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 have conducted 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 has been authoring detailed written reports for the four centres to begin to foster ownership for management and development. The reports include a clear series of actions and priorities that will strengthen the function and performance of each centre, based upon the IPM’s 4Rs framework (repositioning, reinventing, rebranding, and restructuring). 

In 2018, the Northenden workshop took place at the Britannia Hotel on 6th March (to read more about the event please click here), followed by the Gorton workshop on 14th March held in the local library, and the Harpurhey workshop on 25th July at the Factory Youth Zone. Reports have been finalised for Northenden, with drafts completed for Gorton and Harpurhey.

In 2019, workshops were conducted at the Chorlton Library on 28th February, and a second workshop in Gorton on 5th June at the local library. A workshop was also held in the old Natwest Bank in Withington on 13th March 2019 as the project expands beyond the four original pilot centres. Reports for Chorlton and Withington have been submitted for review, with an updated Gorton report currently underway. 

Methodology rubric

Based on the findings stemming from these activities, and other related projects such as HSUK2020, we submitted a written methodology rubric in 2019 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.

The project started in 2016 and will end in 2019. 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.