Ex City of Manchester boss says Melbourne’s growth is good but services must keep up

Published: NORTH Link

A visiting British cities expert says Melbourne’s rapid growth shows the place is successful. But Sir Howard Bernstein warns unchecked growth can cause problems.

John Masanauskas, City Editor, Herald Sun

August 26, 2019 5:54pm

An A1 Grand Prix car drives past Manchester Town hall as part of the Manchester Sky Festival

Melbourne has been warned to be flexible with moves by the city council to further pedestrianise the CBD.

City shaping expert Sir Howard Bernstein said there had to be a balance between catering for pedestrians and keeping cars out.

“I’m very much in favour of developing flexible places and spaces where you can have traffic restraints during the day,” he said.

“But in the evening, in order to promote safety, you’re able to have cars come in as well.”

Sir Howard, a former chief executive of Manchester City Council, is credited with being the driving force in turning the British city around following economic stagnation and terrorist attacks.

Now a strategic adviser at Deloitte, he is visiting Melbourne as a guest of La Trobe University and advocacy group NORTH Link to advise on options for developing the city’s north.

Sir Howard said that Manchester was revitalised over the decades by rebuilding the town centre, extending public transport, better co-ordination of health and social services, and encouraging research and technology hubs.

“Quite simply, we needed to reinvent ourselves,” he said.

Sir Howard said a key factor was the Manchester city council working cooperatively with the 10 other councils in the Greater Manchester area — a policy Melbourne could take on board.

Howard Bernstein (centre) helps celebrate the site of a new Manchester casino in 2007.

“It’s all about how local authorities can work efficiently together to support people to ensure that as Melbourne becomes even more successful in the future, everyone who lives here is able to share in the benefits of that success,” he said.

“It’s about delivering the quality of service which residents need in order to support their own life chances.”

Sir Howard said that Melbourne should embrace its rapid growth as a measure of its success, but growth posed big challenges for civic and political leaders.

“How do you ensure that housing is accessible to everyone who wants to come and live and work in this place? he said.

“How do you ensure that no one is left behind in that process of change. People talk about economic growth without understanding how the public service offer needs to be adapted to support change.”

Sir Howard Bernstein (centre) helps celebrate the site of a new Manchester casino in 2007.

Sir Howard Bernstein (centre) helps celebrate the site of a new Manchester casino in 2007.

La Trobe University vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar said the institution wanted to be a key part of the plan to drive a strong future for Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

“We’re delighted to be working with Sir Howard to take some of the lessons learned in Manchester and apply them here in Melbourne,” he said.

NORTH Link executive director Chris James said the northern region was facing significant challenges.

“It will grow by 36 per cent out to 2031, surpassing Adelaide,” he said.

“There is a need to focus on infrastructure to service this growth, as well as economic development and investment to provide jobs for our newcomers.”

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