Manchester is having a moment; it is lauded as the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ by George Osborne, now forming the centrepiece of his latest financial strategy, an endorsement of the economic and cultural credentials of the city.
Since the Conservatives first made clear their intention to transfer further powers to the area, Manchester has attracted investment in housing and transport and plans to transform the city region into an economic stronghold are firmly underway. The vast majority of progress, though, has most certainly come from within the city itself.
A significant force for growth in the area has been Manchester Airport. In 2014 the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) injected £1.7 billion into the regional economy, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year.
Part owned by the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, the profit generated by MAG meant that Manchester’s councils reaped a £60 million stake. This was a 100 per cent increase on the 2014 figure, with councils capitalising on record passenger numbers travelling through the airport.
A number of recent projects are contributing to continued airport extension. £1 billion is to be ploughed into the creation of a new ‘super terminal’ and the addition of new routes has cemented the airport’s position as a major transport centre. A newly arrived Metrolink line was also accompanied by the opening of additional platforms at Manchester Airport’s train station, bringing the total to 4 railway and 2 Metrolink platforms.
This week EasyJet announced the augmentation of their operations. The low cost airline will now take holidaymakers to Paris, Milan, and Olbia in Sardinia, in addition to their existing 40 destinations. The new flights will be launched in time for summer 2016.
In addition, Ryanair is adding six new routes from Manchester Airport to Slovakia, Germany, Italy, France, and Malta and it is ramping up the frequency on flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Dublin, Faro, Ibiza, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Valencia, and Warsaw. Ryanair’s increase will create 400 jobs at the airport, including 325 in the terminals themselves.
There are also opportunities to travel further afield. From Manchester since late 2014, Cathay Pacific has operated the only year-long scheduled route between the UK and Hong Kong outside of London Heathrow. Services from Manchester to Mainland China directly were secured this October by Hainan Airlines, opening up the city region to future trading possibilities.
This week marked the one-year anniversary of a £400 million extension of the Metrolink, which connected Manchester Airport to the network, dubbed the ‘Airport Line’, adding 15 stops to the line taking in Wythenshawe, Baguley, and the surrounding areas. Over this last year, 1.88 million journeys have been made on the Airport Line.
Metrolink is also currently constructing its second city crossing, scheduled to open in 2017, it will allow more trams through the city centre. One stop on the second city crossing is due to open later this month; Exchange Square is situated between the Arndale and the newly-refurbished Corn Exchange and an Exchange Square to Shaw and Crompton line will begin in time for Christmas shopping until the completion of the second city crossing.
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has proposed a Metrolink extension to Trafford Park via the Imperial War Museum North, Old Trafford, and the Trafford Centre. In April 2015, £300 million was signed off to construct the line, with work slated to begin in 2016 in order to be open by Christmas 2019.
Away from Metrolink, transport across the city region is undergoing a revolution. The Mancunion reported early in October that Manchester Victoria’s £44 million overhaul was successfully completed on schedule. Despite legal challenges, Network Rail’s Ordsall Chord development, which will increase capacity and reliability on Manchester’s trains, is set to be completed by 2019 among other rail projects such as the refurbishment of Manchester Oxford Road station.
Improving transport in the region is a priority owing to the huge growth expected in Greater Manchester’s economy and population in the next few years. Figures released by Deloitte reveal that residential development is at its highest in five years, as Manchester’s boom reaches all aspects of the city.
On the edge of the Northern Quarter, housing developer Mulbury has obtained planning permission for a new £30 million apartment block due to be completed by 2017. A further 238 apartments are to spring up on the corner of Princess Street and Whitworth Street in plans coordinated by construction firm Urban & Civic, on the site next to the Gay Village that has been vacant for over 20 years.
The construction for many projects is already underway. This month, work is expected to begin on prized mancunian architect Ian Simpson’s designs for a new skyscraper on River Street. The 42-storey building will match the stature of his own designed Beetham Tower, home to the Hilton Hotel and currently the highest structure in the city. The 400 apartments it will hold are expected to be ready for private rental on the completion of the project in 18 months.
Projects including the XYZ building in Spinningfields, No. 1 Spinningfields, and Two St Peter’s Square among many others are being constructed, whilst projects such as the National Graphene Institute and One St Peter’s Square have been completed over the past year. Office takeup in Manchester is surging ahead, with the highest level of office take-up bar London, with more than 373,000 square feet let between July and September alone.
Manchester, the borough alone, is currently driving to build 60,000 new homes by 2027 and Greater Manchester is planning a £300 million region-wide housebuilding strategy too.
The channelling of private capital into housing allows residential development to keep pace with the growing population of the city—the borough of Manchester is soon expected to reach 600,000. Greater Manchester grew by 18,000 in 2014, with Salford being the city’s fastest growing borough.
With exponential investment in the city, it is unsurprising that Oxford Economics have predicted that Manchester is expected to outpace Berlin, Tokyo and Paris in terms of employment growth over the next five years. Their report revealed that Manchester is in a position to increase employment by 3.8 per cent by 2020.
Economic opportunity is not all the city has to offer either. Part of its ingénue is its cultural prowess, which is attracting businesses and visitors alike. Last month Channel Four revealed they are joining the BBC in Manchester by opening a new office in the city centre, establishing themselves at the heart of the city region. Such a move promises to invigorate Manchester’s cultural landscape and is testament to the city’s attractiveness to the media sector.
The development seen by Manchester looks set to continue, with the prospect of further economic growth and direct private investment on the cards. The city’s place as a key global competitor seems more of a reality every day.
In terms of Devo Manc, Greater Manchester—since the signing of the initial deal—was given control of its £6 billion health and social care budget in February 2015, which will come into force in April, and appointed its interim mayor until the elections in 2017, Tony Lloyd.
Greater Manchester has also submitted a further £7 billion worth of powers to George Osborne, the results of which will be revealed in the spending review on November the 25th 2015.