MIPIM | Themes from Cannes in 2023
MIPIM 2023 has drawn to a close. Here is a rundown of the themes that drove a week of discussion and debate in the South of France.
These days, MIPIM is less about announcing large building projects and more about the impact of the built environment on the wider economy. You could not walk more than a few steps inside the bunker without overhearing a conversation or panel discussion about inclusive growth.
But what does that mean? In short, it means people. It means regenerating and developing in a holistic way, targeting down-at-heel areas in order to improve the prospects of those that live there and encouraging others to do so. Think affordable housing in district centres, supercharged connectivity between towns, and a focus on diversity and wellbeing. It is about bringing everyone on the regeneration journey.
Salford City Council chief executive Tom Stannard spoke about the opportunity the city’s growing population presents. Salford is actively tackling its “tale of two cities” reputation by focussing on the tired town centres of Eccles and Swinton, among others, he said. Homes England is on board with the inclusive growth agenda, too. Jackie Rigby, head of affordable housing and place coordination at the government agency, made all the right noises at a panel on the Manchester stand. “We are here if you want to work with us”, she said “We want inclusive cities and are here to respond to local needs.”
Liverpool’s new era
MIPIM attendees Place North West spoke to were impressed with the city council’s new development duo Nuala Gallagher and Sophie Bevan. Their appointments were announced recently and the fact that they do not start in post until later this month did not stop them from travelling out to Cannes to get the ball rolling; a move that was praised by delegates. Cllr Liam Robinson, the likely future leader of the city council, was also there, further demonstrating that the authority is aligned on development and regeneration.
Meetings between the next generation of Liverpool leaders and key stakeholders elicited positive feedback and a feeling of optimism for the future of the city after its well-publicised difficulties. Outgoing interim regeneration director Mark Bourgeois spoke glowingly of Gallagher and Bevan, insisting the city can expect a bright future.
HS2 and connectivity
How we travel between places was high up on the list of key topics at this year’s MIPIM. Gary Neville said the idea of scrapping the London to Manchester leg of HS2 was “interesting”, adding that the money earmarked for the project should be handed to Northern leaders to spend on improving local networks. This idea may also appeal to people from Leigh.
A Place panel about levelling up within Greater Manchester brought the Wigan town under the spotlight. Leigh has no train station and is not on the Metrolink network and should be one of the first places to benefit from any turbocharged approach to connectivity within the conurbation, according to the council’s chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan.
For some, the Cannes sunshine was not enough to help them forget the current state of the transport system they left behind in the UK. One transport planner told Place that connectivity in Greater Manchester compared to the rest of Europe is “horrendous”. Anyone who has had to travel between Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool recently will probably agree. An extra £8.8bn of sustainable transport funding for city regions announced in the Budget, and a commitment as part of the devolution deal to deliver the Bee Network in full, will have been a welcome salve to commuters’ ire.
The chancellor’s Budget was eagerly anticipated and left everyone feeling pleasantly surprised on Wednesday, not least those councils who were awarded Levelling Up Fund cash that they had previously been told they would not be getting seemingly out of the blue. The big-ticket item, from a Greater Manchester and West Midlands perspective, a cash injection and increased powers. The combined authorities became the first areas to be granted so-called “trailblazer” devolution deals. The devil, as ever, will be in the detail, but the government valued the agreements at around £1bn. Leaders across GM agreed Wednesday was a “good day” but there was no getting carried away. “It won’t be enough, but it is a start,” said Joanne Roney, Manchester City Council’s chief executive.
Liverpool was one of a dozen locations earmarked as a future investment zone, part of Jeremy Hunt’s vision to deliver “12 Canary Wharfs”. The city was grateful for the award, which could amount to an investment of around £80m.
At an investment dinner on the evening of the Budget – during which Lord Johnson, minister of state in the Department for Business and Trade, gave an energetic speech about the many ways the government had helped places like Liverpool – Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram thanked the government. But what exactly an investment zone is, remains vague.
What we know so far is that they will benefit from tax breaks, much like a Freeport, and that areas will have to discuss their plans with government before being given the green light. Each area must also decide what industry the investment zone is going to focus on, be it life sciences, advanced manufacturing, or something else. Multiple sites are ok, multiple industries probably won’t fly, one insider told Place. This could create problems politically, as individual areas specialising in different disciplines make their case to be part of the investment zone.
In the past, MIPIM has been criticised for a lack of diversity. While saying that the property industry has cracked that particular conundrum would be stretching the truth, this year’s edition of the festival was viewed by many that Place North West spoke to as the most diverse yet; several commentators said that the number of female delegates in attendance was much higher than in previous years. The public sector is very much leading the way on this – just look at Manchester and Liverpool’s senior directorates – but the private sector is also seemingly getting its act together, thanks in part to the MIPIM Lads Twitter account, which spent the week calling companies out on the issue.
Eyebrows were raised when Manchester opted not to attend MIPIM in 2022. Some criticised the decision and deemed it inward-looking, while Manchester said the event had come a little too soon following the upheaval of the pandemic. The return of the city and wider region to Cannes in 2023 was welcomed, not least because it provided a base for Manchester folk who had been left bereft by the lack of a central hub last year. Having lost its previous spot on the beach to CBRE, the Manchester presence was located just next door in a smaller but perfectly serviceable space overlooking its comparatively dishevelled-looking former MIPIM home. More of the same next year?
The green agenda has dominated MIPIM in recent years. In 2023, it was still high up on the agenda, but there was a sense that sustainability has been embedded to such an extent that it was not necessary to bang the drum quite so hard this year. In short, building in a more environmentally friendly way is now a given, “hardwired into everything” as Avison Young’s Chris Cheap put it. Let’s hope this is true, and that the property industry is not being complacent about the importance of progressing the green agenda.
For all the positivity in Cannes last week, there was undoubtedly a feeling of trepidation in the air about what might be coming over the horizon. MIPIM 2023 was many people’s first since 2019 and a lot has happened in the intervening years. Who could have predicted a global pandemic? Who could have envisaged the chaos wrought by Liz Truss’s catastrophic mini-budget? A war in Europe!? Such events have left scars, and the property industry is still feeling the pain. Albeit with a brave face.
Place North West MIPIM 2023 coverage is sponsored by Together.