Opportunity for all? We have a plan for Greater Manchester
For the last twenty years Greater Manchester has been on a journey back to prosperity.
After years of industrial decline and being buffeted by the most challenging of economic headwinds, through hard work, ingenuity and the indomitable spirit we’re known for, we’ve staged a recovery.
Now we’re seen, rightly, as the beating heart of what some call the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
We’re not talking about growth for the sake of growth, though. In many ways our recovery has been exactly that, a return to health. Our employment and population levels are now back to where they were in the middle of the last Century.
Manchester city centre and the once derelict quays in Salford are alive again, where in the early 90s there were just a few hundred people living, are now home to tens of thousands.
And now with an economy worth around £57 billion, a population back up to 2.7 million people, and over 105,200 successful businesses, Greater Manchester once again competes on a global scale.
So where do we go next? It’s a good question.
First of all we’re still in transition. Our manufacturing is still healthy but new sectors like advanced materials, life sciences and digital and creative industries are key areas of growth that need to be supported and nurtured.
We’re also busy pulling off that canny trick of ‘decoupling’ stronger economic performance from an accompanying release of greenhouse gas emissions, as we aim to achieve some tough carbon targets we’ve set for ourselves.
Our continued success, even after we’ve factored in the uncertainty of Brexit, will mean that we can spread prosperity and wealth more equitably across Greater Manchester and between the poorest and the most affluent. Fighting inequality is a clear focus and to make that happen we need to plan for more jobs and business growth.
You need space to grow, of course, and that’s where the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework comes in. It sets out our priority areas for investment in new industrial space, offices and business districts and, of course, it will dictate how we accommodate an ongoing rise in our population as we reach around 3 million people by 2035.
This spatial plan is based on what the spreadsheet wizards and economic boffins call an ‘accelerated growth scenario’ where our position as the leading player in the Northern Powerhouse sees us slightly ahead of wider UK growth, increasing our economy by 2.5% each year and growing by £5bn.
With this growth will come just under 200,000 new jobs and 294,800 new neighbours. Employment rates will go up from 70% today to 74% - still not as high as we’d like, but a genuine improvement.
These rates of growth are thought by some to be overly ambitious and for some, they’re not high enough. The fact is that this level of performance would be higher than we've seen before in Greater Manchester but we have to set the bar high if we’re to bridge those inequalities and deliver prosperity for all. We’re either moving forward, or we’re slipping into reverse.
If we have a strong spatial plan to accommodate growth then we’re in control of our future and making sure it is sustainable, equitable and shared across the conurbation. It will show the world that we’re place with a plan and a place with a future. A force to be reckoned with and somewhere that means business.
After all, you don’t stumble into success – you make a plan for it.
Contributed by Cllr Richard Farnell
Contributed by Anne Selby