Manchester 2030: Seizing opportunities for growth

Written by Barry Crichton, Regional Managing Director, Manchester at Avison Young

Following his return from MIPIM 2024, Barry Crichton, Manchester Regional Managing Director at Avison Young, discusses the transformative era that Manchester is currently navigating as the city faces its journey towards 2030.

As a city known for its pioneering spirit and innovation, Manchester stands on the brink of a new period of sustainable growth and regeneration. Here, Barry offers his insights into how the city is tackling key challenges and seizing opportunities before the end of this decade, ensuring a legacy of progress and sustainability for the future.

Manchester has a rich history of progress. How is has this historical identity played a part in Manchester’s 2030 vision today?
Manchester's identity as a pioneering hub of progress is more relevant than ever. Going way back to its Industrial Revolution roots, the city has long set a solid foundation for continuous commitment to innovation, large-scale regeneration, and sustainability. These principles are continuing to guide the city in 2024, as it navigates through current economic uncertainties and potential governmental shifts, ensuring Manchester remains poised for future challenges and exciting growth opportunities.

With continued devolution progress being a significant focus for the city, how do you see this impacting Manchester's growth?
It’s become almost impossible to discuss Manchester's future without considering the possible effects of further devolution on the region. Over the past decade, we've observed a significant shift in political power towards fostering local growth agendas. This transition has unveiled opportunities to invigorate new industries, repurpose old spaces, and develop new neighbourhoods in and around Manchester. The extent of devolution in the near future hinges on political developments, that will require regional leaders to deliberate strategically on directing regional investments to maximise both economic and social benefits.

With more devolved powers, Manchester stands to enhance both its identity and economy by adopting more innovative urban development strategies. Enhanced budgetary autonomy could also empower the city to fund essential infrastructure upgrades, notably improving public transportation. These improvements would not only make Manchester more accessible but also support environmental sustainability by curbing vehicle emissions.

The housing crisis is another pressing issue for Manchester. How is the city addressing this challenge?
It’s clear that there needs to be a tangible plan from government to address the current housing crisis, which was further spotlighted by Avison Young’s recent Outlook reports, which citied housing as the central challenge for the city. While housing delivery is largely holding up across Manchester and city region, thanks to new permissions and policies, it’s still hugely important that more government funding is directed to unlock the system and maintain delivery levels, as well as setting out a plan for a broader range of housing that can meet the needs of the city’s growing and diverse population.

How important is connectivity for Manchester's future, both within the city and across the UK?
Connectivity is vital, which is why we need to advocate for far better strategic investments in the North's transportation network. The very wellbeing of Manchester's communities relies on maintaining strong connections within the city and across the UK. We believe it is now time for policymakers to translate their commitments into actions, particularly in enhancing the North's transportation network. Improved transportation infrastructure is vital for Manchester's economic expansion, requiring increased funding and strategic planning to realise these goals.

Could you reflect on the sectors driving Manchester’s economic growth and how the city is supporting these growing industries?
Manchester's economy is increasingly driven by knowledge industries such as tech, digital, and scientific R&D. The city's property market is also evolving to support these sectors with collaborative workspaces and environmentally conscious offices - reflecting a broader shift towards hybrid working models. The city’s ability to attract and retain talent in these sectors has proved to be crucial for the city’s growth, supported by Manchester’s vibrant ecosystem and the recent ecommerce industry boom.

How are large-scale regeneration projects contributing to Manchester's vision for 2030?
Vital regeneration projects such as Strangeways and Victoria North are emblematic of the city’s vision for sustainable growth. These developments promise not only to revitalise large areas of the city but also to create connected, sustainable communities. They are also a testament to the power of public-private partnerships in realising complex regeneration initiatives.

In your view, what are the key elements of sustainable growth for Manchester, and how is the city preparing to meet them?
Sustainable growth for Manchester hinges on three things right now: innovation, collaboration, and sustainability. Currently, the focus is about overcoming challenges - not just through technological and economic means, but also through a commitment to creating an inclusive and resilient urban environment. At Avison Young, we’re focusing on strategic investments, policy reforms, and partnerships that align with these goals, preparing Manchester not just for the next decade but for a sustainable future beyond.