‘Feisty’ Manchester will emerge fighting from pandemic
Investment in science, research and technology will fuel Manchester’s post-Covid revival and cement its position as “the UK’s premier growth city”, said Louise Wyman, development director at the council, as it prepares to launch an economic recovery plan.
“We know we are the best city in the UK for resilience, supported by our diverse economy and ability to bounce back from adversity, and this is our blueprint for powering recovery after the shock of the pandemic,” Wyman told Place North West.
Wyman, who joined Manchester City Council as strategic director of growth and development in July, said she had been “blown away” by Manchester’s strong political leadership and “phenomenal” business community, which have “pulled together in a shared ambition to not let the city fall down”.
“We’re a feisty bunch here and I know we will continue to be active, out and proud in our efforts to fight for Manchester and its people,” she said.
The detailed economic strategy, entitled Powering Recovery: Manchester’s Recovery and Investment Plan and due to be published later today, has been developed by Manchester City Council with the support of local business leaders.
It maps opportunities to exploit high-growth sectors, in particular ramping up delivery of pipeline property and regeneration schemes that drive innovation in health, science and technology – such as the redevelopment of the North Manchester hospital into a health and wellbeing ‘campus’ – as well as projects to improve the city centre and its public realm and support the cultural and creative industries.
The plan sets out an immediate funding boost for people and businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 slowdown, and a longer term investment strategy featuring a list of £800m of schemes the council deems worthy of funding from central Government.
The early actions include a £36m-a-year programme to support 12,000 people over the next two years. This includes helping people stay in education to improve qualifications and skills, supporting self-employment, and providing training for people in high-demand areas, such as digital skills. More than 4,000 businesses in the digital sector have set up in Manchester since March alone, according to Wyman.
A minimum of 15% of the proposed £36m would be focused on supporting the green economy.
The longer term, “game changing” investment propositions, for which the council is seeking Whitehall funding, cover 50 projects of various sizes split across four categories. These are:
- North Manchester regeneration – two existing schemes, the 15,000-home Northern Gateway masterplan, and the redevelopment of North Manchester General Hospital into a £600 “healthy living campus”, a framework which was signed off by the council last month
- Innovation – the University of Manchester’s proposed £1.5bn ID Manchester for the procurement process to find a development partner has restarted with a decision expected in the spring, as well as complementary innovation parks in the north and south, including Manchester Manufacturing Innovation Park, to help the city become a ‘superhub’ for science, technology and health research & development.
- City centre/urban realm: projects to support further growth and attract more businesses through enhanced public spaces and greener travel options
- Residential retrofit programme: a £260m four-year council-led initiative to retrofit the first 14,000 of Manchester’s 68,000 social homes to make them more energy efficient and cut carbon emissions.
The full list of investment asks is detailed here.
The strategy is being officially unveiled by the city council shortly after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review announcement today. Wyman told Place North West that the city council would first digest the announcement with a fine toothcomb and work out where it could expect to receive funding as a result.
Next, it will compile a formal bid for additional support from Whitehall based on the above propositions.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester’s economy has been disrupted by the impacts of the pandemic but our ambitions for a more inclusive and greener economy are undiminished.
“We recognise that there are people and businesses that have been badly affected by the economic downturn and are doing everything in our power to cushion the worst impacts. Yet even amid these challenges there are grounds for real belief in the prospects for a strong recovery.
“Manchester has the foundations and building blocks to re-establish its previous [growth] momentum. As well as an array of business talent, we have a pipeline of game-changing projects with the potential to power the recovery.
“This is a city ready and able to play a leading role in the ‘levelling up’ agenda.”
Chris Oglesby, chief executive of developer Bruntwood and chair of Manchester’s independent Business Sounding Board, a collection of local firms representing a variety of industry sectors, said: “Manchester has come a long way over the last 30 years and Covid has really accelerated the need for us to move forwards. We have to balance honesty about the challenges with justifiable confidence in the future.”
The recovery plan builds on the council’s existing Our Manchester Industrial Strategy, and the target to become a zero-carbon city by 2038.