Manchester is the envy of other UK cities but there are challenges its needs to address. Credit: PNW

MIPIM | Manchester aware of challenges around pace and old offices, leaders say

MIPIM coverage sponsored by TogetherManchester was at MIPIM last week to showcase its ambition and bulging pipeline. However, despite recent successes, the pace at which the authority can deliver is still a source of frustration for its chief executive.

Manchester has a reputation for getting things done. A stable, pro-development city council makes the environment for developers a favourable one.

The list of large regeneration projects that have been completed, are underway, or sitting in the pipeline, is the envy of other UK cities.

As a growing city, Manchester has to deliver on all fronts, but limitations around resources make that tricky to do at speed, according to the city council’s chief executive Joanne Roney.

“There is always the challenge of pace. I think that people would often want to see us doing more faster,” she said at an event on the Manchester stand in Cannes.

In a packed room full of private sector property professionals, Roney expressed a degree of sympathy for developers struggling in the current market.

“I think it’s tough out there for some developers around viability assessments,” she said.

“We asked a lot, don’t we? We ask for net zero contributions, we ask for affordable housing, we want public realm.”

Criticisms around the speed of delivery are par for the course, according to outgoing chief executive Eamonn Boylan.

“There’s a real desire out there to move at pace and we’re often accused of not moving fast enough. That’s a criticism we have to take,” he said.

“We try to move as fast as we can and the urgency to get development underway and deliver in a timely fashion is constant and that’s just reality.”

As well as constraints around the speed of delivery, Roney said another challenge facing the city is what to do with its older commercial stock.

The need to retrofit energy-inefficient offices to bring them in line with looming regulations and meet sustainability targets flies in the face of the reality of the situation; that it is not commercially viable to do so.

“The demand for Grade A commercial space is through the roof. But there is still a big challenge around retrofitting existing commercial [buildings] to get them to net zero standards,” Roney said.

“That’s one of the pieces of work that we’re looking at now…where can the financial support come from to help that retrofitting to protect the commercial estate?”

She added: “Reimagining the system and driving forward the city will of course bring with it challenges. It is all part of the joy of the job.”

One potential solution to the problem of an over-supply of secondary and tertiary office stock would be to convert empty commercial buildings into apartments. This would go some way to boosting the supply of much-needed homes, while simultaneously reducing the amount of sub-standard workspace.

However, an Article 4 directive in Manchester that blocks the office-to-resi permitted development right in the city core stands in the way.

“There is demand for residential versus commercial, I’ve got to protect my commercial estate,” Roney said.

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Heaven’s , if Manchester thinks the pace of development can be too slow what about the rest of the country?

By Ruth

“the problem of an over-supply of secondary and tertiary office stock would be to convert empty commercial buildings into apartments.”
Is there really a problem? The commercial market seems robust enough without interference.

By Wayne Roney

This is confusing, although answers given on the hoof at a Q&A shouldn’t be taken as coherent policy.
I can’t see any sign that the older commercial stock has an issue with lack of demand, and certainly not in the core city centre. Where buildings are sitting empty, it’s generally because it suits the owner to sit on it.
What we are actually talking about in Manchester is developers who could get a higher return on resi conversions, nothing to do with lack of demand for commercial, particularly now technology no longer depends on raised floors for cabling, and aircon to deal with heat from all the desktop PCs and printers. There also need to be space for new, small and creative businesses, which the older stock provides.
Bruntwood have shown what can be done with older buildings, to repeated success, whereas the Liverpool CBD is now full of modern and older blocks chopped up into tiny boxes, and often as dead as any suburb.
And no, MCC has never asked too much from developers, particularly in terms of affordable housing.

By Rotringer

The sheer arrogance of rotrinder defies belief. If he really has all the answers as he suggests he should either be doing it rather than talking about it and thereby making the world better or communicating with manchester and Liverpool councils to help them make better and more informed decisions. We would all benefit from their vast and superior knowledge surely. Come on rotringer don’t keep it too yourself. But no it won’t be true will it so you’d rather sound off here …..yawn

By Save the world

“Save the world” – was I displaying “sheer arrogance” by saying MCC’s policy of maintaining the vitality of the CBD by restricting office-to-resi conversions is a good thing which they shouldn’t be apologising for even if it doesn’t suit some peoples business models, that other cities could learn from this (or have much in the way of a strategy at all) or that MCC asks a perfectly reasonable amount from developers, and even then often doesn’t hold them to it?

By Rotringer

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