Greater Manchester Combined Authority is likely to vote against a proposal by the new Atlantic Gateway Board to prioritise Liverpool and Wirral Waters as major projects for economic growth, unless there is more 'robust evidence' in their favour.
A paper put to the executive board meeting of the GM Combined Authority in Oldham on Friday morning was written by Mike Emmerich, chief executive of GM policy think-tank New Economy, and Barbara Spicer, chief executive of Salford City Council. The pair responded to a request from the Atlantic Gateway Board to elevate Peel Group's Liverpool and Wirral Waters as 'major projects' within Atlantic Gateway.
The Atlantic Gateway Board is a public-private group made up of local authority officers, councillors, private sector advisors, and chaired by former Manchester Airport boss Geoff Muirhead. The board, which includes representatives from Greater Manchester, was formed in late 2011 to promote large infrastructure and innovation projects (see below for list of board members) planned for the area around the River Mersey, Manchester Ship Canal and hinterland. Many but not all of the projects are proposed by Peel Group. Others promoted include Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus and Northern Hub rail expansion.
Emmerich and Spicer recommend that "the [GM] Combined Authority does not support [Peel's] Wirral and Liverpool Waters schemes as priority projects for Atlantic Gateway until it can be satisfied" on three points. The points are:
a) There is a robust evidence base to confirm market demand for such a significant amount of grade A commercial floor-space outside any city centre
b) It can be clearly demonstrated that the projects will deliver net added value to the region as a whole, across all three LEP areas
c) There is a clear deliverable investment plan in place that shows the level of private investment involved, and considers the costs and benefits of any public investment that may be required including infrastructure support
The report goes on: "The Combined Authority is concerned to ensure that at a time when public investment to support priorities is likely to be severely constrained, that the focus is on those projects which really can contribute to the region's GVA at the minimum cost to the public purse.
"It will work constructively with the scheme sponsors and the Atlantic Gateway Board to test the information and the evidence base to establish whether Wirral and Liverpool Waters should be identified as projects of more than sub-regional significance, and thus major projects for Atlantic Gateway to support."
Manchester City Council and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities have objected previously on similar economic grounds.
Liverpool Waters, currently pending planning and subject to opposition from English Heritage, would cover 150 acres of dockland north of the city centre. Wirral Waters has outline planning consent and envisages more than 6m sq ft of mixed-use development in Birkenhead docklands.
Peel declined to comment.
The board members of Atlantic Gateway are:
- Geoff Muirhead, private sector
- Dennis Bate, private sector
- John Downes, private sector
- Peter Nears, private sector
- Martin Douglas, private sector
- Roger Milburn, private sector and Greater Manchester LEP
- Steve O'Connor, private and Liverpool City Region LEP
- Martin Ashcroft, private and Cheshire & Warrington LEP
- Walter Menzies, voluntary sector – environmental representative
- Cllr John Merry, public sector, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
- Cllr Rob Polhill , public sector, Liverpool City Region
- Cllr Terry O'Neill , public sector – Cheshire and Warrington