JMW Roundtable February 2020
JMW hosted the roundtable at Cloud 23 at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate

VIDEO | Satellite towns have ‘big role to play’ in Manchester’s growth

Comments (9)

The future of Manchester and development beyond the city fringe into fast-growing towns were the topics of conversation at a special roundtable hosted by JMW Solicitors.

The participants were:

  • James Sidlow, Renaker
  • John Searle, Rochdale Council
  • John McHugh, CBRE
  • Guy Butler, Glenbrook
  • Nick Nelson, Sixteen Real Estate
  • Ian Scott, Lambert Smith Hampton
  • Katie Wray, Deloitte
  • Thomas Pearson, JMW Solicitors
  • Simon Maddox, JMW Solicitors

The debate was chaired by Jessica Middleton-Pugh, contributing editor of Place North West.

Talking points from the roundtable:

Ian Scott: “The city council has delivered and driven a growth and pro-development agenda. I envisage this pro-development ethos will trickle out into local towns, but the risk is that you will have local authorities like Stockport and Rochdale that are proactive, along with others that won’t be able to keep up.”

Guy Butler: “Manchester is a place where people come for education, investment and tourism. My big concern is how we maintain this and keep people from reverting back to London. Are we strong enough to be resilient and remain stable during a crisis?”

James Sidlow: “There is a current pipeline of thousands of residential units, and we would like to say that the city is expanding, but the problem is that we have barriers. We need some key strategic developers to connect and agree on how we link places up to the world beyond the ring road, which is acting as a barrier to the city, and is a limit on its expansion.”

Katie Thomas Still

Katie Wray, Deloitte and Thomas Peason, JMW

Thomas Pearson: “There is a grit in the North that adds character and uniqueness to its towns, and isn’t found in other places across the country. It comes from the relationship between the people and the heritage of the places where they live.”

Katie Wray: “The heritage assets that have been left alone and undeveloped are because they are challenging, but you get the more creative results out of using these sites. You can also marry their development with the carbon agenda, and it provides an opportunity to reuse these assets.”

John Searle: “Is there a chance for more small contained towns to offer alternatives to living in the city centre? Not everyone wants to live in the city, but people still work in it and others simply want access to it. Rochdale is close, it’s only 14 minutes by train. This whole system is starting to change, and the satellite towns of Greater Manchester have a big role to play in the future of its development.”

John Searle Still

John Searle, Rochdale Council

Simon Maddox: “If we want to be a truly international city, we need to focus on families and young professionals. We want them to have the infrastructure in place to keep people here and support them as it’s part of a bigger picture.”

John McHugh: “Look at Circle Square and First Street, they both have a mixed-use offer which we’re seeing massively across the UK. The ‘live work and play story’ that was told in the past is now very much alive.

“We’re looking at what the Monday to Friday, Saturday and Sunday offer is now as projects can’t just be an office development. There is a massive blur across districts in the city, and we’re seeing developers think longer term.”

Nick Nelson: “Offices have to be unique. Every district has to have its own selling point, and the existing ones work well. NOMA is different from Spinningfields, which is different to the future offer of Central Retail Park. One thing is for sure however, there will be an office space lag in the next 12 to 18 months.”Jmw logo

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For Manchester to do any of this effectively, the overland rail network (not the low capacity and slower tram network) has to be expanded and evolve into a proper metro service akin to the London overland network which is many times larger than the tube! There is short-sightedness (for the first time in my experience) in Greater Manchester’s transport vision and view of itself. For example, Leigh could have seen the railway reinstated but instead a guided busway was introduced – this is not serious global city thinking, This neither generates proper commuting options nor facilitates housing growth.

Secondly, Manchester (like London) is far larger than just Greater Manchester’s administrative boundary and taking high-skilled people in from the ‘outer suburbs’ which are Manchester in all but officialdom have a hard time because on ine core route from Cheshire suburbs their train has to go all the way across to Stockport and then up to Piccadilly/other central stations. Why? Because Metrolink now occupies the most direct route via Trafford Bar etc – this is madness!! It increases commite time, puts pressure on Piccadilly and makes Salford Keys not a realistic option for work with no easy route without two changes.

Manchester needs to focus on the rail network as it clearly has many of the lines there already and trackbed from thise taken up in the past. This is the only way Manchester will have a metro system as there appears no way that they will have a proper underground, segregated metro. The ambition and money isn’t there apparently. All word cities have a metro with high capacity. The overland rail is the only way to deliver this.

I would 1) Re-open Manchester Central and relieve the Picadilly throat from the west and allow a wider set of commuting opportunities through walking and change to metrolink (opening up Salford Quays AND the traditional central area.

