Manchester City Council

Fair, Green, Dense

This afternoon I'm at CUBE for the launch of an exhibition called Sustainable Stories ( It runs until next Tuesday ).

The exhibition comes out of research carried out by Salford Universities Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures ( SURF ) as part of a world-wide research programme by a Swedish organisation, Mistra Urban Futures, which is a global centre for sustainable urban development which focuses on creating fair, green and dense cities. As well as speaking at the opening I have written a " perspective " for the research team looking at how I see issues of sustainability in the Manchester city-region. It will be published eventually along with a number of other people's points of view so I'm not going to go into detail here. The basic contention of the piece and of my talk this afternoon is that dense, urban living is the key to a sustainable future and it is the city that is the ultimate representation of the urban form. One of the obstacles we face in city-building is a long-standing and profoundly anti-urban culture in this country. For over 150 years cities have been seen as problems not solutions. It is an attitude we have been successfully confronting in Manchester not only through the popularity of city-centre living but also in the regeneration of inner-city neighbourhoods in places like Hulme, Ardwick and Beswick. There is no pure green solution to a sustainable future. The economy has to work too, and in particular those who can should be able to work in jobs that pay well enough to give them a decent quality of life, and that does mean that if we want a green future we also need job-creating growth.

There are 11 responses to “Fair, Green, Dense”

  1. Val Says:

    Squaring the circle is a difficult trick to pull off. Making cities family friendly not easy in the centre. A lot of the flats are barely big enough for one person let alone a family and are too car dependent. Like the developments around Hulme Locks. No shops or facilities at ground level. Makes for more transient populations not cohesive sustainable communities. Women make communities and very rarely are seen in any number in regeneration debates.

  2. Mike Says:

    So why on earth does Manchester City Council still give priority to cars over people who walk and cycle? Manchester needs to become a city for people not a traffic jam for expensive cars...

  3. Dave Says:

    The whole idea of Cities being the solution to a sustanable way of life for the future has been put down many times by the chattering class'es.

    I would say that well built high rise flats built both for social housing and afforadable purchase can and should be built.
    I live in a high densisty block all the better for actually knowing most of the residents for years. This is'nt rocket science but high rise flats have still got the bad press over those built in the 1960's.
    Well maintained and some form of security would keep high rise properties anice place to live

  4. Interested Manc Says:

    An interesting area for discussion. In relation to Mike's comments, I suspect that Manchester is better than most cities in at least acknowledging public transport and personal transport as part of the solution, however, things don't turn round overnight. Previous efforts to discourage the car and open up funding opportunities for sustainable infrastructure were rejected by referendum on congestion charges.

    I travel on public transport routinely and the solution to getting more people out of cars is to provide options that are more attractive than sitting in their own personal metal boxes. The next obvious "no brainer" in doing this is the creation of an integrated transport network with integrated ticketing rather than the deregulated ticketing fiasco we have at the moment. More people out of cars will always be driven by the perception of what is convenient and accessible. However, if it becomes achieveable, it equals more space and less congestion, which equals a better walking/cycling environment and more perception of choice.

    With regard to Val's comments, the building of ever more 1 and 2 bedroom flats, high rise or not, will never be a way of creating sustainable communities with a core of residents that stay for a long time. Such properties are built with transience in mind as they are either occupied by younger people who are passing through or by people who have to move on when their families grow. I take Val's point about women making communities, but I'd probably express it as families making communities, as it is the putting down of roots by families that creates the sense of premanence and ownership of neighbourhoods. People planning to stay a long time and to grow with their community have a sense of ownership not shared with those who are passing through. Building of small flats will never achieve this. I think the solution is probably in the creation of a mixed housing economy that caters for a variety of needs through it's deiversity. I live in a small flat; I like knowing my neighbours but am resigned to them frequently moving on.

  5. Gudrun Says:

    Really? You think that the flats in the city centre are a success? Figures show that there are at least a third of these empty, many long term. As for Hulme, most of the recent builds are small properties, crammed together and that the area does indeed have a transient population. Quite frankly, Manchester City Council's record on regeneration and sustainabilty is pathetic.

  6. City Centre Dweller Says:

    Which figures are you refering to? According to the property/business press, turnover rates in the City Centre are healthy and occupancy rates are currently reported as being around 95%. In addition the population of Manchester has risen year on year. More and more people are wanting to live here. Seems sustainability is alive and thriving.

