Around 200 Manchester professionals came together for the pro-manchester Property and Regeneration Lunch, hosted by The Lowry Hotel. This annual event is a key opportunity for property professionals to discuss the sector, the impact of the latest budget and the trends for the year ahead.
Jane Forbes, Chair of pro-manchester, opened the event and noted how well timed it was, given that the significant policy changes for the sector following the budget. This was echoed by John Ashcroft, CEO of pro-manchester and our host for the day, who also thanked event sponsors 90 Degrees, Allied London, City Suites, Together and Trowers & Hamlins.
The first panel discussion focussed on the housing targets, trends and policy changes. Paul Beardmore, Manchester City Council and CEO of Manchester Place, noted that the new housing targets are at a level not achieved since the 1960s. This level of building is necessary following the deficit of housing created during the last recession and he welcomed the increase in funding.
Stephen Heverin, Growth & Regeneration Director at Onward Homes, offered his perspective from a social housing standpoint. Whilst also welcoming the renewed focus on housebuilding, he would like to see a greater focus on affordable homes being created in the right areas. In particular, he noted that the target for new homes doesn’t sit with the desire to redevelop brownfield sites as additional gap funding would be required to make this a viable option. Paul agreed, noting that of the 26,000 comments on the new spatial plan the vast majority were in opposition to the use of greenfield sites. Further investment is needed in areas to make them attractive to residents.
Suzanne Benson, Partner at Trowers & Hamlins, commented on the surprise negative backlash from the removal of stamp duty for the majority first time buyers. Whilst obviously appealing to the youth vote, the measures seem unlikely to unlock a significant portion of the market and may lead to higher prices. Instead she argued the increase of the Help to Buy scheme, already used for one in three new build purchases, would have more of an impact. Suzanne further noted that we will see the first repayments on these schemes start next year, and that any rise in interest rates may create a pinch point.
After an impressive lunch, John chaired the second panel of the day, focussing on the development trends in the city. Will Lewis, Founding Director at OBI Property, stated that this is a hugely exciting time for Manchester fuelled by a high growth, tech and e-commerce sector. This optimistic view was supported by Thomas Renn, Managing Director at Manchester Science Partnerships, who is seeing a phenomenal uptake from growing R&D businesses.
Chris Reay, Group Property Director of Allied London, recapped on an exceptional year which saw the completion of Spinningfields and a change of occupier type from big corporates to tech companies, such as MediaCom, and shared working spaces, such as WeWork. Further developments in the restaurant sector will include the launch of 20 Stories (from D&D) and The Ivy in 2018.
Steve Luty, Corporate Development Director at Together, commented on the change in the investor landscape as the traditional banks have moved out of that market. Will noted that Manchester is increasingly popular with investors, both from the UK and globally (thanks to the efforts of MIDAS amongst others). Chris reiterated that Manchester has far more to offer than simply being “cheaper than London” and is winning bids over all European cities. Allied London are taking advantage of these developments with the creation of “Enterprise City” (at St Johns), XYZ Works and “The Vault” (for fin tech companies). Thomas highlighted the R&D capabilities within the city, including a wealth of Nobel laureates and the development of 2D materials.
Rounding off the panel and the event, John asked for any concerns for the year ahead. The panel were unanimously positive with Steve noting we all need to maintain confidence in the market to encourage ongoing investment.