Burnham’s big ideas
No, it’s not the Death Star, but a vision of Greater Manchester’s transport network over the next 10 years. Already teased earlier this year as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, Mayor Andy Burnham has now put some more meat on the bones of what’s dubbed Our Network, a wide-ranging transport plan for the region taking in bikes, tram-trains, buses, and much more besides. In simple terms, it’s a London-style model of integrated transport: GM Rail is like the London Overground, a “Boris Bike” style cycling scheme is being put forward, and we’ll be getting contactless on the Metrolink very soon. Bus franchising is also high up the agenda. All very welcome and not before time, it’s great to see some ambition, and making journeys easier across GM should be a priority, as anyone who’s ever tried to get from Salford to Stockport can attest. However, like a lot of these things, it needs the Government to put its hand in its pocket and devolve some funding: anyone else looking forward to a potential Boris-Burnham bunfight?
Local elections always bring casualties with them, and this month has been no different. Two of the biggest have been sporting affairs: the largest is at Hoylake, where Wirral Council is due to vote on pulling a loan package which was set to support the £200m Celtic Manor golf resort. It’s not a surprise that councillors have changed their tune; always controversial, the resort had enjoyed support from council leader Cllr Phil Davies and Cllr Angie Davies, but with the latter losing her seat and the former stepping down, the future of the scheme is unclear with objectors stepping up their campaign to pull council backing. Further north in Workington, it looks to be curtains for a proposed stadium, set to host Rugby League World Cup games in 2021. Like in Wirral, councillors have now decided it would be too risky financially to support the scheme. A baby of the former Labour administration, booted out in May, the project now looks to be dead. Who said politicians never get anything done?
Best laid plans
Another week, another masterplan for Liverpool: this month saw not one but two move forward with the council’s consultation on its commercial business district in full swing, while the rebranded Knowledge Quarter Gateway, now known as Upper Central, is set to launch. Along with masterplans for the Baltic Triangle, the Cavern Quarter, Liverpool Waters, the waterfront museums, and the University of Liverpool – as well as existing ones including Paddington Village, along with a tall buildings policy – the city certainly isn’t hanging about when it comes to setting out its vision. And the good news is that these are being broadly welcomed; in a city where controversy has loomed large over some of the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing office-to-residential conversions, for example, it’s good news the city is stepping in to provide a guiding hand as to what should be built and where. There will be plenty of public consultations to come on most of these, so get your thinking caps on.
A show of hands
Who’d be on a planning committee? The endless rigmarole and minutiae of planning may keep us with plenty to talk about, but sometimes, the whole process makes you scratch your head. Case in point, Oldham’s planning committee yesterday, where several controversial schemes were discussed. While Russells Homes’ plans for a 265-property scheme off Knowls Lane grabbed the headlines, other proposals brought the fireworks too, not least around proposals for 27 homes at Pearly Bank. Watching the live stream, it’s fair to say the meeting’s conclusion descended into farce, with a vote having to take place three times, while the planning process was explained to the committee’s chair in detail, before the scheme was ultimately approved following several miscounts of who’d voted for what. Cue much arm-throwing and heckling from the public gallery, and sometimes, you can’t really blame them.
Fly with me
Manchester Airport has been in the spotlight over the past month for both what’s going on inside and out. Progress updates have been pouring in from Icon, where The Hut Group has kicked off the first part of its mega-campus by starting its £150m logistics hub. The online beauty retailer is also going to be joined by more tenants with 100,000 sq ft of industrial space also being taken on by a catering provider. For a site that’s taken a good while to get going, it’s certainly welcome news that the pace seems to be ramping up, and hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the first deals for new-build offices at Airport City are hitting the headlines. But what of the airport itself? The announcement of a decidedly local flavour to its new food and drink offering in Terminal 2 actually sounds decent: a line-up that sounds decidedly “Ancoats-y” with Seven Brothers Brewery, a Holt’s brewpub, and Pot Kettle Black will certainly be welcomed by those of us who’ve braved the bar in Terminal 3 recently. Just sort out the security queues and the parking and we might be on to a winner.