EightyTwenty is a monthly breakfast event where we bring together business leaders involved with the built environment. What follows are highlights of the issues this lively roundtable discussion raised.
Whose Story Are We Telling?
Ultimately, the end-user is the focus for buildings and developments. However, like many narratives, this story can have multiple twists and turns.
There is a question of fairness when it comes to companies making bids to develop land.
Not all developments are financially viable, and therefore it is not always the developments which would be most beneficial to areas or users, on paper at least, that win the right to build.
This is an issue with including affordable housing, where the commercial landscape makes it difficult to compete and include a reasonable proportion of this type of accommodation.
For example, where a development wants to include 50% affordable housing, it is likely that the landowner will face more attractive bids without this element, but which they will find much harder to turn down.
Should there be government intervention, creating policies that ensure a more level playing field for the best use of space, to benefit communities?
There is a sense that the current situation reflects short-term thinking rather than a long-term, sustainable vision for homebuilding.
A Twist in the Tale
There is, however, sometimes a late plot-twist to this story. The reality is that some unsuccessful buildings and developments can leave space for new opportunities for investors and developers to then come in and transform them into something else, something useful to the community.
Sometimes failure is a necessary part of the narrative, upon which we can build a different kind of success.
Why Regional Identity Matters
Every successful narrative should have a cast of memorable characters. The current situation in Greater Manchester is that the perception is that there is only one leading player: the city centre.
Is the wider region missing out due to this imbalance?
What is the potential for working out of other areas, rather than being based in central Manchester, and developing regional hubs?
There are buildings representing a powerful heritage, which exist outside the city centre, and in certain places, with qualities that exceed it. But at the same time, these regional centres, such as Bolton and Wigan, are struggling.
Does this indicate a North-North divide as well as a North-South one? What would it take to generate our regional towns?
Finding the Catalyst
Each has its own story, and each requires its own solution and catalyst to drive it. There is a need for public sector investment, but also incentives without strings attached to attract dynamic developers.
Historically, settlements have had their own catalysts, such as Paris and the River Seine as a major artery.
Certain features can become the focus for regeneration, such as The Lowry as a modern Salford landmark, followed over 20 years later by the BBC at MediaCityUK; or Altrincham’s regeneration centred around the repurposing of its market as a food destination.
Meeting Future Population Needs
One factor that drives the narrative forward is population growth. There is an estimated increase of 250,000 to Greater Manchester’s population by 2037, predicted in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Two thirds of this increase will be people aged 65 and over, 40% aged 75 and over. It will not be sufficient to only cater for millennials, professionals or Generation Y.
This comes back to asking the question, whose story are we telling with the built environment?
Putting the End User First
How do we make it suitable for its end-users? It’s about infrastructure as well as buildings.
Can Greater Manchester learn from other areas and cities, such as Amsterdam?
One example is TFGM’s Greater Manchester Beelines scheme, with Chris Boardman as its main ambassador, aiming to improve the city’s pedestrian and cycle routes.
There needs to be better provision of public transport, also as a means of supporting the regions.
Looking to the future, what impact will driverless cars have on congestion and infrastructure? And can this be separated from car ownership? One suggestion is that car usage in the region is at 3%, compared with actual ownership, which means most cars are currently parked, not driven.
What do these developments tell us about designing the built environment for the future?
Guests and Comments
Guests at the first Partisan EightyTwenty breakfast event included:
Matthew Davies, Divisional Director, Pell Frischmann
Edward Dry, Property Manager, GC Capital
Adam Higgins, Capital & Centric
Lee Leston-Jones, Partner, Cundall
Lisa Mcfarlane, Director, Seven Architecture
Andrew Teague, Partner, Cushman & Wakefield
Steve Waltho, Director, Turner & Townsend
“Great and stimulating conversation with an excellent panel, thoroughly enjoyed my morning discussion and hope to be involved again in the future.”
“Really positive event with insightful discussion, thanks to Partisan and the invited panel.”