Tom Bloxham, chairman of Urban Splash, one of Manchester’s most high-profile urban regeneration companies, said that for urban regeneration to be successful it had to be “undemocratic”.

He told delegates: “If you asked everybody what they wanted, you would only get the lowest common denominator. In my schemes, I want one unified concept. I believe in enlightened despotism, though controlled by the planning process.”

The only speaker who was native to Salford, Bloxham said his company took the opposite approach to the developers’ stereotypical target of “location, location, location”.

By developing sites in areas that had not yet been recognised by the property market, purchasers of his flats could make profits of 40-60% in the first year.

Bloxham professed to be committed to design and urban regeneration. As his motto, he quoted a citizens’ pledge from classical Athens: “We will leave this city better that we found it.”