Event Round-up: Manchester Invest Partnership at LREF 2023

The Manchester Invest Partnership returned to LREF in 2023 to showcase the region's vision for a new generation of confidence. As part of the partnership's annual events programme to promote Manchester as a leading global city for investment, LREF provided the platform to discuss Manchester's strengths and ambitions through panel sessions and discussions. Here's a round-up of the day:

The Manchester Invest Partnership returned to the London Real Estate Forum (LREF) on Wednesday 27 September to help position Greater Manchester as a landmark destination for capital investment and FDI through real estate and property.

LREF allowed Manchester representatives to discuss the region’s vision for a devolved future and set the scene for continued growth across the region, to build the profile of the region among investors, developers and other local authority leaders with a shared vision for prosperity.

The theme for LREF 2023 is “Value” with discussions based around how the real estate and property industry can develop, deliver and track the value it brings to cities and citizens within them. The conference will explore how buildings, places and infrastructure can bring value to people by supporting environmental, economic and social well-being which will ultimately improve the quality of life for many.

For leaders and partners across Manchester, it is a well-established belief that all developments within the city-region must have the people at the heart and transform lives for the better. Community-driven placemaking is a concept that Manchester has been accelerating in recent years in hopes of creating a greener, fairer and more prosperous city region for all. Attending LREF 2023 allowed leaders from Manchester to show that the region is leading the way when it comes to creating sustainable, value-driven communities and driving transformational growth.

The State of the Market

To open the conference, Becca Heron Strategic Director of Growth and Development at Manchester City Council joined a panel session called “The State of the Market”. The opening session highlighted big-picture trends, key policy changes and opportunities for growth as well as the current challenges facing the industry in times of social, economic and political change. Joining Becca Heron on the panel chaired by Professor Sadie Morgan was Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Alexander Jan Chief Economic Adviser at London Property Alliance, Tom Goodall, Managing Director of Related Argent and Caroline Taylor Project Director, Infrastructure and Projects Authority (the IPA) at HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

To open the panel, Professor Sadie Morgan said “Value is about creating balance, where anything that promotes excellence does not do so at the supreme detriment of anything else. But how do we ensure that Economic benefit can be met equally with environmental harmony? How can our built environment work best in servicing the well-being and quality of our lives? The state of the market is a scene-setting session that gives us the background for discussions today.”

The panel then went on to discuss skills and devolution, the challenges created by the housing crisis and climate change, infrastructure funding (crucially HS2) and the need for tailored and refreshed policies and political certainty to remove such barriers to growth.

Discussing Manchester’s strategy for success Becca Heron said,Manchester has changed significantly over the last few decades. Those public-private partnerships have underpinned everything we’ve done in the city. You have to start with a clear vision. We have strategic regeneration frameworks for most of the city, those frameworks are fundamental they set a clear vision and give that certainty of approach to investment. If you have a clear narrative about why you want to do something and how you’re going to do it you’re in a much better place to lever in investment, bring in communities and add social value.”

She also namechecked Greater Manchester developments like Victoria North, Mayfield, Ancoats, New Islington and ID Manchester, praising the strong public and private sector collaborations that have driven these projects forward.

UK Cities – challenge to opportunity

Next, Becca Heron joined the session “UK Cities – challenge to opportunity” in association with Arup. The panel, chaired by Becci Taylor Director at Arup, covered the current challenges cities face with the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis and surging construction costs. Becca sat on the panel alongside Rob McNicol Assistant Director of Policy and Strategy, City of London Corporation, Debbie Jackson Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing, Westminster Council and Dr Aileen Jones Executive Director of Investment and Delivery, Liverpool City Region.

The panel discussed how cities across the UK are using creative ideas and innovation to address challenges and create sustainable, inclusive neighbourhoods. The panel discussed the importance of engaging residents to deal with challenges like climate change and health inequalities, as well as the role of placemaking in addressing such issues. The panel went on to cover the benefits that development opportunities can bring businesses and people in cities including business rate retention and generating inclusive growth.

During the session, Becca Heron said,For me, in terms of how we make Manchester’s continued growth more inclusive; housing transport and skills are the key levers. Place-making and urban design can have a massive impact. For example, how you design spaces, encourage active travel and areas that can be car-free to improve air quality. There are lots of elements of urban design that can support health inequalities.

