Leaders set out the need for a combined voice in the North
The Manchester pavilion at MIPIM may have suffered some upheaval due to weather issues yesterday, but a series of Northern speakers this afternoon spoke on the relocated stand about how they need to have a combined voice to continue to attract investment in housing, infrastructure, skills and much more in the north.
Councillor Judith Blake of Leeds City Council said: “We can talk about infrastructure and skills and that’s important. But I think it’s also about character and how we tell people around the world what we do.
“We need to express how proud we are and that we are ambitious for the future; and how we work together to achieve it is very important.”
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor Mayor of Liverpool, said there were benefits of agglomeration; having a clear voice but with many accents. “It’s not about any of us losing identity,” he added.
He added that government needed to realise that it needed to engage with the north and that having a combined voice would give it the gravitas needed. “The dialogue needs to be ongoing. They [government] can’t just impose things and hope we will agree.”
John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said it was about being diverse and authentic in the northern approach, while still realising the region could be modest; especially Sheffield.
“How do you sell a place that values selling understatement? When you sell it to modest people.
“We need to be authentic, independently challenging the ego and that is something we need to celebrate.”
Sir Richard Leese, Manchester City Council leader, agreed that a collaborative approach was important to give the presence the north needed. He added that there were a range of issues around housing in particular which needed to be addressed. He said: “There is too much old stock, not of sufficient quality. It is either replacement or refurbishment.
“In the north, we don’t have a sufficient range of stock, tenures and price point. We need very affordable housing for low income households right through to executive housing if we want companies and inward investment.
“We need more housing to be developed in a way that creates places. Too many volume house builders are about building estates and moving on. It doesn’t create a sense of place or ownership.
“That requires, not simply a developer coming and doing something and going away. It needs councils and other people to do that place making. I think it’s good in Manchester but I know a lot in the north struggle.”
Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, talked about the post-Brexit world that the North regions had to prepare for. She said: “In the towns around cities, those choosing to vote to leave was high. We must take into account the way people are feeling in those smaller communities. Cities are a catalyst of growth, but we must include regions well. It is not just about connecting the cities.
“We are using all of the development around Leeds train station to open up the connections to the towns around.
Blake said that growth and investment opened up opportunities and attracted businesses. She added: “But alongside that, do they have the home, schools, health facilities in place? Do the young people have the skills they need to advantage of the development taking place?”