Manchester Brexit


Freshly returned from MIPIM, Martin Wright of AHR has been struck by how international money is moving towards projects in cities outside the capital

On 24 June, the day after the referendum, it was difficult to see past the initial doom and gloom of Brexit. We always knew it would take months and probably years to understand the full impact and now uncertainty surrounding the decision has become, somewhat paradoxically, consistent.

A lack of detail has been another permanent fixture since votes were cast. A pessimist could see Theresa May’s, ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ turning into being beaten black and blue by the costs of leaving. But, I am trying to steer clear of cynicism.

Brexit has caused uncertainty across the UK and while we have seen the impact of this on the London market, the same is not true across the rest of the UK.

We are finding that more developers are looking at the regions and that international money and investment in particular is moving towards major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.

While at MIPIM, my colleagues and I have been largely impressed by the ambition of the northern and Midlands cities in attendance. A number of major developments have been unveiled, such as the Definitely Mayfield project in Manchester and the renovation of the well-known Majestic building in Leeds city centre.

For the Midlands, we have enjoyed seeing the launch of the Peddimore vision, discussion on HS2 and hearing about the Black Country and garden city proposals. There is definitely a lot of excitement around the Midlands Engine and we are confident that the energy and vigour surrounding MIPIM will have a positive impact on the Midlands for generations to come.

The need for improved infrastructure, the skills gap and the housing crisis all pre-date Brexit

So with all this and more, try telling the investment teams in these cities and regions that the outlook following Brexit is all doom and gloom!

Admittedly, the pipeline of work is visibly shorter-term than it was pre-Brexit, and like many others operating in the property and construction sector, we are having to manage our business effectively. This means focusing on core growth sectors such as residential, in particular PRS, which again at MIPIM has been a major talking point. We have met with various people who are looking at numerous sites in Birmingham and Leeds, while over in Manchester, Select Property Group announced the city’s largest ever PRS scheme – a 677-home tower in partnership with the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund.

In terms of international work, we are continuing to use our overseas offices, and strong knowledge of their local markets, to leverage growth.

The economy has not crumbled as many predicted though and that is obviously good. However, there are underlying weaknesses and the construction industry has a huge part to play in resolving many of these. The need for improved infrastructure, the skills gap and the housing crisis all pre-date Brexit.

Uncertainty is just another problem and our teams at AHR solve these every day. They use creativity, imagination and skill to deliver solutions and we implement adaptability, flexibility and future-proofing in our projects. These are the same tools we need in business to secure a stronger future too.

It is important we keep an eye on the unfolding Brexit story, but we can’t be consumed by it and we certainly can’t afford to let it hold us back. Instead we will have to remain versatile and respond to dribs and drabs of information as they come along. Importantly, we must press on with other issues at hand, and MIPIM gave everyone a great opportunity to do just that.

Martin Wright is managing director – architecture at AHR

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