The opening paragraph of a new report from the Alliance Business School at Manchester University, lays it all out...
Greater Manchester has 80,000 people on the social housing waiting lists, with little social housing being built. Homelessness and rough sleeping is increasing. Our clogged up, congested roads are killing thousands of people each year through pollution, with Salford the worst offender. Greater Manchester is characterised by "public squalor".
While politicians talk the talk...and GM Mayor, Andy Burnham, was at Parliament today calling for more devolved powers...the University report argues that "recent strategic plans from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) demonstrate attempts to intensify this unbalanced [developer-led] approach rather than to facilitate alternatives to it...the large scale flat building in the central city and Salford shows that market funded developer regeneration remains dominant..."
The report, called From Developer Regeneration to Civic Futures, traces three periods of the region's development. First up was the Municipal Plan (1945-1986) which saw council planners take a top down approach, ran out of money and was never completed (see Salford Precinct!).
Next came Developer Regeneration (from 1986 onwards), which has tried to cultivate a "new, business friendly economic identity for a post-industrial city region" and is characterised by "Public-private partnerships, top-down via developer priorities facilitated by repurposed state elite monopoly of decision, with citizens 'consulted' after things have been decided"...Here, bank and market finance fund only the most profitable schemes, while the state picks up the tab for transport infrastructure etc...
"...The political signals were that resistance was futile: local authorities had lost their leading role and blocking powers, so that in the era of regeneration they should accept their diminished status as junior partner in so-called public-private partnerships..." the report summarises.
For evidence of this, look no further than Chapel Street where Salford City Council is no more than a sideline cheerleader as English Cities Fund (ECf), led by Muse developers and the Legal and General, throw up totally unaffordable housing with all Section 106 policies ditched.
Or, in the words of the report, "This involved assembling parcels of land for 'district' development, making developer-friendly zoning decisions and putting in infrastructure before giving out planning permissions which made money for developers (without requiring anything in return, such as social housing)..."
For this, see every area of central Salford – Ordsall, Whit Lane, Langworthy, Middlewood Locks, Pendleton and Broughton... "The measure for success" sniffs the report "was whether developers put up buildings. What the buildings were used for and how they contributed to neighbourhood or community was seemingly irrelevant."
The result has been that "Greater Manchester has a serious problem about decay and underinvestment in its social infrastructure including parks, surgeries and care as well as in the hard economic infrastructure of housing and transport...The material fabric of Greater Manchester is sadly as ill-adapted to the current pattern of family needs and citizen mobility in 2018 as it was in 1945..."
Andy Burnham's GM Spatial Framework (GMSF), expected to be re-launched within the next month, will be "disappointing", the report stresses, because the emphasis will still be on developer led regeneration. It calls it "another instalment of the problem"..
"The GMSF does not address citizen needs, but answers the developers question about where they go next after they have built on the ex-industrial sites in the city centre..." the report states, and concludes that we need to 'call time' on this rubbish approach by "political and business elites" which is leaving a "mess"...
At the heart of it all are the questions: What is Greater Manchester for? And, who is Greater Manchester for?
Few people identify themselves as 'Greater Mancunians' the report decides, but the answer lies in "small groups centred on places or issues" and calls for a new language to talk about the development of Greater Manchester.
It begins with the concept of 'civic futures' rather than developer regeneration, that "starts from consulting the citizenry"; a 'reinvention' of taxation which would "require property developers to pay their fair share"; and "reasserting social priorities".
All this is only going to happen through "political mobilisation"...
"The call for new civic futures is not a naïve call for participatory democracy" the report concludes "It is a call for a new political mobilisation in Greater Manchester; a call that is based on citizens' needs for and access to foundational services, their engagement with and involvement in the process of shaping these services, but also linking this up to formal policy and expertise. This is a multi-decade process, but one which should start now..."
To read the full report: From Developer Regeneration to Civic Futures – click here
The report will be launched at 5.30pm on Thursday 13th September, at Manchester Cathedral Visitor Centre, with a discussion and panel of Donna Hall, Chief Executive, Wigan MBC; Isaac Rose, Greater Manchester Housing Action; Pete Abel, Friends of the Earth Manchester and Love Your Bike and Andrew Lightfoot/Alan Harding, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
The event is free but registration is needed in advance – click here