Vital and viable neighbourhood centres: Manchester.

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




The Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester City Council are currently leading a project to improve the vitality and viability of all 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.

As part of the project, the Institute is also working closely with stakeholders in four pilot centers, through a structured programme which brings together residents, councillors, local traders, neighbourhood officers and other key individuals. This ensures the interventions that have most impact on vitality and viability are prioritised and can be implemented locally. 

Finally, new, state-of-the-art dashboard products are being developed by Springboard to improve place decision making, both at Town Hall and in local place management partnerships. The dashboards are driven by research and algorithms based on over 10 years of detailed analysis of UK footfall. The dashboards ensure that there is a data-driven identification of the function and performance of each centre, and that the centres can also be understood as a network. This enables ‘whole place’ policy and programmes to be developed that are sensitive to local variations whilst optimising the vitality and viability of the city as a whole.

Upcoming activities...

Development workshops

We are conducting workshops within each of the four place management pilots. These are based on the IPM’s Town Centre Vitality Programme, which is an evidence-based approach for town centres that provides key stakeholders with expert advice and support for the development of an effective agenda for managing centre change. These two-hour development workshops are led by the IPM research team, and delivered to a range of 20-100 interested stakeholders in each of the four centres (including residents, businesses, and public sector figures). The anticipated output of the workshops is a better understanding of how each centre is currently performing, agreement of the options for improvement most likely to enhance vitality and viability, more trust between stakeholders, and better partnership working.

Following these workshops, the IPM will be authoring short written reports for the four centres to begin to foster ownership for management and development. The reports will include a clear series of actions and proprieties that will strengthen the function and performance of each centre, based upon the IPM’s 4Rs framework (repositioning, reinventing, rebranding, and restructuring). 

We will then go through each report in a more focused session with key representatives from the place management pilot locations, such as the neighbourhood officer, councilor, and anyone else district leads think should attend. In these meetings, we will offer more targeted plans of action and advice to enhance centre vitality and viability.

The Northenden workshop took place at the Britannia Hotel on 6th March 2018 (to read more about the event please click here), followed by the Gorton workshop on 14th March 2018 held in the local library, and the Harpurhey workshop on 25th July 2018 at the Factory Youth Zone. Negotiations are still underway in Chorlton, and a first draft of the Northenden report has been submitted to MCC for checking.

Methodology rubric

Based on the findings stemming from these activities, and other related projects such as HSUK2020, we will devise a written methodology rubric in 2018 regarding how to identify underserved communities in Manchester. This is for MCC to use when analysing strategic documents and existing development to more easily and quickly identify areas that are not currently well-served by a district centre.

Policy pilots

Whilst we identified 25 key priorities for centre change in our HSUK2020 project, we believe it is wise to pilot some alternative approaches to place development. This policy pilot is to follow the above workshops, and will illustrate how various policy ‘levers’ may function, including a more place-led approach to governance and management. The IPM will author a document setting context, identifying potential novel policies/interventions which have the potential to change to trajectory of centres, and detailing recommendations for policy piloting.

Consequently, the project findings, and any recommendations stemming from this project, will be detailed in updated IPM project webpages, a half-day masterclass (to be delivered in 2018 to interested stakeholders), and a final written report for MCC Executives.

The project started in 2016 and runs until the end of 2018. We will be posting regular updates throughout the course of the programme. If you want more detail on the project, please contact IPM Enterprise Fellow Gareth Roberts or IPM Research Associate Chloe Steadman.