by Steve Millington (Institute of Place Management); Karen Findley and Martin Saker (Manchester City Council); Dave Payne (Withington Village Regeneration Partnership)
Given under lockdown people are beginning to rediscover their locality (see Gary Warnaby’s IPM blog piece), and using centres within walking distance of their homes more often, it is timely to reconsider the role and function of smaller, and specifically district centres,in recovery planning. With people noticing the health and environmental benefits of reduced commuter traffic, adding to the well-documented benefits of walking and cycling, we might now reinforce such positive developments through a commitment to strengthening centres close to people’s homes, to embed ties to localities developed during lockdown. Furthermore, IPM research into 18 district centres in Greater Manchester suggests that around 150 businesses on average are located in each one, although the largest centres accommodate over 300. With 70 smaller, significant local and suburban centres across the GM region, collectively they make a significant contribution to the local economy. Moreover, if predictions come to fruition the ‘New Normal’ will involve more people working from home, place leaders now need to think more seriously about the potential for district centres to become more than just places for convenience shopping and personal services.
In 1862 in Berlin, the building
engineer James Hobrecht undertook the design of a ‘development plan for
Berlin’s surroundings,’ today known simply as the ‘Hobrecht Plan’. Hobrecht was
part of a broader Berlin movement, which, starting in the mid-nineteenth century
and following several epidemics of cholera, believed in the role of central planning
in sustaining and improving public health. Politicians such as medical doctor Rudolf
Virchow (1821–1902) considered contemporary sewerage, like that already seen in
parts of England, to be indispensable for the improvement of public health in
the capital. Whereas Hobrecht is mostly remembered for the 1862 Berlin
development plan, undoubtedly one of his major contributions is the
modernization of the sewerage system.
The ‘Hobrecht Plan’ provided the
outline for the development of a big part of Berlin and it is still visible
today in large areas of the inner city. It was the first complete street plan
for an expansion of the built-up area inside the municipal borders, with the
main goal to provide a street pattern for predominantly agricultural areas
around the existing city that were to be designated for construction, providing
housing for Berlin’s exploding population.
An arcade is “a glass covered passageway which connects two
busy streets and is lined on both sides with shops”. First developed in Paris in the late
eighteenth century, arcades were a key element of the European retail and urban
environment by the mid-nineteenth century. They were regarded as symbols of
modernity and vitality because of their innovative use of architectural design,
building materials and techniques, and they contributed to a wider process of
civic boosterism of the Victorian city.
However, according to MacKeith, by the start of the twentieth century, the
arcade’s heyday was already passing, with those constructed in the early
twentieth century being smaller and less architecturally ambitious than their
nineteenth century predecessors, and furthermore, arcades were often
marginalised in new post-war shopping development schemes.
I work in a sector that’s committed to making places better; we own 3.9
million properties across England and provide homes to 17% of all households. We built 26% of all new homes across the
country last year.
And we reinvest all our profits in homes and communities.
Despite having many shared objectives, the social housing sector has had little to do with the Institute of Place Management – until now.
Accountability for the Mayor of Greater Manchester: Participatory Governance in the 21st Century*
Guest article by James Scott Vandeventer**
It has been over a year since Greater Manchester elected its first Mayor. Since then, Mayor Andy Burnham has worked to build the Mayor’s office as an institution almost from scratch and within the confines of the devolution agreement with central government. This is no small feat, and the Mayor’s efforts should not be overlooked.
Still, there are deeper underlying issues that exist in Greater Manchester, which the mayor needs to address. These relate to his own accountability to the over two and a half million people within Greater Manchester. He came to power in a democratic election. But likewise true – and widely known – is that the long-standing Labour majority across the city-region meant his election victory was hardly a surprise (1). With approximately 29% turnout, the mayoral election came nowhere close to capturing the majority voice of eligible voters in Greater Manchester (1).
Manchester is one of five European regions set to benefit from a new European fund designed to help regional and local governments to develop and deliver better town centre policy.
The Institute of Place Management (IPM) at Manchester Metropolitan University will utilise part of a £1.5 million grant from the European funding body Interreg, to investigate how companies, councils and other local groups can work together more effectively to improve their town centres. One of the major outcomes of the work will be a nationwide audit of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and their achievements.
Manchester’s skyline is changing. Fast. While the dominant narrative is that dozens of the buildings transforming this skyline aim to provide more housing in the city centre, the recent report From Homes to Assets: Housing financialisation in Greater Manchester by Dr Jonathan Silver makes clear that these housing developments are overwhelmingly driven by financial institutions and actors who have identified Greater Manchester’s urban core as an attractive site for investment. Indeed, the primary function of these developments is financial speculation. We are witnessing the process of housing financialisation in Greater Manchester. For those concerned about the wellbeing and prosperity of the people living in Greater Manchester, as we are at Steady State Manchester, this poses the question: Does housing financialisation deliver a viable economy?
What is a viable economy?
As we at Steady State Manchester describe in our 2014 report The Viable Economy and in other publications, a viable economy is predicated on a shift in political decisions and societal actions away from the growth-driven instrumental rationality of neoliberal capitalism. Instead, a viable economy demonstrates greater resilience, localisation, and balance as economic activity is treated not an end in itself, but rather as a means to deliver a sufficiently prosperous future without growth. Further, a viable economy subordinates the economic system to the control of society, and organises around cultural attitudes favouring equality, solidarity and cooperation. Finally, a viable economy recognises the finite nature of ecological resources and embraces an ethic of stewardship by minimising imbalances to the planetary systems – including the climate, biodiversity, and nitrogen and phosphorous cycles – upon which human life depends.
“Housing financialisation treats housing as an asset that can, should, and must, generate profit.”