A Monty Python-esque moment, when a Government press release landed heralding Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership as the first LEP to become a Northern Powerhouse partner. “So they’re joining the Northern Powerhouse Partnership?” We enquired. “George Osborne’s thing? Oh no, that’s separate,” came the response. Riiiiight. The partnership, talked up by Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy, is 30 organisations strong, and not to be confused with Osborne’s “Partnership”, a more boutique-style set-up. Remember this, next time politicians declare they’re giving us “clarity”.
This week’s Autumn Statement brought forth plenty about housing, with Chancellor Philip Hammond promising £7bn for the sector through a variety of fancy-sounding but vaguely explained funding streams. A policy already in place was housing zones – yes, housing zones – and this month has seen three North West sites added to what’s now a 26-strong national list. They’re in Blackburn, Burnley, and with a crushing inevitability, Wirral Waters, which is also of course classed as an Enterprise Zone. Maybe it should have its own flag.
L&G has taken a deep breath and is to open a consultation on its £10m plans for Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, which remains a remarkably well-used space considering all the half-informed shrieking that goes on about how terrible it is. Repeated cries of “but the obstructions are still there!” remain to be heard from some quarters, pointing at the extended café blocks that will replace the concrete wall, not quite grasping the fact that L&G haven’t paid money for the site just to remove income-producing assets and offer up a clear view of some buses. Nice idea, though. More lighting, quality materials and more management make sense here. At last.
Ikea over ‘ere
Hearts a-flutter in Lancashire, where Ikea has picked out Cuerden, a 160-acre City Deal site controlled by Lancashire County Council, Eric Wright and Brookhouse near Bamber Bridge, as the potential spot for its third North West store. It’s a whopping site to get away, so hopefully the “Ikea effect” can help; the Swedish brand is undeniably a major draw. For all Warrington’s recent economic successes, having an Ikea is still in the top three things most people know about the Cheshire town, along with Mr Smith’s and Rick Astley, of course.
Water cock up
Oh, Cheshire East! Not only has this month seen Communities Secretary Sajid Javid step in to rule against the council in two housing appeals, but now approved plans to create a £1.6m watersports park near Chelford have been “unapproved”. The latest in a catalogue of errors involved a technicality meaning the scheme had to go to committee a third time, only this time before new members without the benefit of a site visit. And we’re back to square one, to the understandable consternation of applicant Cheshire Lakes Community Interest Company. A poor local planning authority has sunk to a new low.
A WAXI surface
Manchester Water Taxis deserves to be a success, not least because entrepreneur Steve Cadwell has been plugging away for years with it, finally taking to the seas (well, canal) earlier this month. The first match trip to Old Trafford was scheduled for last night’s game with Feyenoord, which is one way to avoid the, ahem, exuberant traveling fans. Hopefully Cadwell’s vision for the big riverside sites in town – Spinningfields, New Bailey, Victoria – to be linked once the Ordsall Chord works are realised. Still can’t get behind the name WAXI though; is “waxy” ever a good thing?