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18 Mar 1996 : Column 1113

Central Manchester Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1996

5.35 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th February be approved [10th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is the third order of this nature to come before your Lordships. We have previously considered those relating to the Leeds and the Bristol development corporations.

This order is now required to wind up the Central Manchester Development Corporation. It revokes the 1988 order which designated the urban development area and which established the development corporation.

The order will take effect in two stages. The first is that that part of the order which designated the urban development area is to be revoked on 1st April 1996. The second is that that part of the order which established the corporation is to be revoked on 1st July 1996.

The reason for having two stages is that on 1st April the corporation will cease to exercise any operational functions. It is, therefore, proper that the urban development area status should be removed on that date. The corporation will then have three months in which to produce its annual report and accounts and to wind up its affairs. On 1st July the corporation will finally be dissolved.

All development corporations were intended from the outset to be bodies with a limited life. They were set up with the particular aim of helping the regeneration of certain run-down urban areas in order to give those areas a much needed boost after years of neglect. We are winding up the Central Manchester Development Corporation, therefore, precisely because it has successfully revived the fortunes of its designated area and because it has established a solid base from which regeneration can continue.

The corporation was set up in 1988. Its remit was to revitalise, and to bring private investment back, to an area of 187 hectares--an area which is immediately south of the city centre. This area was once the powerhouse of Manchester. But it had become run-down and neglected, with many under-used buildings and derelict sites.

This was a depressing and sad state of affairs for the centre of what was, and is, a magnificent and proud city. There was, therefore, a pressing need to tackle environmental decay, to promote jobs and tourism and to bring housing back to the city centre.

Anyone who has visited this area, as I have been privileged to do recently, cannot fail to be enormously impressed by the way in which the corporation has tackled these problems. It has transformed a once neglected area into a thriving, vibrant part of the city centre where developers are now keen to invest. It is wonderful not only to see what has been done but also

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to sense the enthusiasm, determination and pride of all those who have been involved and of all those who have been affected by what has been done.

An important part of the corporation's work has been to bring people and vitality back to the city centre. In 1988 the population of the urban development area was just 250. Now, eight years later, nearly 4,000 people live there. That is an astonishing change. Those people live in lively new communities with decent services and popular bars, pubs and restaurants.

The corporation has spent some £17 million on environmental improvements. These include such things as clearing canals, restoring towpaths and putting in new landscaping. Much of this work has been done in the Castlefield area, which is now a major leisure and tourist attraction and which is based around the historic canal network. These environmental improvement works have been vital ingredients in inspiring the confidence of investors and in creating an overall image of which local people can be proud.

The corporation has also succeeded in attracting new jobs and new businesses. Many under-used and neglected buildings have been converted into quality offices and hotels of varying sizes. New offices have also been built. Since the corporation started its work, over 98,000 square metres of offices have opened or are under way. That is a significant contribution.

In all, the corporation has attracted into its area private sector investment of £376 million. For every £1 of public money which has been invested by the corporation, nearly £4 will have been invested by the private sector. Noble Lords will agree that that is a remarkable achievement.

The corporation, though, has not achieved all this on its own. Underlying all its achievements have been the close and successful partnerships which it formed with the city council, with other public sector agencies and with the private sector. A splendid example of this spirit of co-operation can be seen in the new international concert hall, the Bridgewater Hall, which is due to open in the autumn. This was conceived and financed in partnership with the city council, with substantial backing from the European Regional Development Fund. It will be the centrepiece for the regeneration of an entire sector of the city.

There are many aspects of the achievements of the Central Manchester Development Corporation which deserve just recognition, but I fear that, were I to mention them, I might weary your Lordships greatly, which would be distressing. The Central Manchester Development Corporation has, without doubt, been a great success story. Parts of central Manchester which were decaying are now no longer decaying but thriving due to the corporation's splendid efforts. It has restored the confidence of private sector investors. It has stimulated new jobs and homes. It has created a cleaner, safer environment. In partnership with the city council, it has laid a solid basis for continued regeneration in the future.

Now that that has been done, it is right to wind up the corporation. It is now for others, such as the council, to carry on the work and to build upon the corporation's achievements. The order is necessary to wind up the

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corporation, and I hope that I have managed to persuade your Lordships of the quite outstanding work which has been done by it. I commend the order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th February be approved [10th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Earl Ferrers.)

