Putting placemaking at heart of Northern Powerhouse


It’s a little over five years since the then Chancellor George Osborne delivered his famous Northern Powerhouse speech at Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum.

He promised to turn northern cities into a ‘powerhouse’, particularly through transport investment and devolution.

Five years later it’s fair to say the Northern Powerhouse has stalled. Mr Osborne is no longer a politician; Brexit has dominated the agenda; and the North remains the poor relation compared to the South when it comes to major infrastructure investment.

Henri Murison

Henri Murison

All of which highlights the approach taken in Rochdale to stimulate development and put business at the heart of its placemaking agenda.

Rochdale Development Agency recently joined forces with pro-manchester, the largest business development organisation in the North West, to hold a sold out event entitled ‘What now for the Northern Powerhouse?

One of the speakers was Henri Murison, who is a director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. NPP was launched in September 2016 to represent the voice of business and civic leaders and is chaired by Mr Osborne.

Murison highlighted the work in Rochdale and its vibrant business sector, explaining that successful placemaking was vital to a successful Northern Powerhouse.

“If we can unlock SME growth that will drive the Northern economy,” he said. “Economic growth is driven by people. You put that equation together and make a real impact on the ground then individual schemes can be part of a wider story that enables people in those communities to see how it will benefit them and their kids.

“If you can tell that story right you get the level of buy-in you need to do the brave things that we know are necessary if we’re going change Rochdale and the North for the better.”

Murison said Rochdale benefited from its association with Greater Manchester. “The Greater Manchester story is already known across the world,” he said: “You go to MIPIM for instance and you see people talking about placemaking and communities like Rochdale and their businesses and the sites there are absolutely at the top of the list for great opportunities for people to invest in.

“The challenge is, as we move forward, how do we make ourselves even more attractive and better known in key markets like China and India? The way you do that is by taking that Northern brand, which we know resonates in those places.”

One of the other speakers at the event was Rochdale Borough Council’s chief executive Steve Rumbelow, who has just celebrated his fifth anniversary in post.

He’s passionate about making businesses a part of the council’s placemaking agenda but also spoke about the importance of the £80m Rochdale Riverside retail development and plans to build around 2,000 news homes in the town centre.

Henri Panel

From left: Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership; Sue Douthwaithe, small and medium business director at Clydesdale & Yorkshire Banks; Steve Rumbelow, chief executive, Rochdale Borough Council

“We’ve got a wide range of businesses, many of whom don’t really promote what they’re up to and just get on with it,” he said. “That’s great on one level but one of the things that brings companies to invest in the place is knowing there are other businesses doing the business there as well.”

In terms of the Rochdale Riverside scheme, which is currently under construction, he said: “The council has played a key role in de-risking that and getting it over the line. We’ve been trying to move that forward for quite some time so we decided the only way to get that done was for the council to re-risk it.

“That’s the last part in a £250m investment in the town centre. We’re now starting a further £150m investment. It’s taking us to the next level. The key to that is having residential housing in the town centre. We have plans for about 2,000 homes.”

  • The other speakers at the ‘What now for the Northern Powerhouse?’ event were Danny Simpson, managing director of MID Communications; Nicola Weedall, founder of Autopaid; Sarfaraz Akram, Chief Operating Officer, Lancashire Farm Dairies; and Sue Douthwaithe, Small and Medium Business Director at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks.

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