  7. Jaspar Trilby Says:

    Mike – I think the prioritisation of cars over pedestrians and cyclists has started (see Deansgate, Cathedral end). However until a high quality public transport offer can be made it’s unlikely that car commuters will be deterred from driving in. Take for example a commuter travelling from Rochdale Town Hall to Manchester Town Hall:

    - By train it is a ten minute walk from the Town Hall (walking at a reasonable clip), then, say you’re blessed to arrive at the same time as a train does, this train, which is most likely to be the stopping train, (if you’re travelling in rush hour, say the 07:16 – it will be crammed and you won’t get a seat, but you will get the flu) it will take 25 minute and finally from Victoria to Manchester Town Hall will take you about 10 minutes to walk (avoiding the heavily used Metrolink or Shuttle Service). All in all if fate is on your side, your journey will be about 45 minutes.
    - By bus you could take the 17 from the bus station. From the Rochdale Town Hall the Bus Station will take about 5 minutes to get to and then once on the bus will take a further 55-60 minutes to get to Cross Street (and this is if the bus is running to time). From Cross Street you might expect to be walking two or three minutes. All in all, the journey will be about 68 minutes.
    - Finally by car, according to AA route finder the journey will take about 26 minutes. You will only be delayed by any congestion, you will be warm, you are unlikely to get the flu and you can listen to music that you like.

    It is quite clear to see the attraction of driving into Manchester and until it becomes less prohibitive to commute in on public transport I can’t imagine people taking to steps to change their commute no matter how worthy it might be. This means transport needs be better connected, on-time, comfortable (i.e a seat) and speedy. It makes no sense to make pedestrian more parts of the City Centre until basic flaws in the transport system are addressed. These want be addressed because there is no capacity for improving the service and there won’t be further capacity until the service problems are addressed. It’s a never-ending circle with each issue feeding each other.

    (PS – I use public transport)

  8. Helen Says:

    I have lived in the City Centre of Manchester for over 10 years. During that time I have accepted that I live in an apartment not much bigger than a shoe box, that I have no private space to call my own and I pay a very high financial price for chossing to live this way. But the trade off is that the City is my playground and I can walk everywhere including a 10 minute walking commute to work. But I can't help but feel that the one thing which will continue to hamper the success of city centre living is the increasing anti-social and noise behaviour that seems to be growing year on year. During my years in the city I have seen an increase in the general lack of respect for other people living in this increasibly densly populated environment. Having lived in a really brilliantly soundproofed apartment block, what distresses me most (and is causing me to move) is not the noise from within the buidling (which is non-existance) but the antisocial behaviour that takes place on the roads (private and pedestrianised) outside. Seeems that some folk don't think that apartment living requires the same level of good manners and courtesy as perhaps would be afforded in a residential road in the suburbs. Over the last 10 years I have become increasingly horrified at the total lack of respect and noise issues that i now live with on a daily basis - from the drunks who holler and shout in the street at night, through to people playing their music to loudly with scant regard for anyone else through to the hoardes of skateboarders who turn up like locusts at the weekend to skate (and illegally trespass) on our property. The argument that has been used to me that "Because you live in a city centre you should put up with noise" is a poor one. WHY should anyone be kept awake unable to sleep due to drunken youths shouting and hollering in the road outside? Call me old fashioned but its NOT acceptable. I welcome city centre living and yes I agree that some of infrastructure needs imroving (GP's ..) the biggest issue to me that will lead to the downfall of the city centre revival IS antisocial behaviour. Those causing the noise nuisance should be severley dealt with, in the same way they would in a suburban environment- its not enough to turn a blind eye. But there is an education process to be had here too - residents movnign into city centre apartments should be made to be aware of their neighbours and have a little respect for them. Sadly I think this is a societal problem that is getting worse and worse

  9. Gudrun Says:

    @City Centre Dweller Says:

    Yes, figures will differ but I am talking about council tax records/electoral records and I live in the city centre so my own experience.
    As for the more and more people who want to live here, how many are students? Our universities are thriving and that is an excellent thing but how many areas are left like ghost towns during vacation times?

  10. franky Says:

    West Didsbury is seeing more young families and the burton road development helps them get around. City centre living is for younger people who want the city life!

  11. Dave Bishop Says:

    God help future generations if they have to live in soulless, characterless developers' 'paradises' like Hulme - places designed on drawing boards by heartless bureaucrats who live in leafy suburbs.
    I remember a few years ago travelling on a bus through Hulme and noticed a huddled shape under a blanket at the foot of one of the taller blocks of 'people hutches'. The bus driver actually slowed down and announced to the passengers: "Another one's jumped!" I predict many more jumpers in the bleak, 'dense' future ahead



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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