Manchester faces a looming “growing crisis” as its housing and transport infrastructure fails to keep pace with expected job growth because of its “misguided” developer-led regeneration approach, according to an Alliance Manchester Business School report.
The creation of an estimated 110,000 new jobs by 2040 will put extra pressure on the city region’s transport network and mean rising demand for housing. Yet Manchester’s regeneration strategy over the past 30 years has focused disproportionately on new urban buildings, leaving the city with under-developed transport and social infrastructure such as housing, the authors of the From developer regeneration to civic futures report argue.
It is estimated that an additional 68,000 trips per year will be made on Greater Manchester’s public transport by 2040. However, subsidies to the city’s bus network, which carries the most passengers, are being reduced.
Meanwhile, nearly 50,000 new mostly-private homes are planned in central Manchester by 2040 – yet some 80,000 people are currently on Greater Manchester’s social housing waiting list.
The study’s authors argue that private property developers, which have led Manchester’s renaissance, fail to consider the transport and social infrastructure – such as schools, libraries and broadband – that communities need to thrive.
Looking ahead, the report calls for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to create a long-term strategy that focuses on citizens with consideration given to the region’s cultural and geographical diversity.
Karel Williams, professor of accounting and political economy at Alliance Manchester Business School, who led the research team, said: “Nobody can argue that major progress has been made in regenerating Manchester’s city centre in the two decades since the IRA bomb, much to the city council’s credit. However, regeneration is about more than just new buildings in the centre of Manchester – it should benefit all communities in the wider city region too.
“The region now faces a growing crisis because while Manchester city centre is creating thousands of new jobs – many of them very well paid – transport and social infrastructure, such as housing in the outer areas, is failing communities and not delivering true regeneration. This is a direct result of the misguided approach of developer-led regeneration.”
Since the abolition of Greater Manchester County Council in 1986 by the Thatcher government, Greater Manchester’s councils have targeted regeneration by allowing private property developers to build large-scale developments in empty sites across the city centre.
The result of this, the report argues, is a centre filled with housing built for only a certain demographic – young white-collar workers – that fails to meet the demands of most Greater Manchester citizens, such as families or those on lower incomes.
The report authors also criticise central government for failing to hand councils and new metro mayors greater powers and funding for transport improvements, housing and other infrastructure improvements. Since his election last year, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has focused his efforts on areas such as a perceived lack of rail investment and homelessness in the absence of statutory powers.
Meanwhile, the report also argues that plans to build a further 50,000 similar homes could see boroughs on the outskirts of central Manchester be negatively affected. Planned developments in areas such as Angel Meadow and Collyhurst in Manchester could create tensions as regeneration intrudes on existing communities, many of them in areas of social deprivation, potentially resulting in “social clearances”.
Williams added: “The city centre has become too compact and developers are constantly looking for brownfield land on the outskirts, so we’re steadily seeing Manchester spill over into neighbouring boroughs. While all of this inward investment has been encouraging, current regeneration plans and frameworks aren’t fit for purpose and fail to meet the basic requirements of communities.
“For all Greater Manchester’s boroughs to thrive, we’re calling for a rethink in policy expertise at local government level. We need policymakers who have the granular knowledge of local circumstances and social needs to deliver what citizens truly need.
“We hope that our analysis shines a light on the huge challenge facing Greater Manchester in the near future. In many ways – particularly in terms of economic growth and job creation in the centre – the city region is prospering. But in other ways – principally in terms of social infrastructure like housing and amenities – it is currently failing its communities, something that requires a change in thinking.”