Monday, October 31, 2016

So where are we going to build all the houses?

Launching the IPPR North report at Manchester Met School of Art
One of the most important debates we've ever had in Greater Manchester is about to get going. Where are we going to build all the new homes the city region needs to grow?

The newspaper coverage of a very thoughtful IPPR North report (of which I chaired the launch today) came down to the one issue guaranteed to get middle England foaming at the mouth - the Green Belt.

The Greater Manchester plan for this is now out for consultation on the ambitious plan to build 225,000 homes in the next 20 years, 20,000 of them in the Borough of Stockport. Only so much of this can be taken up with brownfield sites and creative high density building in district centres and around transport hubs. So this will mean Stockport giving up 10 per cent of its Green Belt to green light schemes in High Lane and Woodford for 4000 and 2400 units around the route of the new Airport relief road.

Already I've had leaflets from local politicians - well, our Conservative MP and his Councillors in Marple, asking us to "protect the Green Belt".  There was comment today from Trafford's leader that this intervention is most unwelcome and clearly disappointing to him. Political pressure on Labour council leaders in Bury and Stockport to resist the Green Belt erosion will also be immense. And so it should be, as it's actually an existential question for where we live.

Taking it to a Greater Manchester level is a decent start. It recognises meaningful economic geographies and appreciates the flows of people to where they work, from where they might want to live. A Greater Manchester planning system can then take into account housebuilding around services and infrastructure and not the lag that responds to these when they reach breaking point and gridlock.

There is a desperate need for new houses to be built in this country. The price of land, the price of housing, is terrifying. There is a market failure that requires state intervention, a boosting of the institutional private rented sector and a role for the imaginative co-operation demonstrated by forward thinking and resourceful leaders in the social housing sector.

The demand for housing - fuelled by the fact we live longer, more people live alone and we absorb more immigrants to this country than we lose expats - has rendered the old planning system not fit for purpose. So many glitches in the system mitigate against a mature and sensible response, one that is long term and actually involves some actual, er, planning.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework consultation
IPPR North report - Closer to Home
Place North West commentary on this
Jonathan Reynolds MP on this
My Policy at Manchester blog from 2015
Marple Neighbourhood Forum launch

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Why I didn't join the 1875 protest

It saddened me yesterday that Rovers fans who quietly trooped out of the Riverside stand on 75 minutes were booed and jeered, just as my lad was when he took his seat at 5:48. It saddened me too that whistles were blown from the 18th minute to the 75th when the protesting fans entered the stadium.

The whole thing is a mess.

I packed a lot into the day to get to the match, including taking in the Northumbria University open day in Newcastle, taking three trains, dropping off one son in Marple and picking up another in order to drive the 80 miles round trip to see the Rovers play Wolves. We held our insolent and defiant Barmy Flag up towards the camera gantry before kick off and there were stickers distributed and displayed that summarised how I feel about the owners. But I chose not to join the 18:75 protest, but to support the team in the way I usually do for the full 90 minutes.

It saddens me every day that these owners remain in control of our football club. It cheers me that there are fans who care enough to want to do something about them (I just wish they could spell and use basic grammar). The coverage in the papers, on BBC Radio FiveLive and Sky, who screened the game live, focused on the protest. There can be no doubt now that we have an unhappy fanbase.

But while I won't attack or condemn those who protested in the way they considered best we can't return to this corrosive and divisive situation again.

I genuinely don't believe the protest affected the outcome of the game. So please don't play that card in the cause of attacking the protestors. But the next stance to highlight this just cause has to be targeted towards the ultimate goal - persuading the Rao family that they should enter talks to exit the business. I don't know how we do that, genuinely. But for those who do have an influence on what the next move is, could you please learn whatever lessons you can from last night and pledge to pursue a course of action that doesn't cause such division again.

The team is playing better than in the gutless and clueless performances at the start of the season. Whether there will be three worse teams in the division by the time we visit Brentford on the 7th day of May is debatable. What other clubs around us seem to have is a strategy to get out of this mess, the courage to change manager, the ability to invest in new players. We just have to hope loanees can stay around and that key players don't get injured. And we need all the support we can muster to get behind the team.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Design Manchester debate - identity, opportunity and devolution

City ID – The Great Debate at DM16 from Images & Co on Vimeo.

The headline political event at this year's Design Manchester festival brought together top designers, leading politicians and Manchester's design community to discuss city identity, devolution, Brexit and the role of the creative industries in creating successful, inclusive and connected cities.

Chaired by magneticNorth's Lou Cordwell, the panel included urbanist and designer Claire Mookerjee of Future Cities Catapult, former EU Trade Commissioner and UK Cabinet Minister Lord Mandelson, now Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, the Co-op’s tech engagement lead Emer Coleman, who founded the London DataStore, Designer Republic's Ian Anderson, Manchester Mayoral candidate Andy Burnham MP and Mike Rawlinson, founder of City ID and pioneer of the “legible cities” wayfinding methodology.

The debate took place in the stunning Bonded Warehouse at Old Granada Studios, in the St. John’s cultural district of Manchester, and was sponsored by city law form Pannone Corporate.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Futureproofing the Northern Powerhouse | How businesses can benefit

Manchester Mayoral candidates The Rt. Hon. Andy Burnham MP and Councillor Sean Anstee outlined their ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse at this special Manchester Metropolitan University Business School event I hosted.

