The London Real Estate Forum (LREF) returned to the Barbican on Wednesday 27 September 2023, bringing together leaders from the real estate community, core cities across the UK, investors and leading voices to help instigate change.


The Manchester Invest Partnership had a strong presence at LREF once again, as part of its mission to position Greater Manchester as a landmark destination for capital investment and FDI through real estate and property.


With Greater Manchester’s newly devolved powers, united vision for the future of the city region and global ambitions, LREF provided a platform to connect with like-minded individuals and showcase Greater Manchester’s strengths as an investment destination.

Each year, LREF has a theme and the theme for 2023 was “Value”. Across the conference, panel sessions and discussions were based on how the real estate and property industry can develop, deliver and track the value it brings to cities and citizens within them. As Greater Manchester strives to put people and communities at the heart of all of its developments and transformational projects, the region was able to demonstrate how it is leading the way when it comes to creating sustainable, value-driven communities and driving transformational growth.


Through panel sessions and discussions based around value, the Manchester Invest Partnership was able to discuss how it hopes to become a greener, fairer and more prosperous city region and position itself as a forward-thinking, leader in this space.


Here is a roundup of all of the partnership's activity at LREF 23:


The State of the Market


In the opening panel, “The State of the Market” Becca Heron Strategic Director of Growth and Development at Manchester City Council joined the discussion to highlight big-picture trends, opportunities for growth and current challenges facing the industry in times of social, economic and political change. Becca Heron was joined on the panel by Professor Sadie Morgan drMM Architects, Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Alexander Jan Chief Economic Adviser at London Property Alliance, Tom Goodall, Managing Director of Related Argent and Caroline Taylor Project Director, Infrastructure and Projects Authority (the IPA) at HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.


Professor Sadie Morgan said “Value is about creating balance, where anything that promotes excellence does not do so at the supreme detriment of anything else. But how do we ensure that Economic benefit can be met equally with environmental harmony? How can our built environment work best in servicing the well-being and quality of our lives? The state of the market is a scene-setting session that gives us the background for discussions today.”


Manchester at LREF State of the Market


The panel talked about skills and devolution, the challenges created by the housing crisis and climate change, connectivity and infrastructure funding (crucially HS2) and how political certainty will be crucial to remove barriers to growth. 

Discussing Manchester’s strategy for success Becca Heron said, 

Manchester has changed significantly over the last few decades. Those public-private partnerships have underpinned everything we’ve done in the city. You have to start with a clear vision. We have strategic regeneration frameworks for most of the city, those frameworks are fundamental they set a clear vision and give that certainty of approach to investment. If you have a clear narrative about why you want to do something and how you’re going to do it you’re in a much better place to lever in investment, bring in communities and add social value.”


Becca referred to current Greater Manchester developments like Victoria North, Mayfield, Ancoats, New Islington and ID Manchester, praising the strong public and private sector collaborations that have contributed to building these strong, better-connected neighbourhoods. 


UK Cities – challenge to opportunity


Next, Becca Heron joined the session “UK Cities – challenge to opportunity” in association with Arup. The panel, chaired by Becci Taylor Director at Arup, covered the current challenges cities face with climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, housing crisis and surging construction costs. Becca sat on the panel alongside Rob McNicol Assistant Director of Policy and Strategy, City of London Corporation, Debbie Jackson Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing, Westminster Council and Dr Aileen Jones Executive Director of Investment and Delivery, Liverpool City Region.


The panel discussed how cities across the UK are using creative ideas and innovation to address challenges and create sustainable, inclusive neighbourhoods. Covering the importance of engaging residents to deal with challenges like climate change and health inequalities and the critical role placemaking plays in addressing such issues. The panel went on to cover the benefits that development opportunities can bring businesses and people in cities including business rate retention and generating inclusive growth.

Manchester LREF2023


During the session, Becca Heron said,

“For me, in terms of how we make Manchester’s continued growth more inclusive; housing transport and skills are the key levers. Place-making and urban design can have a massive impact. For example, how you design spaces, encourage active travel and areas that can be car-free to improve air quality. There are lots of elements of urban design that can support health inequalities.


“We have a development in the north of the city, Victoria North which will build 15,000 new homes, which is a huge population. With that, we are working to build social infrastructure not just health but school and community developments. You have to plan that in from the outset.”


When discussing how to work with private sector partners to make this a reality she went on to say, “If, as a local authority, you are clear about your ambitions for an area, the kind of uses and the broad scale, that sets the parameters and you can have a healthy pre-application discussion. Broadly, our applicants value that clarity.


