Mancunians are today being asked to vote on the city’s proposed new congestion charge – and it seems the architectural profession is right behind it.
Ballot papers went out this morning on £3 billion plans to improve public transport across Greater Manchester, a scheme which will be part-funded by a £5-a-day, peak-time charge on vehicles travelling into the city centre.
If approved, the scheme, which will receive £1.5 billion from the government’s Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), will create three new tram lines and increase bus and train capacity as well as up to 10,000 jobs.
The AJ spoke to a raft of local architects about how they intended to vote and the general response was ‘broad support’. The official result will be announced on 11 December once all the papers have been counted.
Gill Robinson, regional director of Stride Treglown Chapman Robinson, said: ‘[The practice] sees it as the opportunity to test our real commitment to sustainability. Already the majority of people in our studio travel to work by bike, foot, bus and train.
‘Congestion charging will help to persuade the rest of us out of our cars and on to the bus and train – provided that the scheme does in fact deliver an affordable, joined-up public transport system.
Jonathan Brown, of masterplanner and urban designer Urbed, said: ‘Whatever the result, Manchester has been hugely brave in bringing these ambitious and detailed proposals to the public. It is a matter of regret the government reneged on firm commitments to develop light-rail systems in Leeds and Liverpool, so Manchester’s authorities deserve credit for fighting on to expand the successful but ageing Metrolink.
‘In my personal view, Greater Manchester residents can’t really lose by voting yes – if the promised 'big bang' for public transport is delivered, few will begrudge a peak-time charge to drive into the city centre and generate revenue ring-fenced for further infrastructure investment.’
Simon Green, president of the Manchester Society of Architects, said: ‘The congestion charge is obviously a good thing as it will help generate enough revenue to improve Greater Manchester's public transport network.
‘Such investment would not be forthcoming without such an initiative, so Mancunians should be encouraged to support it. Improved public transport will help to regenerate areas of Manchester which currently have poor transport links.
David Dernie, the outgoing head of Manchester School of Architecture, said: ‘Reducing traffic in the city centre has to be a good thing: [as is] getting more people on quality public transport, [as is] supporting a well-considered funding mechanism for achieving long-term green transport policies in the city.
‘What we need to ensure are that the mechanisms are in place to assess need and that the support is there for those who are less able to afford to pay.’
Simon Clarke, director of careyjones' Manchester studio, said: 'Overall, I am in support of the new proposals – predominantly due to the resulting long-term investment and benefits for public transport within the area, as well as a reduction of vehicles on the roads at peak times.
‘With the charges not coming into play until around 80 per cent of the improvements are made, the positives, such as job creation and promotion of public transport use, do outweigh the negatives.
‘I would certainly consider using the train or Park & Ride facilities more frequently once improvements to the infrastructure have been made, but I think that more guarantees on charges and further clarification on the extent of each zone is needed for the proposals to be widely supported.'