Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum by Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company (URC) and Salford City Council

1.  BACKGROUND

  1.1  Following recent discussions between the Bishop of Manchester and the Chair of the Central Salford URC, we decided that it was important to make this short submission so that the discussion about the BBC's move to Manchester and the debate over its long-term role and its location and the relationship to the Charter Renewal process and the associated licence fee debate, was informed by knowledge of the Salford dimension.

2.  THE RELOCATION

  2.1  First and foremost it is of paramount importance that the BBC's relocation to a base in Manchester, serving the North of England, actually does take place. The debate about sites is potentially a diversion from this fundamental issue.

  2.2  The Leaders of both City Councils have acknowledged that whichever site in the end is chosen, the key issue is that the relocation takes place. Whichever site is chosen, the potentially enormous economic benefit which will flow will happen. Whichever site is chosen, there is the opportunity for the relocation to benefit the citizens of the cities of Manchester and Salford and well beyond. These opportunities must be grasped decisively and the debate over the precise location must not be allowed to divert attention from this fundamentally important requirement.

  2.3  In granting the BBC renewal of its Charter and in determining the level of the Licence Fee, the Government should be urged to make the BBC's relocation to Manchester a clear condition which has to be met in full. This should include the definition of the minimum range of activities to be relocated, including all of those already announced ie:

    —  Children's TV

    —  BBC Sport

    —  BBC R&D

    —  Radio 5 Live

    —  New Media

    —  etc

  2.4  The potential impact of the BBC's relocation has already been the subject of an economic appraisal commissioned by the NW Development Agency and Manchester City Council. That potential impact applies equally to all the sites shortlisted and the two recently chosen for the final stage of site selection. The economic impact is a sub-regional/regional/North of England issue and the choice of site, when both are located in or very close to the centre of the conurbation, is unlikely in itself to make any difference. What could make a significant difference however is how the site chosen is developed to deliver the maximum possible impact on the growth of the media industries and across the wider Creative Industries sectors, across the North of England. It is in this respect that we believe the site on Salford Quays offers the BBC and the media industries generally the greatest potential and the greatest opportunity.

3.  THE MEDIA CITY CONCEPT

  3.1  The URC and the City Council along with the landowner and developer, Peel Holdings (the Partnership), believe that the site of Salford Quays offers a quite unique opportunity to develop a truly international Media City which can compete with those already being established across the world. Advice from MIT indicates that such International Media Cities need to be developed over time on a significant scale. Sites of 50 to 100 acres and more are seen as the norm. On Salford Quays there is the opportunity to develop such a complex on such a scale. The attached summary of the "Seoul Digital Media City" produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January 2005 illustrates the potential which Salford Quays can offer the UK (see Appendix A). It is an opportunity which the partnership in Salford believe can be delivered, building on the enormous strength of the BBC as the Media City Anchor Tenant. There is the space on Salford Quays and the potential for expansion to develop an International complex on a scale which is simply not possible elsewhere close to the conurbation core. The Select Committee heard from earlier evidence by Helen France, Sir Howard Bernstein and John Willis that the components of Media City would embrace:

    —  Office accommodation for the administration and supporting infrastructure

    —  Shared technical facilities

    —  Developing the role of independent producers

    —  Encouraging innovation

    —  Business support services including incubation

    —  Research centre

    —  Community engagement

  3.2  This is but the core of what is possible in Salford Quays. Our partnership is looking to develop a Media City where the BBC is a vital anchor tenant but is not the only economic driver. We would expect ITV Granada amongst others to want to make use of the technical facilities which will be independently provided via Peel Holdings for production and post production purposes. We would expect a growing range of independent producers to utilise what will be leading edge, world class technical facilities. We envisage other programme makers across the North doing likewise. We expect to develop a critical mass of production and post production activity which will sustain the provision of constantly updated technical facilities making the Salford Quays Media City the most advanced centre for programme making anywhere in the UK. As part of this objective, we will so design and develop the Media City so that it becomes a major visitor destination in its own right. Centered on an extensive and specifically designed area of world class public realm, providing the setting for major events and activities linked to Media and Creative Industry themes, including in particular Children's TV, Sport, New Media and Learning, Media City will attract local, regional, national and international audiences and interest.

  3.3  Media City will act as a magnet for commercial and leisure activity in the rapidly growing multi media, IT and entertainment industries. On Salford Quays the opportunity will be created for a wide range of allied activities to cluster and create the sort of critical mass which will give the location its strength and its ability not just to sustain the BBC's activities which are to be re-located, but to grow the Media and Creative Industries sector very significantly indeed. There is an exciting opportunity here for Media City to contribute in a very real way to growth in GVA in the North and to the delivery of the Government's PSA2 Target. Opportunities on this scale are few and far between, and this one must be grasped and exploited to the benefit of the economy and the communities in the North and the UK, as a whole. The Salford Quays site and the vision and commitment of the partnership offers that prospect.

  3.4  Media City is also about harnessing the talents of the people of the North (and the UK) in driving the concept forward. The vital importance of ensuring that people are skilled to drive forward these knowledge based industries is a key issue and the partnership is developing proposals to ensure that real focus and commitment is delivered to that end.

  3.5  Equally important is the need to harness the Research expertise of the Universities of Salford and Manchester and Institutions across the North to support the development of the Media and Creative Industry Sectors. The proposed BBC R&D Institute will be based in Media City and we would expect to see that concept broadened to underpin the development of the sector as a whole.

  3.6  In various aspects Media City will be linked closely to the surrounding communities in Salford and the wider Manchester conurbation. It is seen as an important objective to ensure that local people benefit from the economic activity generated to the maximum. Benefits through jobs, through links to local schools, to community involvement in events and so on. The potential regeneration benefits which could flow to the wider city communities are very substantial and this will be a major objective of the Salford Quays Media City concept.

4.  CONCLUSION

  4.1  The relocation of the BBC will have a major economic and social impact on the Manchester City region and the North of England. The site at Salford Quays offers the opportunity to augment and develop that impact to one of international status. It is one very good example of the potential for transformational change, and as such needs to be grasped and developed decisively.

  4.2  The Partnership in Salford is entirely focused on delivering this opportunity and will work with the BBC and other partners to that end. We believe that alongside the Lowry Arts Centre, the Imperial Museum North, Manchester United FC and the adjoining City Centre of Manchester, we can create the sort of exciting environment which will attract and retain the talented, innovative and creative people who will drive an International Media City. We hope the Select Committee will recognise this potential and support the proposition that the BBC's relocation should become a condition of Charter Renewal and the Licence Fee settlement.

  4.3  The submission is made by Central Salford URC and Salford City Council.



 
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