MIPIM 2015: Get city into European elite, says Bernstein

As Manchester's 16th outing to MIPIM in Cannes drew to a close, Place North West met with Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, to talk powerhouses, devolution, and the importance of the city's presence at the most significant property market event of the year.

With Manchester's MIPIM delegation the biggest ever with 76 organisations on board and many more making their own way, Bernstein said that there had been a lot of interest in what Manchester was delivering.

He said: "This year has been a graphic example of the level of leadership of our place. Investors have said to me that they have never seen an analysis of the market and proactivity on this scale before."

Among his public engagements, Bernstein represented Manchester at a Northern Powerhouse event alongside Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Each city seemed keen to promote its own development opportunities, but Bernstein had been restrained when it came to the Manchester pipeline.

When asked if he thought it would be possible for regional cities to put aside their own priorities and unite as one, Bernstein acknowledged that the boundaries needed to be defined.

"The key requirement is for us to create a new framework in which cities can be planned and grown. The Northern Powerhouse is a whole brand with a whole range of initiatives underneath.

"Joint ventures into research into advanced materials, life sciences and technologies will demonstrate what we can do, but we need to build a new collaborative model," he explained.

Bernstein outlined what he felt was still needed from the Government to support Northern growth, which was "a consistent incentivised regime, which drives growth, is a clear agreement on our strategic focus, with an integrated approach to deliver it. And we need to work through this framework with the Government in the next couple of months."

He said his goal was to have full fiscal devolution in Manchester in the next five years, but before that time he felt the city needed to develop its "confidence, competencies and collaboration" in order to take full advantage of what that could offer.

To any critics of the local authority's presence at MIPIM, which has been under scrutiny more in 2015 than in previous years due to the increased scale of the conference, Bernstein's message was clear. "At the end of the day, we want Manchester to be a world-class city. To do that, we demand investment from traditional sources and from overseas. We need to go where the investment is – they won't come to us.

"We can build success only by promoting and marketing the city and telling the story so people join our crusade, to make Manchester one of the best cities in Europe."

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