procured by MCC now need to demonstrate 20% social value and 10% environmental benefit for the local economy. With these requirements, it is essential for consultancies to invest in local talent, drive local STEM engagement and produce designs that add value to the local economy. It is also increasingly important for consultants to make these decisions measurable and demonstrate that contractual requirements are met.