Developers back modular homelessness initiative  

Manchester-based charity Embassy plans to create 40 modular homes made from repurposed shipping containers to provide secure housing for the city’s homeless people, in partnership with developers Peel L&P and Capital & Centric.

Embassy Village would be located on a self-contained, currently derelict site owned by Peel L&P, below the railway arches between the Bridgewater Canal and River Irwell in Manchester city centre. Capital & Centric is advising on the delivery of the scheme and Jon Matthews Architects is the designer. The full project team, which provided its services to Embassy pro bono, is detailed below.

The aim is to create a new community to help the city’s homeless and vulnerable men get back on their feet. The modular units created from shipping containers would be transformed into safe, secure homes and the charity would provide 24-hour on-site security, as well as wraparound support of at least six hours per week to each resident to help them identify training and routes to work to break the cycle of homelessness.

Residents would also be taught a range of life skills including shopping and budgeting, cooking and how to manage a home, and be offered a course to help them unpack past traumas and boost self-confidence.

Embassy Village would feature a ‘village hall’ that would serve as a community hub, training and mentoring facility, communal outdoor space with greenery, a multi-use sports area, space to grow vegetables, and external eating and socialising areas.

The charity has launched a consultation today and aims to submit a planning application to the city council in the coming months.

Sid Williams, co-founder and director of Embassy, said: “This pandemic has further strained the resources of the poorest in our society and we sadly expect to see homelessness increase. We recently housed a chap who spent seven years going from shelter to shelter waiting for his golden ticket to a council flat – it never came.

“Our approach is to provide rented housing and formally end homelessness from day one. We aim to get people into full-time work and private rental sector housing, rather than council housing and benefits.

“We interview everyone we assist and what we look for is a willingness to make progress, learn and, where possible, to work. The Village will provide residents with their own front door and teach them the life skills they need to become independent and start contributing to society again.”


The charity would provide wraparound care and training for residents

Embassy was set up in 2019, converting a luxury tour bus in Manchester into an emergency shelter and support centre to help people get off the street, housed and into work.

The plans come amid the closure of many of the city’s dormitory-style shelters due to lockdown and social distancing measures, and growing concerns across frontline charities that there will be an increased need for homelessness support and temporary accommodation services as a result of the pandemic.

The Embassy Village project would be delivered as part of the Greater Manchester Housing First programme, a three-year pilot that aims to provide safe, secure homes for more than 400 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

James Whittaker, executive director at Peel L&P, added: “It’s been a real joy and a privilege to bring together the business community to deliver a special project to reduce Manchester’s homelessness by transforming our land beneath some railway arches in the city into much-needed housing for the homeless.

“We’re proud to be able to provide the land…and hope to gain further support needed during the consultation period.”

The public consultation, which ends on 18 February, can be found here  or participants can email the scheme’s planning consultancy Deloitte Real Estate at

Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric and chair of the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, said: “We’ve worked with Embassy for the last few years, helping them to get the original bus off the ground, but we’ve always had the vision to create something more permanent that gives people their own front door.

“Making sure it’s really high quality, with communal areas like the village hall and sports area, has been super important as we want the future residents to be proud of their community.”

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese added: “Meeting the growing demand for emergency accommodation to support people vulnerable to homelessness is a major challenge – particularly at this time of year when the number of people asking for support, particularly people sleeping rough, is at its height.

“Developing a Housing First opportunity in the city is welcome and I hope this type of community has the potential to provide life-changing help for people facing homelessness in Manchester.”

The project team, which provided its services pro bono, includes:

Planner – Deloitte Real Estate

Architect – Jon Matthews Architects

Civil and Structural Engineer – Curtins

Quantity Surveyors – Arcadis

Transport Engineer – Curtins

Mechanical and Electrical Engineer – Crookes Walker

Fire Engineer – OFR

Acoustic Engineer – Fisher Acoustics

Landscape Architect – Planit-i.e

CDMC / PD – CDMC Services

Building Control – Ball and Berry

Sustainability – Element Sustainability

Graphics – Our Studio

Construction Logistics Support – Balfour Beatty

EMBASSY VILLAGE The Community Hall

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

Great news.This is a start. We need to get all the homeless off the streets and also give them help to get back into society.

By Born Bred Darren.

Provided that the support package is well resourced and sustainable for the long term this could work quite well. Good luck

By Anonymous

Exactly what the city needs.

By Anonymous

Fantastic idea, well done to all the businesses and everyone involved who is supporting this.

By Bob

Interesting idea. Hope the glazing is good though!!

By Disgruntled Goat

This needs rolling out to all places in the UK where there are issues with people who have nowhere to live.

By Terry Nolan

If the city actually applied a meaningful tax on development to create a sufficient pool of funding you wouldn’t need to house people in shipping containers.

By Failure

What a marvellous project. Treating all people with respect through the delivery of quality resources and support like this will be an effective way of gaining engagement and making progress. Well done to all involved.

By Observer

Great idea, been thinking along these lines for some time.

By Dori

This is very innovative but let us hope that it does not become a modern day Rookeries.

By Elephant

Great project, well done to all involved.

But on a related matter, it’s interesting that a homeless charity sees benefit and can fund the provision of a balcony on on their residents’ homes whereas the vast majority of modern private build-to-rent apartments in the city aren’t even provided with this basic amenity.

By Balcony watch

It feels good to see the sector pulling together to tackle homelessness. Let’s hope this is the beginning of something great.

By Another Manc

Where actually is it in Manchester city centre, the are loads of old Railway arches along the Bridgewater and Irwell. Map please???

By Kevin Davies

Related Articles

Sign up to receive the Place Daily Briefing

Join more than 13,000 property professionals and receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox


Join more than 13,000 property professionals and sign up to receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Job Field*
Other regional Publications - select below