“Towns are The New Cities” – How Redevelopment is Reshaping Greater Manchester

Posted on: November 5th, 2019
Posted by: John Clark
Categories: North West

A £400m investment in Rochdale town centre will be the driving force of a revitalisation of the area, our event has heard

Speaking at our Manchester Development Plans Event John Searle, Chief Executive of the Rochdale Development Agency, told delegates that 2000 new homes are planned under the new plans, as well as a restoration to the town hall – a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. This cash injection is phase two of the schemes that saw a tranche of £250m released in its first phase.

Rochdale is making up a significant part of the massive Northern Gateway scheme, part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Plan. Speaking of the progress Searle said: “The Northern Gateway amounts to over two million sqm of employment land out of the six million in the Spatial Plan, and will contribute 12,000 of the 200,000 homes.” 

The Northern Gateway is due to go out the consultation in summer 2020. 

Rochdale has also been focusing on improving its retail centre, the signature development within their retail transformation bid is Rochdale Riverside. Riverside will provide 20,000sq ft of retail space and is already 75% let. 

Searle also announced new projects planned for the development: “We’re working on a scheme for phase 2 which will provide 230 apartments, a 120-bed hotel and 40,000sq ft of office space.”

Rebecca Heron, Director of Economy and Skills at Wigan Council, said the town was in the midst of a “major development boom”, which would counteract the lack of diversity in the town centre. She said of the current diversity challenges: “We’re looking to tackling certain needs including a nighttime offering, and something for families. There is also a limited residential market within the town centre.”

Wigan Council has taken an active role within redevelopment, and Heron said of their approach: “We can’t rely on the private sector to do this for us so we’re using council-owned assets to make investment viable and strategic partnerships that position the council as a co-investor.” 

The council owns a quarter of the town centre, allowing it to drive developments throughout.

Key developments across the town include the redevelopment of Wigan Pier, which will be finished by August 2020, and include cultural and events space, a food hall, gin distillery, an art education centre, hotel and 8 new homes. 

The Gallery Shopping Centre is the “largest opportunity for development within Wigan” according to Heron, an asset currently owned by the council. Heron revealed the timeframe for development: “The deadline for selection questionnaires is the 28th November 2019, and a shortlist will be announced in December. The competitive dialogue process will last from January until June with a selected development partner being chosen in the summer.”

Maxwell Hall, a concert venue on the campus of the University of Salford is a centerpiece of new waves of redevelopment for the institution. The venue is set for a major rework, having originally been built in the 1960s. It attracted famous bands such as the Smiths, New Order and U2, but had fallen into disuse as a concert venue. 

John McCarthy, Executive Director at the University of Salford, revealed details of “a new gateway to the university.”

This will come in the form of a major redevelopment to Maxwell Hall, a concert venue on the campus which has attracted famous bands such as The Smiths, New Order and U2. The venue, originally built in the 1960s, has fallen into disuse. The university hopes to create a new wave of redevelopment which centres around the site.

Sustainable development is a key aspect of the university’s plans, as the new Hall will be constructed to BREEAM standards. The redeveloped hall will be a flexible venue, allowing it to transform to accommodate everything from concerts to conferences.

McCarthy laid out the University’s funding for their wider regeneration plans, which they had managed to increase through negotiation: “The total joint venture masterplan totals at around £800m, and the university’s bit of that is a cool £300m, but when we had a look at it last week that has increased to £400m.”

The university’s estate masterplan is being developed in phases, with the first package focusing predominantly on residential, the second phase oriented towards more mixed developments and the third is a new science and technology park. 

McCarthy said of the current progress: “We have a shortlist of four partnerships and we’re hoping that by 2020 we’ll have announced our preferred partner to work with.”

Nick Russell, Business Development Manager at developer Salboy, shared information on the firms desire to move into the housebuilding market. They’ve recently launched a new business arm – Salboy Homes.

Russell said of their most recent housing scheme: “We want to move more into building quality affordable family homes and Castle Irwell will be the first development under the Salboy Homes label. We’ve purchased the site from the University of Salford and we’ll deliver 260 homes and 240 apartments.”

Russell also announced their “highest spec scheme fronting onto a major transport interchange Shudehill and that should be starting construction in the next year.” The scheme will feature 400 apartments and is due for completion May 2020. 

The Greater Manchester area is one that has seen struggles with social deprivation and deindustrialisation, a new wave of development could signal a change of winds for the region.

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