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New Mayor needs to focus on key areas to ensure Salford as a world-class city

The newly elected Mayor of Salford will need to focus on key areas to ensure Salford thrives as a world-class city.

Property professionals in Salford have called on the next elected mayor to follow five recommendations to improve the city’s housing, transport and economic growth.

Ahead of the local elections vote next Thursday (05 May), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has called on the new mayor to focus on the following five key areas; housing choice, economic certainty, working closely with the business sector, transport connectivity and investment in a skilled workforce.

The organisation sets professional standards in the land, property and construction sectors in 146 countries and has some 8,000 members – chartered surveyors – in the North West.

Geoff White, RICS Policy Manager in the North & Midlands, said: “RICS professionals work across all land, property and construction sectors and are essential in key areas such as housing, commercial property and infrastructure. Feedback from local senior members echoed our five main recommendations.”

“As one of the few local authorities with an elected mayor, Salford has the opportunity to push forward in these areas which have been identified as key drivers of growth in cities around the world.”

The RICS report, Corporate Real Estate; Investment and Global Cities identified corporate occupiers – big name companies – as essential to successful commercial and industrial real estate development and management in the world’s most successful cities.

In turn, corporate occupiers identify good housing, strong relationships public and private sectors, great connectivity on road and rail, a positive business environment and skilled staff as prerequisites for business investment.

Mr White added: “Without strong civic leadership you get uncertainty and this can delay investment decisions and, much worse, loss of investment for Salford. We have seen the positive effects that firm economic decisions can bring to the area but momentum must pick up if Salford is to thrive and fulfil its potential of helping the wider economy of the north grow.”

Elected mayors are council leaders working with their own cabinets, who have major powers over setting the agenda for their local authority and deciding where funding is invested. In many ways this will set the tone for ‘Metro Mayors’ which government has linked to devolutions deals for English regions.

RICS has also urged the government to share infrastructure spending on a more equitable basis, and welcomes plans to provide a high speed rail link between Salford and Liverpool. But it says more is needed to provide the city with much better connectivity and allow local businesses to compete on a level playing field.

The organisation also wants to see the newly elected mayor make more public land available – both brownfield sites and greenfield sites where necessary – for housing, and to work closely with developers and builders to enable faster delivery of new homes.

Other recommendations include support for under resourced and hard pressed local authority planning departments with ‘planning flying squads’ that can deliver expertise where and when it is needed; a wide ranging programme of providing new homes and further investment in a skilled workforce.

RICS has highlighted the growing skills shortage in the North West’s construction sector since the onset of the economic downturn in 2007/8. Hundreds of thousands of people exited the region’s property sectors and a shortage of skilled workers, from bricklayers to quantity surveyors, is threatening the North West’s rate of recovery. RICS continues to work with schools, colleges and universities across the region to ensure a pipeline of young talent comes through into the professions. The organisation is also actively encouraging more member firms to consider taking on apprentices to help bridge the skills gaps.

The four hopefuls for the Mayor of Salford election are: Paul Dennet, Labour; Robin Garrido, Conservative; Owen Hammond, UKIP; and Wendy Olsen, Green Party.

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Editor at large, SalfordOnline.com