01Policy priority 1: Continue the turnaround of Manchester city centre to improve job opportunities for all Greater Manchester residents
- Use the convening power of the mayor to help Manchester city centre get back on its feet. The mayor should launch a ‘Manchester is open’-style campaign and work with city centre employers to encourage workers back to the city centre when appropriate.
- Continue to support new city centre office space. Greater Manchester’s most productive businesses and jobs need a strong city centre to continue to grow.
- Make sure housebuilding keeps pace with demand, and is built where it is needed. The only way for Greater Manchester to avoid repeating London’s mistakes on housing is to tackle green belt reform and push for building more homes in the suburbs and green belt.
Manchester city centre has boomed in the last three decades from its late 1980s nadir, becoming home to many thousands of high-skilled, high-paid jobs. City centres are likely to continue to play an increasing role in the national economy, and Greater Manchester’s continued turnaround will depend on the further growth of its largest city centre.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a particularly damaging economic impact on city centres, especially the largest ones such as Manchester’s. Centre for Cities research for Core Cities UK has shown that the dynamism of many of the jobs in Manchester city centre facilitated homeworking, but this same strength meant that the city centre’s local services jobs, which depend on commuter spending, were hard hit by restrictions. This has had implications for the people they employ.2
Manchester’s city centre has provided a disproportionate share of new housing supply, with its housing stock growing by 25 per cent between 2011 and 2019. In contrast, Greater Manchester’s suburbs saw the number of homes grow by only 4 per cent, which is the reason why Greater Manchester as a whole built fewer homes than the average city over this period.3 This is particularly concerning given the requirement for more office space in the city centre.
This will require a renewed focus from the mayor to create a joint spatial plan that includes green belt reform and prioritising development in the city region’s suburbs. Centre for Cities has calculated that between 400,000-500,000 homes could be built at suburban densities with accessible green space around railway stations going into Manchester city centre, which allow for climate-friendly commuting by rail and already have excellent infrastructure.4 These sites should be allocated in any future plan. This should be complemented with plans to increasing the amount of housing built in existing suburbs too, increasing the density of housing within them.