Understanding urban change in diverse contexts: experiences from Manchester and Hong Kong.
Major flagship regeneration schemes in both Greater Manchester and Hong Kong have transformed the physical and economic outlook of places.Professor Cecilia Wong / Professor of Spatial Planning at Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development
The opportunity to observe, study and reflect on similar urban growth issues in the unique context of Manchester has been an invaluable exercise, most beneficial in furthering transdisciplinary research.Professor Mee-Kam Ng / Chinese University of Hong Kong
A partnership between The University of Manchester and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has enabled researchers to address some of the global challenges posed by rapid urbanisation.
Since 2015, researchers from both institutions have been exploring the dynamics of urban change and its impact on neighbourhoods and communities in two different city-regions:
- Greater Manchester, an archetype of a post-industrial city in northern England seeking to reinvent itself in the 21st century;
- Hong Kong, a magnet for new financial investment and development for many years, with a population still expanding from a combination of natural growth and net in-migration.
The researchers had found that despite these apparent differences, the day-to-day issues faced by local residents and the challenges to local politicians and governments – such as planning and managing an inclusive and sustainable city region – are often remarkably similar.
Manchester-Hong Kong research
Through workshops, site visits and research papers, researchers in Manchester and Hong Kong identified several groups that would need special attention for inclusive urban policy. These included low-income households living in public housing estates, low-skilled workers in gentrified redeveloped areas, and long-term residents suffering from ‘in situ displacement’ in the urban core areas.
Researchers also found a striking importance in the balance between development and equity.
A global issue
Urbanisation is a global issue, as relevant to developed parts of the world as to the developing. In developed areas, environmental degradation, poverty and economic and socio-exclusion are often found alongside dramatic changes in the physical, economic and infrastructural development of cities.
Here, there are growing gaps between the rich and poor. Concerns over the impacts that new forms of 21st century economic growth and development are having on traditional neighbourhoods and communities, are widespread.
“Major flagship regeneration schemes in both Greater Manchester and Hong Kong have transformed the physical and economic outlook of places,” adds Cecilia Wong, Professor of Spatial Planning at Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development and the Manchester Urban Institute. “However, the top-down gentrification approach often fails to improve the quality of life of residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods, as shown in our analysis of the impact of Salford Quays."
“In a rapidly gentrifying area, it is important to utilise heritage buildings as bases for rebuilding relationship-rich community members,” adds Professor Mee-Kam Ng, Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“The opportunity to observe, study and reflect on similar urban growth issues in the unique context of Manchester has been an invaluable exercise, most beneficial in furthering transdisciplinary research.”
Manchester-Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Research Fund
The Manchester-Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Research Fund has been instrumental in developing this area of work since it was introduced in 2015. It has helped to build and strengthen research collaboration between the two universities, focusing on areas including future cities, cancer, neuroscience, energy and climate change, advanced materials, and global inequalities.
“The advantage of collaborating with CUHK could unlock the potential for comparative analysis and international transfer of theoretical and policy knowledge,” says Professor Wong.
“The partnership between the two universities and their high-calibre researchers create new forms of dynamics and research synergies to tackle urban challenges posed by United Nations' Habitat III of New Urban Agenda, on developing sustainable and inclusive urban development.”