Fbe (Forum for the Built Environment) conference sponsored by HOW and Winckworth Sherwood - Tuesday 23 May 2017
The terrorist attack at Manchester Arena on the evening of Monday 22nd May cast an immediate and vast shadow on the city. Indisputably, from that moment focus was on the victims of the attack, both for those directly involved as well as the wider community of Manchester. Nevertheless, the people of Manchester had been encouraged to go about their day-to-day business in an act of defiance against those that seek to destroy the freedom we value every day and the hope we engender for the future. This instruction came directly from Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of Manchester City Council.
The fbe Manchester breakfast conference entitled ‘The Vision for Manchester’ was planned for Tuesday 23 May 2017, with guest speakers Sir Richard Leese, and Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). Following the attack, it was uncertain as to whether the continuation of the event would be appropriate, given the focus of attention and the sadness that had ensued on the city. However, although unsurprisingly he was not able to attend in person, Sir Richard Leese gave his blessing and it was subsequently decided that the event should proceed.
The breakfast conference, co-sponsored by HOW Planning and Winckworth Sherwood (Planning Lawyers), was held at Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel Free Trade Hall on Peter Street in central Manchester. The conference, chaired by Adam Posner of KPMG, commenced with words about the events of the night before. A tribute to the people who were known to have lost their lives, were injured, missing, and all others who were directly and indirectly affected by the attack, was made, followed by an acknowledgement of the fact that the people of Manchester wouldn’t let such events divide them and would only strengthen their solidarity and drive to continue to make the city a great place for all. The tribute closed with a minute’s silence followed by a prayer.
Eamonn Boylan was invited to present on the vision for Manchester in the context of the GMCA. Eamonn celebrated the existing cohesion between the governing authorities within GMCA and highlighted that, following the recent election of Andy Burnham as the first Mayor of Greater Manchester with a 63% majority vote, there is considered to be a very strong basis on which to realise plans for developing and improving the built environment across the conurbation. There is intent to further the potential in key sectors with an existing presence, including but not limited to advanced materials, research and development, health, textiles and nuclear. There is a commitment to realise the development of 227,000 new homes between now and 2035, as proposed in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
In combination with the housing proposal target, Eamonn indicated that great emphasis is to be placed on the promotion and improvement of skills and education for all age groups, transportation, and access to transport. He indicated that the provision of a better public transport system across the authority is a catalyst for the identification of sites suitable for housing, residential amenity and employment uses; land surrounding key train stations and tram stops, such as in Stockport and Oldham, should be explored and exhausted.
The desire to exhaust all possible development sites in existing urban areas was noted, prioritising development in existing built-up areas over Green Belt release. Proposed developments in Manchester city centre, notably Chapel Street, NOMA, St John’s and Media City, to name but a few, were highlighted as prime examples of developments that were aimed to supply the required mix of residential and commercial appropriate to the location.
Eamon made specific reference to the value of ‘place’ in development, including quality of the built environment, the setting, the existing culture within which a development is built and the contribution it will subsequently make, and the socio-economic benefits it will deliver. Understanding the aspirations of the ‘place’ in which a development is proposed to be located will be important to help justify the application made. The use of masterplanning was noted to be an essential tool in this process, as well as presenting high quality design and meaningful engagement.
Expectedly, the mood was sombre throughout the event, but the request of Sir Richard Leese for it to continue, and hearing Eamonn Boylan assert the plan for ongoing and future development within Manchester city centre and across the whole of GMCA, contributed to the feeling of solidarity and defiance to continue the good work by all involved in promotion of the region’s built environment.
Our thanks to the fbe and everyone who attended.