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After 25 years of Leese-led Manchester, the arrival of Bev Craig naturally caused anxieties. Credit: Manchester City Council

The Subplot | Five reasons to love Bev Craig, film studios, coliving

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THIS WEEK

  • Bev Craig: five reasons you’re going to love her
  • Elevator Pitch: your weekly run down of who’s heading to the penthouse, and who’s hitting the -1 button

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YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND?

Five reasons why you’re going to love Bev Craig

Barely a week into her new job as the recently-installed leader of Manchester City Council, Craig has prompted curiosity, and a little anxiety, from some in the property business. Sir Richard’s departure spooked them.

But the mostly left-leaning fortysomething men and women that run the Manchester property business have nothing to fear.

In fact, this is what they’ve been waiting for.

After 25 years of Leese-led Manchester, the arrival of Burnage Cllr Bev Craig naturally caused anxieties. Was this a hard-left takeover of the famously soft-left and pragmatic council? Were the thwarted Corbynite backbenchers in the Labour Group taking control? Here are five reasons to relax.

It’s early days

The two month grace period between election as Labour leader and taking over control gave Leese, and senior officials, a chance to introduce the enthusiastic newcomer to some hard realities, and her rhetoric has become more nuanced since 5 October. Skyscrapers have been praised, the city centre lauded as an engine of growth. The pragmatic lets-get-things-done approach that has served Manchester well in Whitehall will remain. The local-shops-for-local-people Royston Vasey feel of the early days is gone.

On message

Craig is on-message in another way because, like Tory archenemy Michael Gove, she wants to level-up, only her target is within the City of Manchester. The Rochdale Road and Ashton New Road corridors, Beswick, Clayton, and Wythenshawe have all been left behind. This holds Manchester as a whole back, and even the hardest-hearted investor doesn’t want that.

It’s the new generation

Richard Leese retired soon after his 70th birthday; Craig is 36, and much closer in age and outlook to the leftish socially-conscious men and women who run Manchester property.  “Bev brings a more modern relevant take on social awareness,” one source tells Subplot. “Richard was socially-aware in a 1990s way, when it was all about regeneration and jobs, but Bev is more aligned with today’s values on skills, sustainability, inclusivity and social mobility.” Another staggeringly senior figure says: “Talking to Richard was sometimes like talking to someone of my parents’ generation.”

The big prize

Craig has hinted that she expects more from the property business. “I’m really keen to work with the private sector that shares those values, or at least can get on board with those values to do business with us,” she told Place North West. Developers may interpret this as you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours, and they are probably on the right lines. “If your policy narrative is to level up the whole city, then of course you’re going to look at ways to do that, and the well-informed development and investment community, who are heavily invested in the city, will understand when they are told ‘you can do more of the lifting’,” says Deloitte partner Simon Bedford.

Skills are key

“The focus needs to be on skills, social mobility, getting the private sector to work harder on apprentices,” says another very enthused senior property figure. Many in the property business have been waiting to be asked to do more, and are delighted Craig will ask them. Outsiders, and newcomers with a different political spread, might find this harder work.

Politics, of course

The right age group, the right values, getting better on the rhetoric, Gove-friendly: four big reasons to feel warm about Bev Craig’s leadership. The fifth reason will appeal to those who watched the departure of Sir Richard Leese with anxiety. Leese, via chief whip Pat Karney, enjoyed a vice-like grip on the Labour Group. Craig’s election by a fairly small margin suggests the grip has weakened, but there is no possibility that Craig would have been elected if Leese had actively wanted to stop her. We can therefore assume he sees the many continuities between her leadership and his. Some go so far as to say he remains a power behind the scenes. It will pain some on the left of the Labour Group to hear it, but what’s changed is not the leadership, but the way in which the narrative is nuanced. And that may not be a bad thing.


ELEVATOR PITCH

The Subplot Elevator Pitch 07.12.21Going up, or going down? This week’s movers

Film and TV production studios go rapidly up, and co-living makes a dash for the roof garden. Alas for MIPIM, the property convention, it’s time for relegation to the goods lift.

