Update from John Atkins, Chair of the Chamber's Property & Construction Group

Date: 09/08/2018
Company: Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

I am the new Chair of the Chamber’s Property and Construction Group and have been involved with the Chamber for over 10 years. My background is in both construction and property development working in the regeneration  and transport sectors based in the NW. Major projects have included the second runway scheme at Manchester Airport – developed from idea to opening in 9 years (very untypical of UK infrastructure project – note the Heathrow debacle), and the development of Airport City at Manchester Airport. I am now working as a consultant advising on commercialising major infrastructure projects by capturing the commercial development value offered by these schemes.

The Chamber provides an insight into the commercial climate in both the UK and the GM area. The Chamber’s development pipeline report provides invaluable data to inform the Chamber on the issues facing the GM area and enables comparison of evidence that is used by the Chamber to lobby Government on behalf of our industry. One of the findings of the report is the scale of residential development in Manchester city centre and the comparison with 10 years ago is very different when commercial property was the strongest sector in the area. This evidence is also used to inform the training and education providers about the skills needed in the key growth sectors.

In property, Manchester City centre continues to be a leading location for investment outside London and offices, residential and logistics continue to see strong investment whereas retail and leisure uses are under immense pressure with chain closures throwing up further vacancies in the high streets. Finding new uses for properties including the increasingly important independent sector can revitalise town centres like the rejuvenation of Altrincham. However, the property industry needs to think in new ways to address these changes. It is very positive to see major redevelopment projects now being progressed for the Northern Gateway, Mayfield and St Johns, all showing that business remains strongly optimistic about our City.

Transport will play a big part in the knitting together of a wider economic area beyond GM, and whilst there has been progress in certain areas, including the completion of the Ordsall Chord linking Piccadilly and Victoria Stations, there needs to be more commitment from Government to projects outside London including HS3. Manchester Airport is on site with a massive £1bn transformation programme which will provide additional capacity for the Airport to develop valuable long- haul services and keep Manchester businesses connected to the World.

The eagerly awaited second draft of the GM Spatial Framework has been delayed again, this time to take account of new population figures. The GM Mayor now controls the document with Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett holding the GM Housing Brief. The Chamber was critical of the 2016 Draft mainly for its lack of integration of infrastructure and land use proposals.

These are just some of the issues facing our industry and the Chamber is here to listen to your views and lobby Government on policy, education, training and resource allocation matters affecting our sector.