"The local authority has a role as the custodian of the vision. We will be left with the city we build now for decades, we can’t fill the city with stiff that will not stand the test of time.”


Citizens as stakeholders in a circular city


Later, Arup hosted a session around building environmentally friendly communities and adopting a circular economy to combat climate change. Samantha Nicholson from the Manchester Climate Change Partnership joined a panel hosted by Manchester-based Arup Associate Angeliki Stogia.


Manchester LREF 2023 2


The panel discussed the fact that a shift to a circular economy means a system shift in how we perceive value so that value comes from the longevity of work and sustaining that value for years to come. It discussed the idea of nature-based solutions but also using fewer materials in the way we design while also considering prioritising a digital and service-based economy.


Sam Nicholson explained the collaborative approach Manchester is taking to climate action. By engaging universities, communities, businesses, property experts and even faith groups, the partnership creates hotspots to better inform local people about a more eco-friendly lifestyle. By avoiding jargon and humanising the issue, Manchester hopes to accelerate its decarbonisation journey by engaging local people.


Manchester: A new generation of confidence


To end the day, Manchester hosted a panel discussing Manchester’s vision for the future and the newfound confidence driving it forward. Mike Emmerich Founding Director of Metro Dynamics hosted the panel which featured Becca Heron, Strategic Director of Growth and Development at Manchester City Council, Stephen O’Malley CEO and Founding Director of Civic Engineers and Simon Arnott, Managing Director for the North West of Morgan Sindall Construction.


The panel discussed the tools Manchester has at its disposal like the Trailblazing Devolution Deal and how they are helping to strengthen the region’s economy. The panel discussed Manchester’s strengths and what makes it so appealing to investors as well as how it hopes to reach its international ambitions and become a world-leading city.


 Manchester currently has a lot of tools at its disposal, and as a city which is proving its strengths economically, this panel aimed to explore what makes it different to other UK cities. From new leadership to a shared vision for a greener, fairer, more prosperous city-region, the panel explored why Manchester has a newfound confidence to achieve its goals.


Manchester at LREF 2023


In his introduction to the session and Manchester, Mike Emmerich said,

“What makes a successful city is doing the right things at scale for a long time. The broadening out of Manchester beyond urban boundaries into the city region has increased the size of the functional labour market making it a more attractive city than others.


“With any Manchester government, there is always stability and that’s the foundation that all good business is built on.”



When discussing the appeal of the region, Simon Arnott said,

“What attracted me into my role was looking at how resilient Manchester and the Northwest Region has been. There’s prosperity and the city has done a fantastic job making brave decisions.


“In terms of bottling up what Manchester has, the feeling you get is that the region and Manchester in particular makes stuff happen. That’s a testament to the long-term vision and collaboration. It’s a fun and vibrant city.”



When discussing the success of Greater Manchester’s new leadership, Becca Heron said,

“We’ve always been trying to position ourselves on a global scale, promoting ourselves beyond the UK. But we’ve had to build that profile and we’re now building our competitive offer. Our offer is growing and growing, and we are increasingly competing on an international platform.

We’re not ripping up the playbook. Manchester is outperforming many regional cities on many measures and some even London, so why would we? We’ve still got some issues, there’s still poverty and a lot more to do.


“The question is, how can we maximise the productivity of Manchester’s economy while doing everything we can to narrow the gap in equality? We need to see significantly more housing, the continued growth of the city centre, and many more highly skilled people to support our highly-skilled sectors (who also need housing and transport). Some of these are not within our gift.”


Becca discussed how development was spreading outside of the city centre to provide real social value to communities like Wythenshawe town centre. She also mentioned recent developments like Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, and Victoria North, highlighting that Manchester has ensured these developments have social value built in from the outset.


When discussing how Manchester is addressing transport and net zero challenges, Stephen O’Malley said,

“Manchester is now realising how we move around the city and move around space is important. The densification of the city is a good thing but you cannot on that trajectory allow everyone to drive into that city. You need to make room for walking, cycling and nature-based solutions. Looking forward, we need to offer a much more attractive and healthier lifestyle for Mancunians. That means we have to think differently.


“Bringing people along with us in that bigger sense is absolutely vital. We need to do a lot more to engage with a wider constituency and explain the wider benefits. There’s an important piece of how we tell this story.”


The Manchester Invest Partnership works to promote Greater Manchester nationally and internationally as a landmark destination for capital investment and FDI through the real estate and property sector.


To find out how to join The Manchester Invest Partnership at future events, take a look at our partner brochure.