A new report from think tank Centre for Cities has revealed the scale of urban transformation in big Northern and Midlands cities over recent decades.
The report shows that the number of people living and working in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham city centres has soared in comparison to other cities across the country.
Manchester has seen the highest city centre growth in England and Wales in recent decades (as measured by combined jobs and residential growth in central areas), followed closely by Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool.
Jobs growth in Manchester city centre outpaced all other cities in England and Wales, including that of London, despite the capital’s continued dominance in the national economy.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Thirty years ago the centres of places like Manchester and Birmingham were run-down and struggling, but since then they have undergone a dramatic transformation, and have become increasingly attractive locations for people to live and work in.
“This urban renaissance has brought opportunities for people living across these cities and their surrounding areas, and it’s vital that it continues. But for that to happen, cities need to take tough decisions on how to sustain the growth of their commercial centres, while also providing the homes their residents need.
“Public debate on these questions has rightly focused on housing issues in successful cities. But addressing these problems shouldn’t come at the expense of city centre commercial space, which will be vital in bringing more businesses, jobs and opportunities to these places in the future.
“Reforming planning laws to protect the commercial heart of cities – and to encourage more house-building in other areas – will help cities to manage these competing demands, and to continue to prosper in future.”
Christopher Stanwell, head of planning at DAC Beachcroft, said: “The report captures the essence of competing dynamics in our city centres. Solutions lie in sophisticated, collaborative responses that recognise the different patterns of use in different cities and that not all green belt is equal. Variable situations require flexible approaches.”
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