2) Redevelop the stations at Ardwick and Ashburys and make this ‘east central’, create a dive under to Piccadilly (Mayfield side allowing connections to Oxford Road corridor and the main station underground allowing vast regeneration in ardwick area, onto Chester Road, Ecjanhe Wuay and Salford Quays and relinking onto the Eccles line OR curve back toward Trafford Park or branch off to Trafford Park as that area longer term links to the rest of the central area as a ‘west central entertainment district’ just to start. This would relieve the not just the Piccadilly throat and bottleneck but also Cornbrook all in one line.

Lastly, the barrier to development is not the Ring Road, but the council houses on two floors that are houses with curving roads and cul-de-sacs with no through routes blocking any obvious route on which to really develop the city outwards to give that ‘world city’ feel with active frontages and interest. Apartment blocks with no active frontages should simply be banned in most instances. There needs to be CPO’s to really get the real prize for Manchester. It can’t expand without such moves both in transport and planning.

By 2025 Manchetser needs some BIG ideas like above and to get on with it.

By Richard

I am surprised at how often this is seen as a novel concept in the UK. So many people see a city as just the LGA but a political boundary created historically and which today is really just the bin collection company is hardy the best way to define a city. A city is the sum of all parts, which includes the centre, the inner suburbs, the surrounding suburbs, the various town centres within the urban core and the surrounding towns outside the urban area. Manchester isn’t just Manchester. It’s not just Greater Manchester, it’s the whole commutable area with Manchester at the core. And yes, this means all those surrounding town centers are hugely important to Manchester. Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Altrincham, Bury, Bolton & Wigan but also outside the rigid confines of a political boundary like Greater Manchester such as Wilmslow or Macclesfield. The UK is the only place on the planet where a “Greater… (city name here)” is confined to a politcal boundary. It’s time we moved on… even in these crazy days where we seem to be moving backwards


Some of the GM towns are like parts of the Liverpool city-region – they have no real purpose other than as dormitory towns to the nearby big city. Playing games to pretend otherwise.

By John Smith

I agree with Richard. It is ridiculous in a city where flats in the centre are exchanging hands for hundreds of thousands of pounds now as a matter of course that there are grotty terraced houses five minutes in a car from these flats boarded up. Manchester isn’t blessed with gorgeous Georgian squares like Liverpool so it needs a blank canvas in these areas.

By Elephant

the suburbs within Manchester Council’s boundaries have all gone downhill, Fallowfield, Withington, Levenshulme, Burnage all a state. These need to be sorted out as well as the surrounding towns. There’s currently nowhere nice to live in Manchester.

By Dan

@Richard you want to open a huge station (Manchester Central) with direct access to a corridor (Castlefield corridor) which is already congested enough as it is?

By Anonymous

@By Anonymous No. Opening Manchester Central would not put more traffic onto the Cornbrook – Piccadilly tram route. What it would do is two things (and directly answer your comment)…

1) Would stop a ridiculous circuitous route for train from part of Cheshire going across to Stockport then back on itself to Piccadilly (since Metrolink was put on its former tracks – major error!) so providing faster travel and higher capacity. This would take pressure off the Castlefield corridor (trains do not take up so much capacity approach paths nor use the corridor as tracks to central would be segregated over the bridge and slightly beyond.

2) Pressure would be taken off the Cornbrook – Piccadilly corridor on Metrolink due to commuters getting much closer to their direct workplaces instead of piling pressure on Piccadilly and taking a tram to Deansgate. If working in Salford Quays, indeed it would also offer better travel options.

I also think an easy win for GMPTE would be Bredbury reopening as a station to serve the stadium and future arena and tie it into a branded metro service. Problem solved with minimal cost to the alternatives of slower low capacity trams.

Finally there really needs to be Blackpool – Stoke metro services as in London that are at least 8 coaches long every 10-15 minutes like London would have if it were Manchester and many routes besides. The rail route that could easily be a metro for Manchester across the entire region is the easy way to have a proper metro – the track is already there and trackbed available to be reinstated. I still believe a few segregated underground lines are needed to serve the apalling transport desert in the Oxford Road corridor and North of the river on the north side of central Manchester.

By Richard

@Dan all of those suburbs you mentioned are in south Manchester, north of the CC is even worse! Have a look at Collyhurst, Newton Heath, Monsall and Harpurhey if you want to see somewhere really devoid of development. Miles Platting is alright, but the council have destroyed all local amenities and allowed developers to build on every inch of green space – not even left enough room to widen the canal towpath.

By Aaron

Dan, so chorlton and didsbury aren’t nice places?

By Phildered