Capital&Centric’s Weir Mill tops out as Stockport’s reputation soars
The £60m transformation of the borough’s long-derelict Weir Mill into a 253-home neighbourhood is playing an important part in maintaining the town’s feel-good factor, according to those involved in the scheme.
Stockport, perhaps more than any other Greater Manchester town, is on the up.
Standing on the roof of one of the two new-build apartment blocks at Weir Mill, council Leader Cllr Mark Hunter did not pass up the opportunity to tell those in attendance at the topping out ceremony about the plaudits Stockport has been receiving recently.
Consumer watchdog Which? said Stockport is one of the 12 best places in the UK to live during retirement, while The Times selected the borough as one of the country’s 12 best places for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.
The Daily Telegraph has also run the rule over the town, declaring the bustling Underbanks area as one of the top 25 places to shop nationally.
“You’re not always going to be flavour of the month,” Hunter said. “You have to capitalise on it when you are.”
There is an undeniable sense of positivity around Stockport at the moment. It is viewed, by the development community at least, as a place that knows what it wants and the capability and willingness to deliver it.
That is thanks in large part to the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation, which is leading the regeneration of the western portion of the town centre.
Being able to take a tricky site like Weir Mill – which comprises listed buildings underneath Stockport’s historic viaduct – and work out a way to transform it is a testament to the work of the local authority and the MDC.
“Thousands of us have driven past [Weir Mill] for too many years and seen it falling into a sad state of dereliction and wondering when something will be done about it,” Hunter said.
“Happily, the council was able to ultimately reach agreement with partners in the development sector, to convert it into modern apartments.”
In the case of Weir Mill, the council’s partner is Capital&Centric, the self-proclaimed social impact developer whose brand has an undeniable appeal for local authorities and residents.
Having acquired the site from Maryland Securities in 2020, the developer and architect BDP set about drawing up plans to transform the site. As well as the new homes, the scheme will feature around 10 bars, restaurants, and cafés, an area of riverside public realm, and an outdoor events space. John Sisk and Son is the main contractor.
It is Capital&Centric’s name emblazoned on the hoardings around the site, but co-founder Adam Higgins knows the company would not be in Stockport if it had not been for the council.
“They had this vision of what they are going to do in this part of the town centre and they’ve amazingly just gone ahead and managed to deliver it,” Higgins said.
“I think that’s quite unusual for a council to have the wherewithal and the ability to partner with private sector organisations and just kind of get on and deliver things.”
It is one thing to deliver, but to do so at speed is another matter entirely.
“We only started Weir Mill four years ago, and here we are today at the topping out ceremony. That’s incredibly fast for a scheme of this size,” Higgins said.
Stockport chief executive Caroline Simpson is similarly pleased with the speed of transformation in this part of town.
“It’s never easy but I think it has been quick, relatively,” she said.
“Regeneration is really, really hard. That’s why there are so many empty buildings across the UK. But when you get the right combination of partners together at the table problem solving like we were four years ago [with Weir Mill], it can be done.”
Weir Mill, due to complete in 12 months’ time, is just one of the schemes being delivered in the western part of the town centre.
Next door, Stockport Exchange – 196 apartments and a new bus station – is nearing completion, while earlier this year serial regenerators English Cities Fund was appointed to lead on the delivery of Stockport 8, a 1,000-home neighbourhood nearby.
All of this, plus improvements to the council-owned Merseyway Shopping Centre and initiative born of Stockport’s designation as GM’s town of culture for 2023, have established the town as the feel-good capital of Greater Manchester.
As a result, people want to be here. It is up to the likes of Capital&Centric to ensure they provide a product befitting the town’s, and their own, lofty ambitions.
“I think it will be the coolest residential development in Greater Manchester,” Higgins said.
“There’s nowhere else which has a river flowing next to it and has a famous brick viaduct going right across the middle of the site that appeared in Lowry paintings back in the day. It’s absolutely unique.”