I've said before how important it is that as a city region we get this right. Rightly, this was a very business focused discussion. Productivity, new jobs and global competitiveness were all at the top of the agenda. How you get to support this is built upon education, logistics, and a strong base in financial and professional services. We'll return to this again and again, but I'll just leave it here for now.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bas Salmon, my greatest teacher, may he rest in peace

Brian "Bas" Salmon was the greatest teacher I ever had. Bar none. A remarkable, kind and eccentric history master at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, I will never forget his methods, nor his wisdom. Especially memorable is a delicious Latin phrase he once chalked on the board - Parlum Taurum Excrementum (speak intelligent bullshit) - which isn't even correct, but then that's probably the point.

He was part of a history department at LRGS that could probably match many universities for sheer brain power, depth of knowledge and certainly what we refer to as "teaching excellence".

All three, Jack Lea, Jock Fidler and Bas Salmon as we knew them, also had wide hinterlands beyond school - either in drama, quiz teams and the church, all were High Anglicans.

All three also influenced me very directly in how I live my life. It was sad then to learn today that Flea and Bas have both recently passed away, but they will have been given great send offs filled with love and affection.

Fidler, who survives the other two, I never liked. He seemed a vain and uptight bully who is widely despised by almost everyone I ever meet who was taught by him. Yet there was always a paradox about him, he gave so much to the school and to the Air Force cadets thing he ran - the Fidler Youth, we called it - and whenever I saw him out of school he held the hand of his wife or his daughters, something that showed an otherwise hidden side of a man capable of such warmth and affection. Having shared a version of this short tribute on the Lancaster Past and Present Facebook page I've had a few people give Fids the benefit of the doubt, which is as it should be.

Bas was the first person who suggested I go to university, or rather he just assumed I would be doing, which had a remarkable affect on me at a time when Fidler had made me feel awful, humiliated and useless. I always burned with a desire to go back and show him he was wrong about me, when in retrospect I now simply regret not telling Bas he was right.

The point of the Marple Leaf blog and the future

The tenth anniversary of The Marple Leaf blog rather passed me by. But it does represent a point to reflect on its future.

When I started out in May 2006 it was before Twitter and Facebook. It was when I had a senior job in journalism and it was an outlet to write about stuff I didn't get to tackle through work.

It has at times been deeply personal and confessional, but equally there are also relationships that I don't talk about at all. I've always quite careful to protect the dignity of my children. More recently, some of them have even insisted I never feature them at all. One is alright about it, as long as it's just about going to the football.

By numbers it still suggests it's worth doing.

501,953 visits in total
6867 visits to the most popular post about the death of Gary Speed and hateful football fans
324 posts tagged football
1067 comments (I didn't allow them for 4 years)
1865 posts over the 10 years
23950 views from the largest number of views from a country I've never been to (Russia)
337 is the record for posts in a single year (2007)
687 is the current leader in page views for the month (why Labour should split)
5 of the top ten posts are about Blackburn Rovers
ZERO is the amount of money I've made through Google Adwords simply not working

Due to the powers of Google Analytics I know this stuff, but it doesn't really steer me towards doing anything more than what interests and inspires me. I suspect it hasn't really served as a shop window for my events work.

It's had a makeover since the early days, a new logo and a few tonal changes. My Twitter name was actually taken from the blog - a diary from my adopted home town of Marple. That meant that it tended to be about football, politics and local stuff. It also started as a bit of a pre-Facebook family diary, in fact the early blogs are very much like what my Facebook is now. 

There have always been a number of subjects that have proved popular drivers of comment and social media interest - Blackburn Rovers, Marple and Labour. The issue that pre-occupies me more than anything now is how the modern civic university connects with the wider public. This blog probably isn't the place for that.

I've had a few long running features which I've not updated for a while - the my mate series, where I randomly profile a friend and talk through our personal history. A couple I barely even know any more, one has moved away and one North West power couple are sadly divorced.

I used to do book reviews as if I was describing it in the time it took to rise 8 floors in a lift. 

I enjoy doing telly reviews, but wonder if this is the best outlet.

I wrote a fictional novel, but didn't extract or attempt creative writing on here.

In April 2015 it was all about the election campaign I fought and ever since has become occasionally bitter and angsty about the state of our politics. Locally, there is going to be an enormous debate about where houses are to be built, once again igniting a question about the future of this community.

I'm not certain what the rules are on Search Engine Optimisation by cross-posting content that appears on, say, the Progress website. Personally, I'd like it all to be here, as I control it. Though I do also link to blogs I like and maintain these as best as I can. 

So, the point of this now is I'm interested in your views as to what I should do next, but that ultimately I'm going to carry on, revive a few features, start a few new ones and continue to do what  I've always tried to do, be honest,  be loyal, be kind. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why I love Cold Feet

In a year of a significant birthday, of key rites of passage for my children and of various birthdays, weddings and reunions, Cold Feet is back. And on the Prolific North news website today I note with some delight that it's being recommissioned for a follow up.

I so desperately wanted it to work. It's been a little like seeing a group of old friends again, not real ones, but people I like who I haven't seen for ages. In a marginally parallel but believable universe I used to play seven-a-side football at Parr's Wood with Adam and Pete. I have definitely been registered at conferences at the Midland by Jenn and I still laugh at David's attempt to ply me with favours to win Dealmaker of the Year, while as editor of Insider magazine I instead placed his far more interesting wife Karen in the 42 Under 42.

Cold Feet played a role in luring me back to Manchester in 2000. As my life moved on so too had the city of my student days. Spotting locations and continuity gaffs has always been a minor delight. So too have the excellent musical choices.

Yes, it's really funny at times, but as I've said before, drama in the unlikeliest settings has to have grown from a grain of truth. As a piece of television this series has always been at its best when it's been raw. For me the standout storyline and performance has been John Thompson as the depressed Pete Gifford. We keep coming back to this, don't we?