Dr James Grigor OBE dies at 81
Tributes have been paid to the chairman of the Central Manchester Development Corporation from 1988 to 1996, one of the key catalysts for the city's renaissance.
Grigor became involved with Manchester's regeneration in the mid 1980s when he was running the Trafford Park operations of Ciba Geigy, a multinational chemical group, now part of Novartis.
He promoted improvement to the park and supported the creation of the Trafford Park Development Corporation in 1987 under the Conservative government.
In the same year he was asked by government to help set up the Central Manchester Development Corporation in a wave of more centralised city DCs that included Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield.
Despite initially opposing the development coporation, Graham Stringer, then Labour leader of Manchester City Council and now Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, took a pragmatic view and formed an effective joint venture with the new delivery vehicle.
Stringer said today: "Jimmy Grigor was an unsung hero of the regeneration and renaissance of Manchester which started in the mid to late 1980s. As chairman of the Central Manchester Development Corporation appointed by Nicolas Ridley, in the Thatcher government he refused to toe the Conservative government's line of hostility to Labour-controlled local government, in fact he did the opposite, barely allowing a millimetre of daylight between Manchester City Council's policies and those of the CMDC.
"He threw his weight behind the Olympic bid and supported investment in the Canal Street area in the city centre; a particularly brave decision given the Conservative government's hostility to the gay community.
"He steered the corporation's investment into Castlefield, forming the foundations of the enormous success seen there today.
"Prior to his involvement with the CMDC he helped found the highly imaginative science park. Jimmy was punished for, as the Conservative government saw it 'going native' in Manchester by having the development corporation wound up a year early. Although he received an OBE many thought he should have received a higher honour.
"I am sure Jimmy knew that his real honour lay in the satisfaction of doing his best for Manchester. Jimmy was an honest and honourable man of great integrity and should be recognised as somebody who helped make Manchester a better place."
John Glester, chief executive under Grigor at CMDC, said: "I first met Jimmy in 1986 when I was regional controller of the Department of Environment and he was involved with a group of manufacturers on Trafford Park.
"He was a strong protagonist and one of the more intellectual members of the manufacturing community but it was inappropriate for him to get involved in the Trafford Park development Corporation board as he was conflicted as a local occupier."
That conflict did not exist in the city centre, and he was an effective chairman of the CMDC, a planning authority covering 460 acres of the city fringe, for all its eight years. Most other DC chairmen were replaced after three or six years. CMDC attracted in excess of £500m of mainly private sector investment against a target of £200m.
The corporation's legacy includes the £43m Bridgewater Hall, built to replace the Free Trade Hall, which opened in 1996, in turn attracting a further £100m investment around GMEX, now Manchester Central. The CMDC also secured the relocation of the British Council to Manchester and paid for canals to be repaired years before urban waterways were widely recognised as a fundamental part of regeneration planning.
Glester added: "Jimmy had a first class analytical brain but brought that to bear in quite an assiduous way, holding a firm grip on the board and bringing some big egos around the table together. We made a good team and there was no tension between us as chairman and chief executive which made the board comfortable and positive when it came to securing decisions."
When the CMDC was wound up in 1996, Stringer hosted a dinner in its honour in Manchester Town Hall at which he said the organisation was "in danger of giving quangos a good name."
Grigor was later appointed chairman of the Royal Northern College of Music, chairman of Manchester Science Park and chairman of Manchester Museum of Science & Industry.
Grigor was born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire and graduated from Glasgow University in 1952, staying to gain a PhD in 1955. His career began with ICI, where he spent eight years working on rocket propellant research. He later worked with US naval intelligence developing Polaris missiles and, so that he could travel around the airforce bases freely and request a military flight at short notice, the rank of brigadier general was conferred on him at the age of 28.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease five years ago but, said his daughter Jen Grigor, this did not diminish his sharpness or humour. She said: "Dad always was and always will be a total star."
He is survived by his wife Revie and daughter Jen.
- The Grigor family would be pleased to see old friends and colleagues at the funeral at 1.45pm on Wednesday 13 July at St Peter's Prestbury, SK10 4DG.