Manchester at MIPIM: Q&A with Jon Dyson Director of Place at Bolton Council

Jon Dyson, Director of Place at Bolton Council explains why Bolton have chosen to attend MIPIM with the Manchester Invest Partnership and how the borough will play a part in Greater Manchester’s growth story as it works to become become greener, fairer and more prosperous.

Greater Manchester has seen unprecedented growth over the last decade. The city-centre skyline tells a story of growth that ripples through to our boroughs and towns, which are changing dramatically and diversifying to meet modern demands.

Attending MIPIM 2024 is a chance to show that our city-region is ready to build on its success to create a future based on sustainability, innovation and equality.

Jon Dyson, Director of Place at Bolton Council explains why Bolton have chosen to attend MIPIM with the Manchester Invest Partnership and how the borough will play a part in Greater Manchester’s growth story as it works to become become greener, fairer and more prosperous.

He also discussed the biggest challenges in future placemaking and why Greater Manchester should be a leading destination for international investors.

Read the interview with Jon below:

Why is it important for you to attend MIPIM 2024 with Manchester?

Because Bolton has a great story to tell and so many exciting opportunities to share with potential investors – we want to showcase Bolton to a global audience.

We are lucky to already be working with many leading developers and investors, but we want to get the word out that our excellent transport links, strong leadership, and clear vision make Bolton the ideal place to do business.

Events like MIPIM allow us to connect with others who share our passion for creating new spaces, new employment opportunities, driving innovation, and improving lives.

What do you think is the biggest change in Greater Manchester over the last decade?

Like everywhere, two major changes over the last 10 years have been the shift away from physical retail and the move towards more town and city centre living.

Greater Manchester has weathered these changes better than most areas, adapting quickly and working in partnership with the private sector to take advantage of these new opportunities.

As online retail takes a greater share of the market, in Bolton we moved quickly to take advantage of our excellent transport links to create large logistics and manufacturing hubs. Logistics North is one of our great success stories and the Wingates Industrial Estate, located in the Wigan – Bolton Growth Corridor, has enormous potential for expansion.

We are also making great progress in our town centre where Deloitte projects an extra 5,000 residents will be living in our vibrant new urban neighbourhoods.

Why do you think Manchester has seen such great success over the last decade?

Adaptability, being open to change, and taking a collaborative approach with the private sector – we recognised the many opportunities and great potential of the City Region, and pursued them with great vigour and determination.

Looking across Greater Manchester, I think the ability of all 10 local authorities to collaborate on key initiatives and to speak with one voice is very attractive for potential investors.

Greater Manchester's councils have a long history of working in partnership (the adoption of Places for Everyone – the City Region’s long-term plan for jobs, new homes, and sustainable growth, being a very recent example) and Bolton Council plays a key part in this. This record of co-operation led to the creation of the GMCA and helped Greater Manchester lead the way on city-region devolution. Key deals built upon this innovative agreement have brought new powers, responsibilities and most importantly, opportunities for Greater Manchester – and the new Trailblazer Deal is undoubtedly a vote of confidence in Greater Manchester.

Moreover, our excellent universities, including our own here in Bolton, offer a talent pipeline and wide skills base for potential employers and a joined-up transport network is also a huge bonus.

What can placemakers and property developers do to continue this success and accelerate growth over the next decade?

What we are seeing in Manchester City Centre is intense redevelopment and I am sure that will continue. But as demand grows, we are seeing investors looking for opportunities a little further out but within commutable distance of everything Manchester has to offer.

We can see that in Bolton town centre, where we have a significant number of residential developments under way and more planned in the near future. But we are also seeing significant regeneration in our district centres.

Take a developer like CAPITAL&CENTRIC, best know for their work in Manchester and other major cities, they have been among the first to recognise the potential of places like Farnworth. Their Farnworth Green development will be a liveable town centre community with retail and community space. Taking their lead, I am sure we will see similar developments in the smaller towns of Greater Manchester over the next decade.

What do you expect to be the biggest challenges Greater Manchester will face while driving growth at scale?

The biggest challenge facing the sector is the rising cost of development and construction.

In Bolton, we’ve addressed this head on by investing £100m to secure brownfield sites and carrying out demolition and enablement works.

