Castlefield Wharf 2 Manchester C.JoeGardner
Viability of development is explored in detail in the paper. Credit: Place North West

Manchester considers net zero new-build rule by 2023

The council has cautiously welcomed bold proposals from the city’s climate change partnership ahead of an autumn-winter consultation on the refreshed local plan.

Manchester Climate Change Partnership’s Net Zero Carbon New Build Policy Document, published in July, was written jointly by a public-private group that included the city council. But the findings have a way to go before they become policy.

While welcoming the recommendations, the council stopped short of agreeing to incorporate them into the draft local plan. Instead, the ideas put forward will be considered alongside other consultation feedback and suggestions.


The climate change partnership’s document sets out a proposal that to meet the city’s plan to be zero carbon by 2038, all new buildings in the city from 2023 should be zero carbon in themselves without use of offsetting or a carbon tax.

A task group of private, public and third sector representatives was brought together to develop the policy. The group was chaired by Stephen O’Malley, director of Civic Engineers, supported by John Alker, formerly of the UK Green Building Council and now head of sustainability at Legal & General. It also explored the enabling issues of finance and skills with key contributions from the banking and education sector. Also involved were developers Muse, Urban Splash and Bruntwood.

Mike Wilton, chair of Manchester Climate Change Partnership and head of the Manchester office of Arup, said: “I am confident that there is an appetite amongst the development community to respond positively to the proposed ‘Manchester Standard’. The policy document has been well received and a good deal of expertise, experience and professional rigour has been applied in producing a ground-breaking piece of work that will continue to enhance Manchester’s leadership in addressing the pressing issue of climate change.”

During the autumn, Wilton said dialogue will continue with “all those involved in commissioning new buildings in the city” to refine and start implementing the proposed Manchester Standard.

Timescale for refreshed Manchester Local Plan

Late 2021 / early 2022 – release and consult on potential policy directions

Mid 2022 – consultation on draft local plan

Late 2022 to spring 2023 – examination

Summer / autumn 2023 – plan adopted

Wilton added: “The partnership understands that there is still a journey to be undertaken from declaring an innovative policy statement to implementing it in practice and see it embedded as a mainstream standard for all new domestic and non-domestic new build property. The task group will therefore maintain its commitment and work collaboratively with Manchester City Council officers to promote the policy as the new local plan is developed and issued for consultation.”

Cllr Luthfur Rahman, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester is committed to becoming a zero-carbon city. The partnership’s roadmap, including the proposed Manchester New Build Standard, is a welcome contribution to the important discussion about how we will achieve this goal.

The issue of climate change will be at the heart of the forthcoming refresh of the Manchester Local Plan. We will look at how our planning and development system can support zero carbon objectives, and we will consider the partnership’s proposals as part of this process.”

The organisations who collaborated to produce the recommendations were Aecom, Arup, BDP, Buro Happold, Bruntwood, Civic Engineers, Cundall, Faithful + Gould, Laing O’Rourke, Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, Muse, NatWest Group, Turley, UKGBC, Urban Splash, and WSP.

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Manchester City Council will literally enact these policies and then approve a 400-space car park next to a school the next day. It’s all hollow words to them – if they spent as much time actually fighting climate change as they do trying to get Pat Karney onto the front page of the MEN, we’d be a zero-carbon city by now.

By Anonymous

This is an excellent proposal whose time has come to enact. Operational carbon has been embedded in architectural and engineering education for decades, and forward-thinking companies have already adopted tools and standards for calculating and reducing embodied carbon in practice. The proposed 2023 standards are not particularly onerous and I think it would be perfectly reasonable to enact them as policy, giving companies 5 years to warm up for designing actual low-carbon buildings from 2028.

It would also be good to see local and national policies relating to re-use of old buildings, and limiting unnecessary or inefficient developments. The lowest impact building is the one you do not build at all.

By W

It is nothing more than empty gestures. Ugly skyscrapers and unaffordable rents prevail.

By Nimble nimbley

Imagine if the government hadn’t scrapped the Zero Carbon Homes and the Code for Sustainable Homes standards as part of their ill-conceived ‘bonfire of red tape’ in the mid 2010s. Without wanting to get too political, it’s rather typical short-term, race-to-the-bottom thinking from the Conservative party that the latest administration, faced with the escalating climate crisis is now belatedly trying to rectify.

Well done MCC in taking the initiative on this issue too. Once again, we’re seeing the value of strong local government, covering for the typically dysfunctional Westminster rabble.

By Anon

The time to act is now. Manchester needs to do this.

By Mancunian

Great way to kill growth and jobs.

By Anonymous

Manchester should be concentrating on renovating its old warehouses and industrial buildings rather than throwing up modern glass boxes, I think.
Manchester has an industrial past and should be using this as a strength, rather than trying to be London’s mini-me; which fails abysmally.

By Liverpool romance

The one thing which I notice about Manchester is the way the demographics have changed over the last forty years. The people are more dynamic, more educated and more ambitious. I suppose like London, success attracts people of that calibre and local people with gumption don’t have to move away to realise their potential.

By Elephant

RIP The Manchester construction boom, get that crane count to zero guys, cut the council services further, close the schools and hospitals, there’s no money but we got the emissions down yay!


There’s absolutely no point in creating jobs and growth, having loads of cranes and development, if air pollution makes the city dangerous to live in and climate change continues unabated. Development for its own sake is pointless, skyscrapers aren’t a virtue for their own sake either.

Any positive action MCC take on this stuff is great, obviously there’s a lot of work to do but good on them. The “Get it built!” crowd need to really have a think

By Alex

We all know MCC like to use big words but rarely follow through – this is just MCC’s latest attempt to get into the press, they don’t actually intend on doing anything to help the environment. They’ll probably approve another car park tomorrow.

By Anonymous