Manchester City Council’s planning development manager Dave Roscoe has dismissed the idea that the council has a set of “favoured” architects, stating it “has no control whatsoever over who people choose to use as architects or planning consultants”.
Roscoe responded to a question from the audience at Place North West’s Place RESI 2018 conference, which asked whether the council would still be using “its favoured architects” following changes to its leadership in the last 12 months.
Manchester City Council has previously been criticised for supposedly preferring certain architects and consultants, such as SimpsonHaugh and Hodder + Partners, to deliver high-profile projects in the city centre.
The last 12 months have seen various changes to the senior team at the council, most prominently the retirement of Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive for 19 years.
However, Roscoe said he “did not recognise” the idea that the council insisted on using specific architects, and added: “Manchester City Council has no control whatsoever over who people choose to use for architects or planning consultants, and it would be wholly inappropriate to tell people who they should and shouldn’t use in preparing their documentation.
“The challenge we’ve always had is that they need to use people who are equipped and skilled who can deliver schemes of the quality that Manchester needs,” he said.
“Generally speaking you only get good architecture from good architects; so the challenge that we’ve thrown out to developers is that they should surround themselves with high-quality designers and consultant teams.
“We really value our design community and we encourage teams from around the country, Europe and the world to get involved.”
Following Bernstein’s retirement, his role has been split out among senior council figures. Strategic development director Eddie Smith is now one of the council’s leads on property. Meanwhile, director of housing Paul Beardmore retired last month after 42 years working in the city region’s local government.
At the RESI event, Roscoe also called for more funding for planning departments across the country, and despite the Government increasing planning fees by 20%, said funding was “no way near” enough to fully support the planning process.
Manchester City Council has recently been criticised in the national media for a perceived lack of affordable housing in the city centre, but Roscoe said there had been “a lot of misunderstanding” about how many affordable homes were provided across the borough. He said there were 1,000 homes under construction, and funding for a further 1,500 over the next five years.
“One in three homes in the city is social rented – that’s the highest proportion of existing stock in the country,” he said.
“Three-quarters are in council tax band A and B. As a base position, there’s a huge amount of affordable housing in the city. That doesn’t mean we don’t need more – we do – and we need housing from affordable, to mid-range, to very expensive.”