Manchester is to create a 'low carbon hub' as part of a pioneering £1.2bn scheme that will allow it to repay loans from rebated tax.
Manchester City Council’s chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, has welcomed the announcement on Tuesday by planning minister Greg Clarke about the City Deal for Greater Manchester, and, together with Wednesday’s Budget called it a “game changer” for the city.
The new City Deal measures include 'earn back', a principle under which the government has agreed in principle that money invested in infrastructure improvements in Greater Manchester will be ‘paid back’ from additional taxes that result as real economic growth is seen.
The cash will be used to establish a low carbon hub, and, with Department of Energy and Climate Change assistance, to develop a plan to reduce emissions.
With financial support from the precursor to the Green Investment Bank, UK Green Investments, and Greater Manchester, it will establish and fund a 50/50 joint venture company, called Greater Manchester Green Developments Ltd to develop a portfolio of investment propositions such as retrofit housing, retrofit public buildings and heat networks.
Todd Holden, director of Low-Carbon Policy and Programmes at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, says there will now be a drive to make all Manchester homes and businesses reduce their environmental impact.
Key to this will be the role of Enworks, an organisation offering practical advice, awareness-raising activities, tailored on-site support, and training to businesses, all focused on creating sustainable cultural change throughout the entire business workforce. Enworks has already attracted huge praise from no less than Al Gore and Jonathon Porritt.
Funding has previously come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the UK government's Single Programme funds, but now Greater Manchester and UK Trade and Investment, which encourages inward investment from abroad, will work jointly to analyse the assets and opportunities, and then pursue the investment pipeline that emerges.
The commercial expansion of Greater Manchester’s new Graphene Institute will also be investigated, and its existing links to emerging economies including China and India.
The prioritisation of energy efficiency in homes will be a key focus of the Low Carbon Hub, as overseen by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.
A retrofit financing development model is being developed based on feed-in tariffs and pay-as-you-save, the principle of the Green Deal. This will offer financial returns to homeowners or landlords that come on board, at attractive rates of interest which will now ultimately be backed by Revenue and Customs.
The best advice from the Energy Saving Trust and BRE will be implemented, and a working group has already been set up incorporating housing associations and building on pilots such as the recent Carbon Co-operative pilot for two streets in Moss Side.
Energy information will be gathered about homes, planned upgrades and the standards to be achieved. The intention is to maximise the benefit of joint procurement, not just in respect to hardware, but in education to change the behaviour and attitudes of tenants in relation to energy usage.
Research shows that the benefit of energy improvement measures in buildings is often counteracted by the unpredicted or unaware behaviour of their occupants.
A subgroup is already in place with the aim of dispensing Energy Saving Trust in-house advice, along with smart meters.
The City Deal will also enable the training of apprentices to SMEs to install the energy-efficiency measures at a City Apprenticeship and Skills Hub.
Also potentially in the exciting low carbon hub project list are:
The scheme is also an early example in practice of the new localism agenda in planning. The idea is that decisions are taken by local people and the Council to prioritise sustainable economic growth in the region and cut red tape.
The City Deal's first phase will include the completion of the £1.5bn Greater Manchester Transport Fund programme, enabling the early implementation of schemes including the 20-year South East Manchester Multi Modal Strategy (SEMMMS) and the extension of the Metrolink light Railway to Trafford Park.
The Greater Manchester Transport Fund has already allowed funds to be invested with greater flexibility. Now, local public transport will benefit in several further ways from measures to devolve decision-making to local level.
On the table are the potential devolution of the Northern, and possibly the Trans-Pennine, Express rail franchises (working with other authorities including Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and West Yorkshire).
Decision-making over bus improvement measures could also be made more local, including control of central subsidies and smart ticketing, and the funding of local transport measures.
There are also plans to establish a Greater Manchester Housing Investment Board with government and the Homes and Communities Agency to use national funding, local investment and public land assets to boost housing development.
The principles of the City Deal scheme was outlined in Unlocking Growth in Cities, published last December.
They include binding agreements which enable cities to negotiate the devolution of the specific powers, resources and responsibilities required to meet locally- determined economic and social objectives.
The announcement follows months of negotiations between the mnister of state for department for communities and local government, Greg Clark's team, and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership.
This is the second City Deal. Last month, Liverpool pioneered the way with a deal that will allow it to develop a new Enterprise Zone and a Mayoral Investment Board that will oversee the city's economic and housing strategy as well as oversight of the development of Home and Communities Agency's land assets.
Negotiations are underway with several other major cities to replicate the model elsewhere as a vital means of improving local services, employment and sustainability at the same time.
Story: David Thorpe, News Editor