Manchester City Council

Raising the Standard

The Council's Executive met on Wednesday and as always the meeting is available to view from the Council's web site, as are the reports that were considered, though be warned, it's a lot of pages. Most of those pages were to do with the Council's 2017-20 budget.

No decisions were made on the budget other than to agree to consult on a range of options put forward by Council officers. The consultation will be launched on November 3rd and last until February, but in January the consultation will be augmented with the Executive's draft budget.

Funny thing, consultation. Some people will never accept there has been proper consultation unless at the end of the process we simply agree with them, but a couple of reports on Wednesday's agenda showed the impossibility in doing that. The report back from the consultation on Piccadilly Basin strategic framework in particular had a whole range of conflicting responses so we couldn't possibly agree with them all.

That consultation also raised a couple of familiar topics, height and the character of the area. I moved to Manchester in 1979. Back then the Northern Quarter didn't exist. The name was invented by the Council in the mid-nineties for an area that was still then overwhelmingly wholesale fashion. Clearly it and it's character has changed a bit since then.

What we now know as the Gay Village only began to emerge in the early nineties, Castlefield in the late eighties, and although Spinningfields was conceived in the late nineties, it is an overwhelmingly twenty first century development. The point of all of this is that cities change, admittedly not always for the better, but if you think of cities as the people in them rather than the buildings and structures we temporarily occupy, then they are organic, and decline or grow like all organisms.

One of the changes that is inevitable if we are to survive is more density. We need, globally and not just in Manchester, to house loads of people. Shortly the Combined Authority will be consulting on a draft planning framework which amongst other things says that we will have to release some green belt in order to provide jobs and homes for our population. Of course not all green belt as of high environmental value, but ultimately the only alternative to vast amounts of suburban sprawl is more density in our urban areas, and that means height. The Manchester of the future will have to have far more tall buildings, although they don't need to be any old tall building.

History and historically significant buildings are important ( though none of them last forever ) but does the Plaza on 5th Avenue, or St.Patrick's Cathedral, or the New York City Library look any worse for the gigantic buildings that surround them?

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

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