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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There are 8 responses to “Raising the Standard”

  1. Matt Says:

    'Some people will never accept there has been proper consultation unless at the end of the process we simply agree with them'
    Has there been a consultation in recent years where what actually transpired as a result was in opposition to what the Council wanted prior to the consultation? Not trolling, genuinely wondering. If not, you can forgive people their cynicism.

  2. Richard Leese Says:

    @Matt Wednesday's meeting included two reports following consultation and in both cases changes were made as a result. Not every response led to a change not least as some contradicted each other and the changes weren't always everything consulatees wanted. In terms of the budget, I can't remember the last time we didn't make changes as a result of the budget consultation.

  3. Matt Says:

    @Richard thanks for the response, interesting to read. Appreciated.

  4. Anon Says:

    On the Gay Village, I'm sure there was a gay 'scene' around Bloom Street before the early 1990s, with gay esp trans pubs, but not as commercial as Canal St.

    On height, some architecture schools hold that c. 7 storeys is optimum for density. Also on density, it is undermined if under-occupancy by empty investment flats is not tackled head on.

    On green belt, good luck with that! The logic may be perfect but the losers will still raise hell itself.

  5. Anon Says:

    "We shape our buildings, then they shape us". I'm with Churchill.

  6. Chrissie McCall Says:

    Can you please explain to me how MCC can possibly be considering spending £330m on refurbishing the town hall whilst increasing council tax and reducing essential services

  7. Interested Manc Says:

    @ Chrissie McCall. The answer is, it isn't one or the other. I too would be horrified if I thought that the Council was spending Council Tax on refurbishment rather than services.

    The pots of money come from entirely different sources with the capital funding for the refurb being national money that cannot be spent on provision of services etc. It isn't the case that the Council has one source of income and has to do everything from it- control over the purse strings is very tight and every penny that could be spent on delivery of services, is spent on delivery of services.

    Incidentally, part of the plan in refurbishing the building will not only be to make it safe and re-establish it's credibility as a really valuable heritage asset for the city; it will also massively improve its environmental efficiency, creating savings in energy costs that actually can be released to spend on services.

  8. Waterhouse Says:

    Some odd remarks about density. It's not the city centre that's lacking in density as it's clearly economically sustainable and vibrant as it is. It's the inner city and our sprawling suburbs that are too low density by almost any comparison.

    The problem in the city centre is the lack of features that make for an attractive and livable environment. Quality open space, schools, green space, understanding and respect for heritage and an evening culture that does not revolve around drinking. We risk repeating the mistakes of previous generations of city fathers of promoting development for developments sake and bequeathing a city that people can find work in but flee from after working hours to find a better quality of life.

    All the council seem bothered about is how much commercial development can be shoe horned into the small area within the ring road regardless of its impact on how people experience their city.

    Please can we have a more balanced approach to regeneration in future?



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

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