Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, has launched a new initiative – the Town Centre Challenge – to regenerate town centres across Greater Manchester.
The move reflects a new approach to planning and development, moving away from the “developer-led, green-field first approach of the past.”
The Town Centre Challenge invites all councils across Greater Manchester to nominate a town to be part of the initiative. The Mayor, working with each council, will bring together housing providers, public and private landowners, developers, community groups and other key stakeholders in a concerted effort to support local councils to unlock the potential in town centres, particularly to deliver viable housing markets and sustainable communities.
Caroline Simpson, Corporate Director for Place at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, has worked with her colleagues in all districts on identifying the ambition for, and barriers to, delivering change within town centres. It is these barriers that Town Centre Challenge aims to address:
“The role of town centres has changed significantly over recent years; they continue to have an important part to play in achieving Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming a world class city-region.
“We welcome the Town Centre Challenge which will build on the first-class work already under way by bringing together partners from across the public and private sectors to drive forward collaboration and innovation. This combined with the work will help ensure the full potential of our town centres as places where people want to live, work and play is fulfilled.”
The initiative will be supported by new Mayoral powers to establish Mayoral Development Corporations, the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and Mayoral grants to kick-start developments. It is hoped that it will be supported by a new housing deal that is under discussion between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the government.
GM Mayor Andy Burnham said:
“This new initiative is all about regenerating town centres across Greater Manchester which have felt left behind. The time has come to breathe new life into our proud towns and move away from developer-led, green-field first approach of the past.
“We need to build a new future for those towns through higher density mixed and affordable housing, with local retail and leisure facilities and supported by transport and digital connectivity.
“There is a massive housing requirement across the city-region and we must have a housing and planning policy which is based on housing need and regeneration, not just the number of units. We need to build the right homes in the right places. Greater Manchester is suffering from high levels of traffic congestion and that means we will only be able to support new housing growth if we link it much more closely to transport infrastructure.
“This is part of the approach we are taking as we are re-writing the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. But I want to make clear that this new approach will not mean that there won’t still be difficult planning decisions ahead and some green sites will still be needed.
“I am pleased to see the scale of ambition local areas have for their town centres and want the Town Centre Challenge to help accelerate change on the ground. I have made working with Greater Manchester’s councils to support improvement in our city-region’s towns a key priority of my first term as Mayor, alongside addressing the housing crisis. Every single district has a role to play and will contribute to making Greater Manchester the best place to live and get on in life.”
Work will continue between districts and the Mayor into the new year, working together to address any issues identified in an effort to accelerate plans towards the development stage.
Greater Manchester has eight principal towns as well as around 20 smaller towns and over 50 further significant local and suburban centres.
Experience has showed that what is required to regenerate many of Greater Manchester’s town centres is the capacity to co-ordinate efforts across multiple stakeholders, including councils, private developers and the GMCA.
Bury’s town centre has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years, and in 2015 was awarded runner-up in the Academy of Urbanism’s prestigious Great Towns Award.
The Town Centre Challenge welcomes Local Authorities bringing forward a town centre of their choice, along with the plans they are seeking support to deliver, in order to address some, if not all, of the issues which have historically limited investment and redevelopment. Plans are anticipated to propose solutions including:
• Innovative solutions for town centre housing which will provide an attractive place to live in easy reach of key amenities
• Restructured retail offers
• Business spaces
• Public sector hubs
• Venues for events
• Cultural offers