Jonathan Manns is a British urbanist, town planner and surveyor. He writes and speaks globally on built environment issues. He is known as an advocate for urban planning, particularly his work in London and on the politics of sustainable development. He is Director of Planning at Colliers International.
Manns read History at the University of Sheffield and Land Economics at the University of Cambridge. He began work as an English Assistant with the British Council in Nanjing, China. He then moved to London, England, to work as a property advisor. He was a Senior Consultant with Knight Frank and GVA before becoming Director at Colliers International.
Manns’ preoccupations are varied but sustainable development stands out as a key theme, particularly regarding the gap between rhetoric and reality. He has written broadly, both on its definition and application, most notably relating to park-and-ride, eco-towns and green belts.
Manns has advised upon various large-scale development proposals in London. He has also appeared as expert advisor to the London Assembly Planning Committee, which advises the Mayor of London on planning guidance and strategic decisions.
He was editor of Kaleidoscope City, an acclaimed collection of essays published to mark the centenary of the Royal Town Planning Institute in 2014 which was championed by Sir Edward Lister and internationally well received. This included contributions from Sir Peter Hall, Sir Terry Farrell, Lord Richard Rogers and Richard Florida.
Manns has posited that, where public sector land is disposed to facilitate regeneration, this should normally be on a long-leasehold basis with the freehold retained in public ownership. His suggestion that a “Greater London Estate” be founded to oversee and manage such assets in London was shortlisted in New London Architecture’s international “New Ideas for Housing” competition in 2015.
In October 2015 Manns was Convenor of the UK Government's All Party Parliamentary Group on London's Planning and Built Environment, the first cross-party group to focus on London's planning and built environment for some fifty years. The first Chair was Rupa Huq and Vice-Chair Paul Scully, with the Bishop of London being Lords Liaison and Helen Hayes acting as Treasurer.
Manns has written commentary on the green belt. He was the author of Green Sprawl, a White Paper published by the London Society to begin debate about London’s green belt in 2014. Regarded as "an excellent historical account of the establishment of the Green Belt around London", the report attracted wide coverage and prompted an update of the House of Commons Standard Note on Green Belt (SN/SC/934) and subsequent Research Briefings. Other organisations, including the Planning Officers Society, have since responded with specific calls for a review and various proposals to balance land release with environmental protection.
Manns sits on several professional and charitable committees. He has represented the Royal Town Planning Institute at the London Planning and Development Forum since 2008, in addition to on the former Royal Institute of British Architects London Urbanism & Planning Group and as a Judge for the London Planning Awards. He is a Trustee of the London Society, a forum for built environment debate in London since 1912. As a Trustee he was part of an Executive Committee (including Peter Murray, Edward Jones and Deyan Sudjic) which helped re-launch the charity in September 2014. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal and Expert Advisor to the general public at Grand Designs Live.
Manns has been variously referred to as a “recognised thought leader”, “prominent British urbanist” and “the preeminent British planner of his generation”. He was shortlisted as “Young Property Professional of the Year” at the Estates Gazette Awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015.