Manchester: What’s the story?

Stuart Rogers
When Joanne Roney, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, says that Manchester does things differently, it’s no exaggeration. This resilient city has transformed itself into a vibrant place to live, study and work, a fantastic environment for business.

The city-region’s ground-breaking 2015 devolution agreement has been key to tackling change. Genuine joint leadership has emerged, with four key figures representing the region on the global stage, Sir Richard Leese, Joanne Roney, Eamonn Boylan and Andy Burnham.

This collaborative approach drives a positive outlook for the built environment, with a pro-development mind-set underpinning the local planning system. There are certainly plenty of development highlights, following a record year for construction starts and pipeline growth. Progress continues at city centre regeneration sites, including Mayfield with its eagerly-awaited six-acre city park, St John’s and New Bailey. Airport City, together with the expanding network and £1bn transformation of Manchester Airport, continues to attract inward investment.

The residential sector, which has been under-supplied, is now becoming much more active. The private sector is seeing keen demand, sustained by the corporate relocation effects of a strong commercial office market, and reinforced by ambitious council plans. Over 14,400 residential units of various tenure types are under construction across 48 developments, including new residential concepts, such as co-living.

Co-living is relatively new to the UK and is a concept centred around sharing, whether that be living spaces, or values. The sustained growth of the city has meant that Manchester is the first region outside London to embrace the co-living concept and now has its first co-living scheme, Echo Street, near Piccadilly train station. The scheme will include 642 co-living bedrooms, alongside collaborative work spaces, lounges, a library, gym facilities, and a rooftop terrace and sky lounge.

Anticipated residential delivery over the next three years is due to exceed the previous 10 years combined[1]. The proposed residential-led Northern Gateway regeneration project, a Manchester City Council (MCC) and Far East Consortium joint venture, is an important element, connecting the north of Manchester to the city centre, and delivering 15,000 new homes over 15-20 years, with a commitment to deliver 20% of the development as affordable homes.

In social housing, the Council is under pressure to take a more active role. The appointment of two new housing chiefs has heralded a 12-month feasibility study into a genuinely affordable city centre housing scheme, of appropriate density for its location. We should see future planning policy shift towards enforcement of city centre affordable provision, with developers given less leeway to fulfil section 106 agreements off-site. 

We are also likely to see more investment in the use of digitally-supported modern methods of construction on residential, alongside other key sectors. The regions Councils are already in procurement on several modular residential schemes which are set to provide a new benchmark for social, affordable and private residential delivery. Positive partnerships between the Councils and private housing organisations will determine whether we can meet the regions housing demand outside the City Centre.

We can expect to hear more about the region’s skills gap, as this inhibits the full potential for growth and needs to be addressed. In the built environment industries, for example, we need to attract young people who are anticipating a digital future—will Manchester respond to this national challenge, in its construction processes and its education system? With a track record of firsts, the city could well lead the way. We’re one of the first three UK areas with a government-supported Local Industrial Strategy, and this includes a focus on digital skills gaps.

With fifty-one per cent of Manchester’s graduates opting to remain here, there is demonstrable evidence that the desired lifestyle and work attractions for young educated professionals currently exist. The challenge is to make those opportunities realistic for all, and to enable the city to keep ahead of the curve.

Manchester is determined to become a transformative global city that benefits all who live and work here. Whilst good housing and transport options will do much to achieve this, the policymaking focus should now turn to more explicit health and well-being issues. The Manchester Population Health Plan  is a good start and aims to reduce health inequalities and improve health outcomes for all residents, we are the only city-region with health devolution. This strategy for a healthier city is led by MCC and NHS Manchester and will integrate with multiple stakeholder initiatives. Improvement of air quality, for example, is a priority and there are plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone which will penalise the most polluting commercial vehicles.

Faithful+Gould is proudly working on some of the most high-profile schemes in the region. Our team is committed to a long-term focus on Manchester, bringing inspired thinking and innovation—because we do things differently too!


[1] Residential statistics, Deloitte Manchester Crane Survey January 2019.




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