Sheffield-Manchester - Where Many Contrasts Meet

Greater Manchester is a city-region of 2.6 million people in the North West of England with a wide social and ethnic mix. It comprises ten Local Authorities: Manchester, Trafford, Salford, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Stockport, Wigan and Tameside. Greater Manchester is now seen as the United Kingdom’s largest economy after London.

Greater Manchester is a city-region of many contrasts, facing old and new challenges. Its industrial heritage matters, but so do opportunities brought by media and creative industries or green technologies. A central element of Greater Manchester’s ‘city deal’ with national government is the development of a Low Carbon Hub.

A poor and ageing infrastructure, rising unemployment and socio-economic inequalities are still persistent. Many of Greater Manchester’s districts are among the most deprived in England.

Dealing with the legacies of the past and the possibilities of the future in a sustainable way is a big challenge for any city-region. In 21st century Britain we can add to the mix: a new form of Coalition government, financial recession, banking crisis, riots, climate change, socio-economic inequality and new technological development.

Sustainable thinking is all the more tricky in this context, requiring partners to work together under difficult circumstances. A central challenge is first to broaden participation in the debate and then to consider ‘how’ to achieve strategic goals in practice.

High Level of Engagement

The Greater Manchester platform is hosted and co-funded by the University of Salford. Throughout 2012 there has been a high level of engagement through multiple activities in the Mapping the Urban Knowledge Arena (MUKA) project. The platform has arranged 16 activities engaging with 300 individuals from over 100 organizations, making contact with more than 500 persons. Highlights include:

  • an action-research project with the Environment Commission of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to examine the governance, policy and knowledge base of city-regional urban policy;
  • exploring the role of creative production and play in engaging school children in debates over sustainability;
  • understanding how Greater Manchester’s responses to the challenges of sustainability compare with those in other UK cities;
  • examining the Perspectives of policy-makers and practitioners in relation to sustainable urban development;
  • working with community researchers to examine ‘sustainable stories from the grassroots’;
  • exploring the feasibility of a Greater Manchester digital portal for sustainability and
  • hosting an exhibition, ‘Sustainable Stories’, as part of the UK’s national Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science. [see fact box]

Mapping Project

The Mapping the Urban Knowledge Arena activities are in the process of being finalized, with a series of activity, event and synthesis reports in production. A central theme relates to governance, knowledge and policy for sustainability in Greater Manchester, in the context of the legacy of Greater Manchester’s industrial past and promise of a post-industrial future.

Taking these themes forward, an integrated research and practice programme has been developed for 2013, including projects on governance, knowledge and policy; re-making the material fabric of Greater Manchester and creative urban environments. Initiatives are enabled from issue to action through the flagship ‘O-Zone’ where practitioners and researchers can work collaboratively to develop options and opportunities for responding to key challenges.


Platform is an online news source and information portal for sharing knowledge and intelligence on sustainability across Greater Manchester. The articles cover themes from energy to society, education, living, economy, health  and buildings. Some highlights from Platform:

Rethinking sustainable festivals: spotlight on Manchester International Festival
Contributed by Beth Perry on 30.04.2014 in Culture, Energy and Food
The Alternative? Beth Perry profiles the environmental sustainability activities of Manchester International Festival within the emerging cultural ecology of the city. Read more

The Alternative? Rethinking sustainability
Contributed by Beth Perry on 14.11.2013 in Economy, Education and Society
Beth Perry introduces a new series of articles - The Alternative? - which explores the concept of 'alternatives' in rethinking sustainability in Greater Manchester. Read more

Turn up the volume on the values of sustainability
Contributed by Beth Perry on 08.10.2013 in Society
Beth Perry and Alex Wharton argue that we need to turn up the volume on the articulation of different values for the relationship between economic, social and environmental concerns in the city-region. Read more

In the Event: Food and the City
Contributed by Alex Wharton on 02.08.2013 in Education, Food and Living
What role can urban agriculture play in the creation of sustainable cities?  Alex Wharton reports on Food and the City, one of a series of events held at the Biospheric Foundation during MIF13. Read more

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Follow the latest news on Twitter: @On_The_Platform

Platform has been developed by the Greater Manchester Platform as a part of the O-Zone project together with the Centre for Sustainable and Urban Regional Futures (SURF) and Creative Concern. 

  • Beth Perry

    Professor Beth Perry is the Director of the Sheffield Manchester Local Interaction Platform for Mistra Urban Futures.

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  • Victoria Simpson

    Vicky is the Research Programme Coordinator of the Sheffield-Manchester Local Interaction Platform for Mistra Urban Futures. After teaching, research and management appoints, Vicky joined the Urban Institute in September 2016. Drawing on her research background, Victoria coordinates support across a portfolio of UK and EU research grants.



    Contact me