Greater Manchester at LREF: A Round-Up

On Wednesday 28 September, representatives from Greater Manchester’s local authorities and property sector attended London Real Estate Forum (LREF) at the Barbican Centre.

LREF is an annual forum which brings together leaders from the public sector, government, investment and business communities to drive conversations around sustainable development in cities.

The theme of this year’s conference was Think Beyond. The day was centred around how towns and cities can think differently to meet net-zero targets, improve equality and quality of life for everyone within them. The aim was to rethink how cities function and to reimagine what urban areas will look like long-term, considering infrastructure, policy and sustainability.

As a city-region that prides itself on the ability to think beyond and has ambitions to provide a greener, fairer, more prosperous city-region for all, Greater Manchester. Therefore, it was great to take a delegation of partners who believe in a collaborative approach to regeneration and development.

Greater Manchester’s LREF partners included Civic Engineers, EPR Architects, Gleeds, Manchester City Council, Morgan Sindall, Renaker Build, Salboy, Salford City Council, SimpsonHaugh, Transport for Greater Manchester, Trilogy, U+I and Urban Splash.

Becca Heron, Strategic Director of Development, Manchester City Council sat on the opening panel of the day, which discussed the state of the market and future priorities for city regions. The session covered key policy changes and opportunities for growth in a rapidly changing economic environment before touching on transport, affordable net zero housing and other issues for the built environment sector.

Panel Session: Greater Manchester: Enabling agents of change in our cities
Greater Manchester: Enabling Agents of Change in our Cities

When asked about the links between Manchester’s identity as a city-region and government policy, Becca Heron said,

“Manchester has always been good at being able to respond to the government’s agenda and aligning with what the government is looking for.

“We've seen a lot of demand in the city and investment is good. Now it’s about how the city-region and beyond functions as an economy. For the UK as a whole to succeed, you need different parts of the country functioning separately, and for me, that is the next step for Manchester.”

Greater Manchester then held a panel discussion called Greater Manchester: Enabling agents of change in our cities. The panel was an opportunity to showcase the city-region’s development and regeneration projects alongside community-based placemaking and net zero ambitions.

Chaired by GMLEP Green Lead and CEO of Creative Concern Steve Connor, the Greater Manchester session brought together; Becca Heron Strategic Director Development Manchester City Council, John Searle Strategic Director of Place Salford City Council, Vernon Everitt Greater Manchester Transport Commissioner, Stephen O’Malley Chief Executive Civic Engineers, and May Molteno Head of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Trilogy Property.

The conversation revolved around building places for everyone, and how a holistic approach to placemaking which incorporates public transport, community spaces, active travel and sustainability is preferred across the city region. It referred to the challenges around net-zero, funding and policies. The panel discussed how facilitating inclusive growth collaboratively could go hand in hand with creating low-carbon communities.

John Searle, Strategic Director of Place at Salford City Council said,

“Rather than being about Salford or Bolton or Rochdale we’re a collective. The bigger prize is a devolved funding pot for Greater Manchester that we can divvy up and decide where it’s utilised to create sustainable good growth. Spot funding gives you spot development. It doesn’t give you holistic place-making.”

Growth was at the heart of the discussion. One of Greater Manchester’s priorities is to encourage good quality growth and investment across the 10 boroughs of the city region, not just in the city centre, by redeveloping spaces and using emotional intelligence to deliver the spaces people need to succeed.

London Real Estate Forum 2022
London Real Estate Forum 2022

Steve Connor, Green Lead for GMLEP and CEO of Creative Concern said,

“Growth has to be for a reason, and it has to be good growth. Greater Manchester’s growth challenge is about Manchester and Salford City Centre but the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester where we want to see things flourish. It’s a vibrant city region on an exciting journey.”

Naturally, the conversation mentioned Greater Manchester’s ambitious plans to revolutionise public transport across the 10 boroughs. In hopes of significantly reducing carbon emissions, the city-region is bringing buses back under public control, setting price caps on fairs and improving active travel.

Greater Manchester Transport Commissioner Vernon Everitt said,

The transport network in Greater Manchester is undergoing a transformation. In essence, I like to think of the transport network in Greater Manchester as the 11th District, it’s the heartbeat and plumbing that helps us deliver economic growth, access to skills and jobs, housing and our overall vision.”

But at the heart of the discussion was people, and how cities must adapt to create more equal spaces that encourage communities to thrive. The public and private sectors must work together to ensure equal regeneration that gives back to communities through affordable homes, new green spaces and community areas.

“A tiny investment from a landlord unlocks a whole cascade of creativity from a community. At a regenerative level, we need to talk to people about what they need and what would improve the paces they want to live, says May Molteno Head of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Trilogy Property.

After the panel, representatives from Greater Manchester had time to network with investors, developers, architects and more to share ideas and future plans.

Throughout the day, there were numerous talks about the future of our cities including, urban planning, the role of tech, sustainable design and the future purpose of cities, which partners were encouraged to attend.

Finally, to end the day, Greater Manchester partner Urban Splash held a private drinks reception in one of the Barbican apartments with stunning views across the city centre.

View the full LREF 22 programme here.