MIPIM | Salford’s Merry calls for investment in cities
At the UK Pavilion in Cannes, Salford deputy city mayor Cllr John Merry outlined his ambitions for the week: to show the potential of urban areas and how they relate to their hinterlands.
Merry was the lone Greater Manchester representative speaking at MIPIM in Cannes, but he said no one had latched on to that fact. Instead, the focus was on his role as chair of Key Cities, a collective that includes Blackpool, Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston, Kirklees, Salford, Wrexham and more.
According to Merry, the collective approach makes more sense for MIPIM.
“There’s an interesting debate among a lot of local authorities about the value of coming to MIPIM or not,” he said. “On the whole, I think, coming on behalf of a group of authorities is a sensible way forward. I wouldn’t necessarily come just on behalf of Salford.”
There’s power in bringing together several authorities under one voice.
“I think I’m speaking on behalf of places like Norwich, for example, which wouldn’t be able to necessarily afford to go on their own,” Merry said. “I’m speaking as a collective voice to say, actually, urban areas are really important. And, you know, the government policy in the past has not actually taken sufficient account of that.”
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Merry’s role as an advocate for Key Cities included elaborating on the potential they offer, including when it comes to university partnerships with the private and public sector.
“We’ve got an awful lot of universities that are centres of enterprise,” Merry said. “They tend to be more outwardly focused places like Salford, University of East Anglia – and they tend to be oriented towards working more closely with business.”
Merry predicted that these insitutions will be playing a big role in the country’s evolving energy policy.
“That’s going to be an area that universities are to be working on and more closely with business,” he said.
There is also room for growth in how Key Cities relate to the areas around them, Merry said.
“We have those from the hinterlands who often come to our areas to shop and experience the joy of urban living,” he said. “We’ve got a complex relationship with the areas around us. It’s important we effectively represent them as well.”
While advocating for the cities, Merry did not shy away from talking about the work that needs to be done to make them better.
Chief among those concerns is affordable housing, something that is high on his agenda in Salford.
“What housing we have with the private sector is not good housing in many ways,” he said. “We need to improve the quality of that.”
He also is pushing for investors and developers to think of more than just the younger generations living in cities.
“One of the things I was talking about to people is why can’t elderly people live in city centres? There’s no reason on Earth you couldn’t have sheltered accommodation in the middle of Manchester,” Merry told Place. “And, actually, for a lot of people of a certain age, it might be quite fun to just be able to pop to the shops and to have accommodation as well.
“I think we’ve got to do a lot more in terms of developing cities, but I think we’re on the right track.”
Place North West MIPIM 2022 coverage is sponsored by Castle Green Homes.