We have a development in the north of the city, Victoria North which will build 15,000 new homes, which is a huge population. With that, we are working to build social infrastructure not just health but school and community developments. You have to plan that in from the outset.”

When discussing how to work with private sector partners to make this a reality she went on to say, “If, as a local authority, you are clear about your ambitions for an area, the kind of uses and the broad scale, that sets the parameters and you can have a healthy pre-application discussion. Broadly, our applicants value that clarity.

"The local authority has a role as the custodian of the vision. We will be left with the city we build now for decades, we can’t fill the city with stiff that will not stand the test of time.”

Citizens as stakeholders in a circular city

In the afternoon, Arup hosted a session around building environmentally friendly communities and adopting a circular economy to combat climate change. Samantha Nicholson from the Manchester Climate Change Partnership joined a panel hosted by Manchester-based Arup Associate Angeliki Stogia.

The panel discussed the fact that a shift to a circular economy means a system shift in how we perceive value so that value comes from the longevity of work and sustaining that value for years to come. It discussed the idea of nature-based solutions but also using fewer materials in the way we design while also considering prioritising a digital and service-based economy.

Sam Nicholson explained the collaborative approach Manchester is taking to climate action. By engaging universities, communities, businesses, property experts and even faith groups, the partnership creates hotspots to better inform local people about a more eco-friendly lifestyle. By avoiding jargon and humanising the issue, Manchester hopes to accelerate its decarbonisation journey by engaging local people.

Manchester: A new generation of confidence

Manchester hosted a panel discussing the city’s international ambitions, devolution deal and how it hopes to achieve its vision for the future. Manchester currently has a lot of tools at its disposal, and as a city which is proving its strengths economically, this panel aimed to explore what makes it different to other UK cities. From new leadership to a shared vision, the panel explored why Manchester has a newfound confidence to achieve its goals.

Mike Emmerich Founding Director of Metro Dynamics hosted the panel which featured Becca Heron, Strategic Director of Growth and Development at Manchester City Council, Stephen O’Malley CEO and Founding Director of Civic Engineers and Simon Arnott, Managing Director for the North West of Morgan Sindall Construction.

Mike Emmerich said, “What makes a successful city is doing the right things at scale for a long time. The broadening out of Manchester beyond urban boundaries into the city region has increased the size of the functional labour market making it a more attractive city than others.

“With any Manchester government, there is always stability and that’s the foundation that all good business is built on.”

Simon Arnott said, What attracted me into my role was looking at how resilient Manchester and the North West Region has been. There’s prosperity and the city has done a fantastic job making brave decisions.

“In terms of bottling up what Manchester has, the feeling you get is that the region and Manchester in particular makes stuff happen. That’s a testament to the long-term vision and collaboration. It’s a fun and vibrant city.”

When discussing the success of Greater Manchester’s new leadership, Becca Heron said, “We’re not ripping up the playbook. Manchester is outperforming many regional cities on many measures and on some even London, so why would we? We’ve still got some issues, there’s still poverty and a lot more to do. The success and demand for Manchester are creating problems on their own like the demand for housing.

“How can we maximise the productivity of Manchester’s economy while doing everything we can to narrow the gap in equality? We need to see significantly more housing, the continued growth of the city centre, and many more highly skilled people to support our highly-skilled sectors (who also need housing and transport). Some of these are not within our gift.”

Becca also discussed how the city is prioritising social value both inside and outside of the city centre. She mentioned the work to redevelop Wythenshawe Town Centre but also highlighted projects like Aviva Studios home of Factory International and Victoria North that have had social value built in from the outset.

On transport and net zero challenges, Stephen O’Malley said “Manchester is now realising how we move around the city and move around space is important. The densification of the city is a good thing but you cannot on that trajectory allow everyone to drive into that city. You need to make room for walking, cycling and nature-based solutions. Looking forward, we need to offer a much more attractive and healthier lifestyle for Mancunians. That means we have to think in a different way.

“Bringing people along with us in that bigger sense is absolutely vital. We need to do a lot more to engage with a wider constituency and explain the wider benefits. There’s an important piece of how we tell this story.”

Below are some pictures from Manchester’s time at LREF 2023:

To find out how to join The Manchester Invest Partnership at future events, take a look at our partner brochure or contact our team.