Film studios

The 260,000 sq ft studio redevelopment of Liverpool’s former Littlewoods HQ has sprung back into life after a lengthy silence. The city council’s cabinet has signed off an £8m remediation project to enable development at the listed Edge Lane building. Another £9m is still to come.  Although still subject to planning permission, the scheme already has two proposed major anchor tenants in Twickenham Studios and Liverpool John Moores University. If developers Capital&Centric are lucky, they will catch the UK’s film and TV production space boom before it goes cold (Subplot28 September).

Also film studios

But beware: local rivals are also moving fast. Last week Manchester City Council has lodged plans for  two 20,000 sq ft sound stages and 30,000 sq ft support space at West Gorton’s Space Studios. There’s already 152,000 sq ft on the 3.8 acre site, and the council has stumped up £679,000 for more land. This race is one to watch.

Co-living

Co-living is still balanced on a knife edge (Subplot28 September and 22 June): will planners and big-name backers give their wholehearted support, or will it remain a small-scale operation backed from private resources and alternative lenders? This week we got the beginning of an answer as Cain International and PGIM Real Estate have agreed funding for Union, Vita Group’s two-tower 1,676-bed scheme at Water Street, part of Allied London’s Enterprise City. Cain will provide £148m and PGIM Real Estate will chip in an extra £43m. Towers are due for completion from 2024. Funders like this do not mess about, and you can be sure others will follow.

MIPIM

“For those who like that sort of thing, that’s the sort of thing they like,” so said Muriel Spark’s Miss Jean Brodie of the Girl Guides. The same might be said of MIPIM, the annual property jamboree at Cannes. Fans say the super-sized delegate list makes it a great networking opportunity, but the confected “announcements” and content-less press conferences have tarnished the image. With investors beating on the door, Manchester simply doesn’t need that kind of exposure. The result: Manchester isn’t sending a plane full in 2022, and will consider its options in 2023. Or maybe city council new broom Bev Craig didn’t fancy a night dodging drunks on the Croissette, and I’m not sure I can blame her.

The Subplot is brought to you in association with Cratus and Oppidan Life.

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Manchester will obviously win the race on gaining the upper hand on building more film studios. Liverpool city council are slow in their decision making and the LittleWoods Building has to go through phase 1 of remediation work before they decide if Phase 2 (actually redeveloping the building) can be given the green light. I am a scouser who has moved to Manchester and I think Manchester is doing phenomenal work. It’s time to admit that Liverpool has become a stale, boring city with not much to offer (sorry we do offer the Beatles and the 3 graces sigh) . It’s their own fault. With their greedy corruption and backhanders, how long did they think they would get away with it.
Joanne Anderson is a great asset to the city as the new mayor but unfortunately her time will be spent picking up the rotten pieces the last mayor left behind. His actions have put Liverpool behind Manchester by 30 years and has retained a dark cloud over the city. How long will that last? Probably another decade. It’s such a shame about Liverpool as it could become the New York of the UK. But with a corrupt council and the lack of forward thinking from its people, it’s a stagnated situation that will not be changing in the near future.

By David

The new Littlewoods studios will enable post production to be carried out in Liverpool for the many,many tv shows and movies which are being filmed here. So when they finally arrive(here’s hoping) they should be the catalyst for greater things. Yes things have been bad, but slowly and surely we can see the improved confidence of potential investors circling the City again. Fingers crossed.

By Liverpolitis

I have some questions that maybe the journalists at this publication will be able to get some answers to: why after all these years have L,pool CC and L,pool City region left it till now to conduct the feasibility study into the film studio and why will it take so long to do. If all goes well we are looking at four or more years before the studios open. I note Manchester is not having to conduct any such study and moving on fast so why can’t L’pool.
Also don’t our two mayors see the danger of this delay as Manchester City Council are clearly moving very quickly to build their own film studios and thus by doing so rendering Liverpool film studios redundant. This is so obvious to see. Why can’t they.
Finally what is also very disappointing and worrying is Manchester ‘s sheer obsession with not allowing Liverpool or anyone else any form of media outlet or employment opportunities. You would think having Media City with the wealth and jobs this creates would be enough but no now they wish to have the film sector under their sole control.
Is it beyond Liverpool ‘s two mayors to recognise this and move this project forward at pace. So much for the Northern Power House and Andy Burnham’s assertion that the two cities should work together for each other’s benefit.

By David L