Manchester builds bridges with Peel after Mersey clash

Geoff Muirhead, former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group and chairman of the Atlantic Gateway strategic board, has been asked by Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership to "help in rebuilding links with Peel".

In February, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority decided not to support a regional call to prioritise Peel Group's mega-scheme planned for derelict dockland in Liverpool and Wirral, which has planning consent from both Merseyside authorities. The LEP supports other major projects along the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal within the ambitious Atlantic Gateway masterplan, which are mainly but not exclusively Peel Group schemes. The Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus in Halton, for instance, is not a Peel scheme but is counted as an Atlantic Gateway asset and actively supported by GM LEP.

Government 'considering an Atlantic Gateway minister'

The LEP says there is not sufficient economic evidence the Mersey Waters aspects of Atlantic Gateway will deliver a net gain to the region and will not harm existing urban centres.

In the papers published ahead of today's GM LEP board meeting the organisation said Muirhead could "help in rebuilding links with Peel regarding the Mersey Waters scheme in order to secure the evidence needed to properly consider the Mersey Waters scheme."

In addition, Manchester's policy think-tank New Economy will "work with the project sponsors to understand the impact of the Mersey Waters scheme on the Greater Manchester economy. The chairman [Mike Blackburn] asked that the Board be updated with the results of this work in May."

Muirhead attended the March GM LEP board meeting but is not a board member. Similarly, representatives from Marketing Manchester, New Economy and other related organisations attend meetings but are not board members.

In the March meeting, Mike Emmerich, chief executive of New Economy, reported that "the Atlantic Gateway Board in November 2011 and the Regional Leaders meeting in December 2011 had been asked to support Liverpool and Wirral Waters (Mersey Waters) scheme as new projects within the Atlantic Gateway. He added that the GM Combined Authority in February decided it could not support the Mersey Waters schemes as priority for Atlantic Gateway until it could be satisfied with the evidence base behind the scheme and proof that the scheme could deliver net value to the region as a whole."

The March minutes continued: "Mike Emmerich informed members that the New Economy was asked to work with the sponsor of the schemes and Atlantic Gateway Board to test the information and evidence available to establish if the schemes were of a sub-regional significance. He highlighted the fact that it was important to maintain momentum with the Atlantic Gateway and thanked Geoff Muirhead for his support.

"Geoff Muirhead updated the Board on progress made by the Atlantic Gateway Board. A business plan had been produced and circulated to LEP Members and this contained a list of projects. The Atlantic Gateway Board hoped to have an Executive Director in post by end of April. In terms of governance a board was now in place with the three northwest LEPs as key drivers. He added that Atlantic Gateway was not a business and schemes would be developed through the LEPs. The LEP was informed that the government were actively seeking engagement on Atlantic Gateway and were considering the appointment of a Minister.

"The following issues were raised by the Board that the GMCA's request to develop a more robust evidence on the scheme's impact on GM was reasonable and that the LEP should support this request."

Emmerich added that New Economy would "scope the evidence requirements to meet the LEP and Greater Manchester Combined Authority's needs and that it would be helpful if Geoff Muirhead could broker discussions with the scheme sponsors."

Peel declined to comment.

Your Comments

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Maybe it’d be a good idea to have some sort of regional body which can help guide development to the benefit of the whole region. It’d need to be backed up with a regional planning strategy too. Wait a minute…

By East-side

Too many cooks, defensive political posturing, historical (hysterical ?) enmities and lack of wide-angle vision ? Liverpool has the key to open the Region’s door to the Chinese market, not Manchester…

By Omnibus

To recap this is about the prioritising of public funding to pump prime the development of a load of apartments and office space in a place where neither is in particularly short supply. Let’s not get lose sight of what Liverpool Waters is: a cynical device by Peel to bolster the value of their land bank and capture what little public funding there is available to support their aims. If there was irrefutable evidence for its economic value to the region, then I’m sure an organisation of Peel’s considerable means could pull it together. But the fact is the the evidence isn’t there, therefore the scheme should not be an "Atlantic Gateway" priority.

By Peel watch

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