Lord Dubs: My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words about the order. When development corporations were first established, there was a sense that the Government had set them up because they lacked complete confidence in the ability of local authorities to achieve the necessary regeneration in their areas. There was concern that by setting up the development corporations the Government were lessening the status of local authorities in their areas by taking away large chunks of responsibility from elected councillors and giving them to an unelected body. Those were the concerns, and many of us felt an element of unhappiness about it.

The Central Manchester Development Corporation has, by all accounts, done an outstandingly good job. Someone in Manchester said that it was in danger of giving development corporations a good name. All that I know of the work of the Central Manchester Development Corporation is that it has achieved everything that the Minister described in detail. It has done a good job in regenerating a part of Manchester which badly needed a shot in the arm. That was good news for Manchester, and I pay tribute to all those involved with the development corporation for a successful period.

We now enter a new phase. Manchester will have to do without the corporation and, above all, it will have to do without the money which the corporation spent in regenerating the area. I hope that the Government will be able to find other means, through other budgets, of helping to achieve continuity for the City of Manchester so that some of the good ideas started by the development corporation are not brought to a dead halt on 1st April or 1st July.

The Minister was so enthusiastic, as I listened to him, about the work of the development corporation that he went close to suggesting that Manchester had no problems left at all; it was almost Utopia there. Manchester is a great city. I spent some years of my childhood there and have an enormous affection for it. However, I cannot believe that every problem has now been solved. I hope that what the Minister said will be tempered by the realisation that Manchester still has pockets of poverty; it still has a need for more industry and more employment for its many people.

We now go back to the local authority, the city council. After all, local government in Manchester had a good record before the development corporation was established. I understand that it was the local authority that set up Manchester Airport, which is outstanding and a sign of what local government can do.

Looking to the future, I hope that the Government will be helpful in stimulating and assisting the local authority to go on stimulating those parts of the city that need further regeneration. I see the future very much as

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co-operation among the local authority, the private sector and the voluntary sector. I see a partnership that will build on the good work done by the development corporation which will help to continue the achievements of Manchester and give it prosperity in the future.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for what he said. He is always honest, and he was particularly frank when he said that when the development corporations were set up they were pretty unpopular. People were doubtful and sceptical; they felt that the corporations were taking away powers from the local authorities. I can understand that. However, the Government had in mind that various places throughout the country were derelict, run-down and needed a shot in the arm. The only way to do that was to set up the development corporations. As the noble Lord was courteous enough to say, they have done a great job, and I am grateful to him for acknowledging it.

If I gave the impression that no more problems existed in Manchester, I assure the noble Lord that it was the wrong impression. I meant that over the area, just that one small part of Manchester for which the development corporation was responsible, it has done an exceedingly good job. There will be much more to do within the whole of Manchester.

The noble Lord was worried in case government funds would not be available. I am sure that he will realise that that phase of life has come to an end but new phases will go on and the city council will take over the responsibilities. The Government will make further money available where needed. For example, there is the Hulme City Challenge for which the Government are making available £37.5 million over five years. There is Estate Action where £54 million is being spent over this year and the next three years. There is the Challenge Fund, Round 1, which will receive £14 million over the next six years. In the second round of the Challenge Fund £28 million is being made available over the next seven years. And of course the Government contributed no less a sum than £75 million towards the Olympic bids. That was done over five years, from 1991 to 1996. Unfortunately, Manchester was not successful in getting the Olympic bid but because of that it got the Commonwealth Games bid, and therefore that has been a success.

The noble Lord should not worry too much that the Government will not be thinking of Manchester any more. Of course we shall; but it has to take its place in all the other priorities throughout the country. The main point is that this particular facet of life, the Central Manchester Development Corporation, which was set up for a term has been a success. The term has come to an end, and now it is for others to pick up the baton and run with it.

The corporation can be very proud of its achievements. I congratulate the chairman, Dr. James Grigor, and his fellow board members and the corporation's dedicated officers on the splendid work they have achieved over the past eight years. It is something of which they can be proud, and something of which Greater Manchester will also be proud. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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