Changing the approach to redevelopment of the City Centre
Opposition campaigners call for the council to do more to ensure affordable housing is provided as part of massive developments
In just one month in 2016, I received 5 different letters through the door informing me of new planning applications in my area. 5 different letters for 5 different sites, all within 40 metres of my front door!
The recent rate of development and growth in Manchester has been truly staggering.
The redevelopment of the City Centre is a fantastic achievement that should be celebrated, but the focus is now, belatedly, turning to the cost of that redevelopment.
Prioritisation of private benefit over public benefit has recently been exposed by reports from both Shelter UK and Dr. Jonathan Silver, in collaboration with Greater Manchester Housing Action.
These independent reports highlight problems in the affordability of, and access to housing. This strong feeling is felt by many residents, as highlighted at recent Manchester Renters’ Forum.
For most, navigating the council’s planning and housing pages is utterly confusing, making it difficult to bring their views to the attention of those in power.
Thankfully, there has been increasing scrutiny from both regional and national journalists, as well as independent campaigners, unearthing some uncomfortable facts. A staggering 78% of properties in Manchester City Centre are marketed overseas, the buy-to-let dominance has pushed average prices up so a 1-bedroom flat is now £192,818, and zero affordable houses have been built in the City Centre in recent years.
We cannot allow Manchester to follow London in pricing out residents or young professionals.
We need mixed developments with a balance of buildings: some that inspire, some that house students, some for first-time buyers and some that attract business who invest in job-creation.
Affordable housing has to be part of each new development.
Affordable housing is climbing up the agenda thanks to pressure by researchers, campaigners, and candidates standing in the local election. Labour MPs and Councillors admit they could do more, but what has been stopping them, they hold 95 our of 96 seats on the council? We need a change of approach.
Development proposals before the Executive Committee this week seek a framework for an additional 15,000 “houses” in a new “Northern Gateway” stretching from Swan St to Queens Road. A further strategic document recommends 4,700 “homes” in the areas north of Piccadilly station.
These are good sites for redevelopment. But in whose interest? They must be developed so as to maximise the benefits for Manchester residents; include an abundance of parkland, come with plans to provide for the public health and educational services required to serve the new residents.
This is not a moment for the Council to abdicate responsibility to private developers.
What can we do about the current situation?
Write to your councillor, respond to consultations (even if it is only a few lines), and encourage others to vote on May 3rd.
It cannot be understated, the opportunity to elect all 3 of your councillors at once is a rarity, last available in 2004.
What a different city we were then! What should Manchester look like in 2032? That process starts with your choice and your vote on May 3rd.