This helps close the viability gap, allowing developers to start on “shovel ready” projects delivering the right mix of retail, residential, hospitality, leisure and employment offer that modern town centres need.

The cancelation of HS2 was undoubtedly a blow to the City Region and its ambitions for growth, however, we have a reputation for getting things done and there is no doubt that we will maximise the opportunities that flow through Network North for the benefit of the city region and our Northern partners.

Why is culture important in the future of Greater Manchester?

Greater Manchester’s cultural offer is a key part of why so many people want to visit, live, work and study here.

In Bolton, we have actively decided to build on one of our great strengths by putting culture at the heart of our regeneration agenda.

So many big names in entertainment are from Bolton, our town centre has six theatres – including the renowned Octagon Theatre and the historic Alberts Halls, our beautiful countryside and stunning architecture make us a popular filming location and we host events like the annual Bolton Food and Drink Festival, the biggest in the UK.

The Octagon has recently undergone a £12m refurbishment, our Central Library and Museum have benefitted from renovation projects in excess of £6m and we are including a dedicated public performance space in the new Elizabeth Park. At all stages of our regeneration, we want to ensure residents and visitors always have the space to experience culture and to express themselves.

Inclusive growth is a huge focus for Greater Manchester going forward, as the local authorities want to make sure everyone feels the benefit of the city’s success why is this important and how can placemaking help?

We have always been clear that the regeneration of Bolton is for everyone. A key part of this is our focus on public space and improving public buildings. Elizabeth Park, Central Library and Ashburner Street have all received significant investment.

Creating new public spaces and new links between Victoria Park and Bradshawgate are key parts of our future plans for the upcoming regeneration of Crompton Place.

As we shift towards more town centre living, we are making sure we have a wide range of housing options to suit everyone. That means securing the right mix of affordable housing at our Moor Lane development with StepPlaces and Bolton at Home, working with PlaceFirst to offer secure long-term rental options at Deansgate Gardens. We are clear we want cross-generational living in our town centre with properties to suit all ages, all budgets and all household sizes.

Similarly, the Wigan and Bolton Growth corridor, one of 6 growth locations across Greater Manchester, will provide a platform to lever a number of unique opportunities and assets within the corridor and to respond to a variety of needs and challenges – our approach will not only deliver sustainable development of homes and workplaces, but will build on the corridor’s existing strengths and strategic transport links with employment growth being driven by logistics, manufacturing (notably food) and distribution and health innovation - most importantly the corridor aims to ensure that all our residents and communities are able to benefit from the opportunities that growth and increased economic prosperity will bring to the borough.

What projects are you working on that will be transformative to the future of Greater Manchester and its residents?

The Bolton Institute of Medical Sciences has enormous transformational potential for the entire region. It opens in September and will train 3,000 people a year from apprenticeships to post-graduate qualifications.

Not only will this provide the highly skilled staff that our NHS needs, but we are confident that the institute will serve as a catalyst for further investment in health innovation – which we have identified as a key growth sector for Bolton and the wider area.

We are also progressing the redevelopment of Crompton Place. Its size and key central position within the town centre will make this the flagship regeneration project for Bolton and will give private investors the confidence that Bolton means business when it comes to transforming our town centre.

What are you most excited about for the future of Greater Manchester?

The Manchester City Centre is a real success story. Unrecognizable from how it looked 20 years ago, it is a vibrant, exciting and desirable place to live.

What excites me is the potential to see this model spread to other parts of Greater Manchester, not just large towns like Bolton but in areas like Farnworth, Horwich and Westhoughton. By converting underused brownfield sites into residential neighbourhoods we can provide much needed homes, while protecting our Green Belt and revitalising our town centres.

Why should international investors attending MIPIM 2024 consider doing business in Greater Manchester?

A proven track record for success and unparalleled ambition. Looking specifically at Bolton, investors can have the confidence of working with a well-led council where there is cross-party support for major regeneration projects. We have by-in from all our key stakeholders, a clear vision and detailed strategies to achieve it.

At MIPIM, there will be plenty of information available about Bolton and the many exciting opportunities we can offer. I would urge everyone to find out more and to get in touch to learn how we can work together to build an exciting future for Bolton.

To learn more about opportunities in Bolton visit InvestinBolton.com