For our first event of 2022, Downtown in Business hosted an informative roundtable dinner with Becca Heron, who became the new Strategic Director for Growth and Development for Manchester City Council in October 2021. Becca was joined by reporter and presenter, Jacey Normand, who chaired the discussion. Key topics included Manchester’s strengths as a city despite the struggles that the last two years have brought, Becca’s plans for Greater Manchester and how she has been collaborating with other female leaders of Manchester City Council in order to begin executing plans for further development in and around the city.
To begin, Becca outlined the responsibilities of her new role, which include overseeing commercial, residential, and other growth and planning across the Greater Manchester region. Furthermore, after successfully securing funding and development agreements in her previous role within Wigan Council, she now provides the necessary leadership, overseeing incoming investment in order to manage strategic priorities for growth throughout the city region.
Becca works closely alongside the recently appointed Leader of Manchester City Council, Bev Craig, and Chief Executive, Joanne Roney OBE. While she highlighted the potential setbacks of both herself and Bev Craig taking on their new roles at a difficult time due to the pandemic, she stated “what Manchester has done well is retaining a consistency of vision”.
Consistency was a pivotal theme throughout the discussion, as Becca affirmed that Manchester as a city does, and should continue to, focus on their key growth sectors, such as health, innovation, science and tech, and exploit them. She gave the example of Graphene as a material that was developed Manchester, and has since been capitalised on and created employment opportunities, especially recently with the development and use of Concretene.
Regarding the impact of Covid on the city, Becca stated that “there hasn’t been a fundamental shift in vision for Manchester” and that “Manchester has weathered the pandemic much better than expected”. Some positive outcomes from the pandemic she highlighted included rent opening up across the city, a higher influx of students and a high demand for business and property due to people moving away from London. One issue that Jacey emphasised was the need to encourage workers back into the city centre after working remotely and shifts in work patterns. Becca demonstrated this as a difficulty for councils throughout the pandemic in balancing the needs of the economy with public health.
Quality of place and place shaping were another key topic of the discussion. With Jacey reiterating Manchester’s ranking as third best city to live in the world, Becca added that quality of place is imperative as a pull factor for Manchester. She outlined needs for developments and improvements in transport, public spaces, and housing, and recognised the need to eradicate disparity between north, central and south Manchester. Becca highlighted that there are already plans for growth in those areas with funding for North Manchester General Hospital and plans for 15,000 new homes and a new tram stop in Victoria North. When posed with a question regarding gentrification, she stated that the council “will be working closely with existing communities” in these areas.
We were delighted to bring together some familiar faces with new members and prospects at a collaborative event which sets a precedent for a year filled with new partnerships, new ideas and new possibilities.
We would like to thank Becca and Jacey for an informative and thought-provoking discussion, and we would like to thank Piccolino Caffe Grande for their exceptional service and hospitality.
To attend our register for our upcoming event with Manchester City Council leaders, Bev Craig and Joanne Roney OBE, click here.
To view all of the events we have coming up this year, please visit our events calendar page.