Northern soul: Being cut off from the political chaos back home has felt like a very healthy thing for many of us this week, none more so than for the region’s three main stands: Liverpool, Cheshire & Warrington, and Manchester. The B-word was very rarely mentioned, while most conversations focussed on the “getting on with it” rather than the fear of what happens next. In fact there was a stark difference between sentiment for the region’s bigger players, with the recurring theme of London offices being worried, and Manchester or Liverpool offices pushing on with deals just like before. What the coming months bring is another matter, but a broadly positive sentiment for investment is still good to see.
Outside the centre: While Manchester had its stand, and its major show-stopping projects, Greater Manchester’s towns didn’t stay quiet this week. Stockport treated guests to a sensibly non-boozy lunch on the Wednesday, with figures from national Government bodies making an appearance alongside the usual plethora of architects, developers, and council bods; Altrincham got its own showcase via Trafford Council at a stand event; Bolton’s redevelopment continually came up in conversation as a “when” rather than an unbelievable “if”; and Wigan sent a fact-finding team to see what’s what ahead of potentially sending a larger delegation next year. Like the region in general, Greater Manchester councils this year had a veneer of confidence that we haven’t seen for some time.
Only half of Cheshire: Looking further south from Greater Manchester, it was a slightly more mixed bag of sentiment. The Cheshire & Warrington delegation numbered more than 70 this year, approaching the likes of Liverpool in size, and the stand’s events in the Palais bunker were well attended, with the likes of science, tech, and advanced manufacturing under the spotlight. The region’s frustration, though, more seems to lie with central Government, particularly around promoting links between Cheshire, Manchester Airport, and HS2. A lack of Cheshire East presence admittedly didn’t help: while the council showed its face prominently last year, promoting Crewe, it was quite conspicuous by its absence in 2019. And while Crewe has got its Constellation Partnership to promote growth around HS2, questions have been raised why the same isn’t being done to promote growth off the back of the rail line the north of Cheshire. One to focus on next year?
Old is gold: A few old favourites continued to do the rounds, not just at stand events but on this year’s rumour mill. St Michael’s appears to be coming to the end of the beginning with the upcoming appointment of Laing O’Rourke; Salford’s masterplan was showcased at MIPIM for a second time after being launched in March 2018; and even Altair, Altrincham’s long-running, long-rumoured regeneration scheme got a few mentions from those present. Very few events pulled a rabbit out of the hat: even the more unexpected announcements, like Liverpool’s next 120,000 sq ft workspace at Paddington Village, have been trailed as part of a wider masterplan. Still, the return of ‘older’ schemes is no bad thing, and measurable progress on some is certainly to be welcomed.
Lean and green: In previous years it’s felt like the green agenda and sustainability have been bandied around as something as an afterthought, meant to please any eco-conscious investors or to drum up a bit of PR, but the 2019 conference had a green thread running through many of its events, much more so than previously. Cheshire’s pitch to lead the way to create a “world-first” zero carbon industry cluster around Runcorn and Ellesmere Port featured, as did Manchester’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2038 in a session featuring Andy Burnham, Chris Oglesby, Helen Gribbon of Renaissance and Raymond Johansen, the mayor of Oslo. With developers waking up to the benefits of keeping things green, expect more of these themes to be borne out in new projects this year, particularly with deadlines set by local authorities and Government to hit targets in the not-too-distant future.
Place North West’s coverage of MIPIM is brought to you in partnership with Macbryde Homes