Future of GM first inter-city visit is a win!

Future of Greater Manchester’s first intercity exchange hosted 37 people – and a dog! – from London Legacy Development Corporation, with insightful hosts, interesting places, intrepid guests and insane mid-April weather. See below for info on LLDC itself, and get in touch if you’d like to take part in a visit there in autumn.

We only had 11am-5pm – less 30min due to trains – so stuck to central Manchester, but thanks to a great recce from Judi and Collette and super-helpful hosts*, we covered a lot of ground (16,000 steps!) following engaging talks on what makes GM unique from Dave Kelly, GMCA Assisant Director Reform & Leaders Plus alumni; on GM devolution and next steps from GMCA Devolution Strategy Principal Scott Dickson; and how GM’s spatial vision has evolved from BDP Urban Design Director David Rudlin. 

Breaking into two groups, we saw…

Kampus’s build-to-rent model of mixed new, retrofit and restored heritage buildings; its ground floor of lush greenery and popular independent businesses; its welcoming ‘Bungalow’ meanwhile space; and its friendly (but not ‘claiming’) relationship with the Gay Village across the canal.

ShedKM’s Will Wilkinson walked us around the listed buildings they worked on and HBD Development Director Chris Stalker talked us through the scheme’s model – especially how critical it is to have meaningful and publicly open ground floor space when you want ot build community with rental tenants and lively neighbours.

We also heard about Manchester City Council’s brand-new Gay Village action plan from Strategic Stakeholder & Engagement Lead Ciaron Wilkinson. The plan is backed by the most positive response ever from the Village’s varied resident, business and user communities, all part of engagement work led by FoGM partner Hatch. Thanks to Social Value Consultant Sarah Richards and Associate Director & GM Leaders Plus alum David Watson for sharing info – and watch this space for next steps!

Buttress Heritage Associate Jenna Johnston and Director Matt Burl took us through the Manchester and Ancoats approach to heritage, culture, public space (including discussion of what more could happen with Stevenson Square) and upcoming projects including the Ancoats Mobility Hub and Ancoats Green. See below for a taste of LLDC questions on this and all the schemes we saw.

ShedKM Associate Director Darren Jones showed us New Islington’s innovative modular housing and approach to shared/public space and the waterfront, and finally the group gathered at Mayfield – on every visitor’s list – with a fresh take on the 24-acre/9.7-hectare scheme.

The group heard from Ciaron Wilkinson about the cross-sector Mayfield Partnership, and from Dan Dubowitz of Manchester Architecture School, seconded with grant funding to work with Landsec/U+I on Mayfield’s cultural regeneration programme. He talked about unearthing and reviving the area’s history, really involving local people – many from social housing estates who fear being sidelined – and on the changes yet to come.

We closed at Arup, a key Future of GM base, with a debrief from Associate & GM Leaders Plus alum Angeliki Stogia and a chance to rest, reflect and chat with Arup folks from the Manchester area.

*Shout-out to Rudy’s Portland Street for getting 45 people fed, watered and happy in 45 min! Every little bit helps ;>

A few ‘wake-up calls’ we picked up in terms of inter-city understanding:
  • General: Many had never been to Manchester or had just come directly to a concert or match and ALL loved the city’s industrial and protest history, restored architecture, friendly people and open feel.
  • Affordable housing: As a microcosm of Londoners and built environment practitioners, most were unaware of the dire hollowing out of Manchester’s city centre and the resulting push by Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein and Leader Sir Richard Leese to draw people back, with a focus on residents, commercial occupiers and events that could revive the city’s economy. Given London’s decades-old affordable housing crisis and GM’s growing one, most were shocked that there has been little to no affordable housing requirement, and were glad to hear this is a priority for Council Leader Bev Craig, the City and wider GM leadership.
  • Cars, parking and land value: Again, learning was key! The group found out that public transport isn’t yet widespread (or subsidised) enough to replace the car and that it’s not affordable to build underground parking in the city centre, though they – and probably all of us – would still love to see squares and parks in place of so many surface car parks, especially ones surrounded by lovely old buildings.

This first exchange felt really valuable; UK cities must present a united front to central government and bridge the regional divide that funding and governance beyond our control have forced on us. Let’s keep talking to and learning from each other.

So who came to visit?

The London Legacy Development Corporation is the organisation responsible for the 2012 Olympic site legacy, including Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the London Stadium (home to West Ham FC) thousands of new homes, businesses, culture and education offers, including East Bank.

From LLDC Head of Design Esther Everett:

East Bank is the UK’s newest cultural quarter at the heart of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It’s the place where everything happens – entertainment, inspiration and discovery – and is open to everyone who visits, lives and works in east London. A powerhouse for innovation, creativity and learning, East Bank is made up of BBC Music Studios; London College of Fashion, UAL; Sadler’s Wells East; University College London; and V&A East.

On the housing partnerships front, you can get the details on LLDC’s ambitious joint venture with Ballymore here: https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/our-stories/lldc-and-ballymore-establish-new-joint-venture-transform-queen-elizabeth-olympic-park.

LLDC also has mandate to integrate well with existing communities, from social housing residents to bootstrap arts organisations and pub/entertainment venues at Hackney Wick and Fish Island; its offer includes education, skills and partnership with more grassroots organisations like the Hackney Wick & Fish Island Community Development Trust (which has a “Manchester feel” & could be worth connecting with).

As a mayoral development corporation that has served as the area planning authority – across four evolving East London boroughs – LLDC’s planning powers are set to expire in December 2024 and the rest of its functions will evolve.

Our thanks to LLDC organisers Katherine Hosea (Head of Development), Esther Everett (Head of Design) and Ping Teo (Team Coordinator) for all the hard work on their side, and to our office base, Transport for GM, for hosting us in the morning.

Our next visit is set for Wed 5th June with PRD, who work with us in London and GM (Associate Director Amanda Robinson is our intercity alumni rep!) Stopping in Stockport and Mayfield, this walkabout will have spaces for people from GM, London and the regions, with priority to alumni!

For info on that – or if you want Future of GM and our network to assemble a walkabout for your team here or in  London, get in touch!