Vital and viable neighbourhood centres: Manchester.

In line with the 'Our Manchester' philosophy, this joint project between IPM and Manchester City Council 2016-2019 developed new approaches to district centre management across the city. The aim was to ensure all neigbourhoods have a liveable and lovable centre.

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What was the project all about?

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The Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester City Council collaborated on this project 2016-2019, to improve the vitality and viability of district centers across Manchester. Footfall data is provided by Springboard and, for the first time, activity and performance across the whole city can be analysed.

The Institute also worked closely with stakeholders in five pilot centers (Chorlton, Gorton, Harpurhey, Northenden, and Withington) through a structured programme which brought together residents, councilors, local traders, neighbourhood officers and other key individuals by conducting meetings with neighbourhood teams, and stakeholder workshops.

As part of the project, the IPM research team also conducted place quality audits in each centre, drawing on primary observations and secondary research. 

Final reports prepared for each centre drew on the above evidence, and provided a series of recommendations based around the IPM's '25 priorities' and '4Rs of regeneration' frameworks, to ensure any interventions to enhance vitality and viability are effective and controllable at a local level.

Key project recommendations 

As well as providing tailored recommendations for each district centre, by looking across the centres, a series of overall suggestions were provided in the final project report, which have been presented to, and accepted by, the District Centres Sub-Group, to be taken forwards for consideration in Manchester's Local Plan. The key recommendations are summarised below:

1. Strengthen local capacity and their capacity to effect change

Local capacity and partnership working was variable across the five district centres. It is recommended that local capacity and networks are strengthened, sub-groups created to lead on different aspects of place improvement, and governance structures remain flexible in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

2. Align placemaking interventions against 25 factors 

Since places are all unique and complex, tailored place interventions are recommended. It is advised that district centres draw on the IPM’s 25 priorities to identify particular areas of weakness, those factors which can be influenced at a local level, and begin with quick-wins to enhance vitality and viability.

3. Monitor and share data to make informed decisions

The report recommends that local place stakeholders regularly monitor and share data and insights in a collaborative manner. Decisions should be informed by evidence. Through regularly monitoring footfall, for example, centres are able to see the impact of any place interventions undertaken. Training in making sense of any data captured is important.

The final project report can be found here