Bernstein’s ‘legacy is all around us’

Manchester’s property folk have started reacting to the news that Sir Howard Bernstein is to step down, Bruntwood head Chris Oglesby praising his approach to partnership working as his biggest legacy.

Chris Oglesby, chief executive of developer and investor Bruntwood, said in a joint statement with Rowena Burns, chief executive of Manchester Science Partnerships, controlled by Bruntwood, said: “Howard’s impact on every aspect of this city’s development has been profound, and his articulation of the role of cities in leading economic growth has influenced governments and policy-makers nationally and internationally. His legacy is all around us, in decades of successful regeneration projects and infrastructure investment.

“But perhaps his greatest legacy is the deep and shared belief that we can do more in partnership than by working separately. He forged the Manchester family – a habit of making common cause which works across all parts of both the public and the private sector. That way of working is deep in the city’s DNA, lies behind its greatest achievements, and will be the key to its continued success. For all of this, and more, we are very grateful and will do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition.”

Bob Dyson, senior property advisor and close ally of Bernstein for 20 years, said: “Sir Howard Bernstein’s passion for Manchester knows no bounds.

“The success that has resulted from his energy, relentless drive, commitment and political savvy for all things Manchester and its Combined Authorities are there for all to see and benefit from. They are simply the envy of his peer group in other authorities and municipal bodies throughout the UK and parts of Europe.

“In changing the face of Manchester there’s mostly only been the ‘SHB’ way of doing things but the results clearly and enviably speak for themselves.

“To my mind his legacy will be in him putting an economically sound, diverse, vibrant and accessible city on the world stage by his nurturing of its universities, airport, metro; and the proliferation of high-profile organisations in the professional service industries and high-tech, knowledge based start-up businesses. Of his many stand-out achievements securing the Commonwealth Games in 2002 is up there with the best; unsurpassed.

“It will be a hard act to follow for his successor but I think the timing of his retirement – as oft times before – is well considered.

“We won’t have heard the last of him by any means.

“It’s just a pity that his sporting allegiances are not ‘red’…but then again he’s waited long enough for the success his team [Manchester City FC] are currently enjoying.”

Stephen Hodder, founder of architecture practice Hodder & Partners, said: “Howard will be a hard act to follow. He has an inexhaustible energy, and engages with all aspects of central Government. I’d see him at events such as MIPIM and had to ask how he does it. He operates on lots of levels at once; both strategic for the whole city region, and then will also get into the very detailed aspects of planning. He brought an entrepreneurial spirit to local Government. When he came to providence in 1996 it was a key time, and the city is barely recognisable now from what it was. We all owe a massive debt to that man.”

Colin Sinclair, chief executive of Liverpool Knowledge Quarter, said: “One of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with and a huge influence on my life and work. A true visionary who has done so much work to regenerate Manchester, tackle social inequality and create a Northern Powerhouse. Our work here in Liverpool and the Knowledge Quarter will continue to benefit from Sir Howard’s massive contribution. Like all of history’s great leaders he will be irreplaceable.”

Mike Ingall, chief executive of Allied London, said: “He’s not going immediately and there’s no known successor yet. He’s given good notice of his retirement, and as he and Richard Leese have established a joint civic leadership I have no doubt that over the next few months they will put a strong candidate in place. The city has a good foundation for its next phase of growth.”

Michael Hawkins, director of national offices at Colliers International, said: “Since becoming chief executive of the city council almost 20 years ago Sir Howard’s work as a relentless and successful crusader for the regeneration and rebirth of Manchester following the IRA bomb has transformed it into what is a major European hub for both the corporate and visitor economy. His collaborative work with the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities established the city and its hinterland as a Northern Powerhouse with global influence and presence long before the creation of the concept by the Government. His shoes will be truly hard to fill but the platform to progress is in place via the Our Manchester Strategy to further develop the city up to 2025 and beyond.

“His responsible approach and his love and affection for the continued growth of the city has meant that his resignation is being undertaken in a controlled and structured fashion over a six to nine-month period. The resignation and controlled succession was planned. Whilst Sir Howard has led the city, the depth and breadth of well-run departments has meant that one of his unseen legacies is a well-run and structured council. The success of the city is due to the team Sir Howard led and whilst he will leave next year, the team is still in place.”

For all the plaudits, there will be some in the design community and heritage campaigners who will not be so sad to see Bernstein go. He was known to favour certain planners and architects for city centre schemes. The appetite for build-it-big development appears at times to be almost at any cost – heritage assets demolished and culture coming second to commercial gain, some say. The technique of drawing up pre-planning development frameworks for specific zones of the city worked for many years to spur activity but is now criticised by certain planners as out-of-date, causing delays in planning and preventing a more comprehensive city-wide approach to placemaking. Maybe it’s time for a change.


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