Place held a discussion at Urban Splash's Chips development in New Islington, East Manchester to gauge our expert panel's views on development prospects in areas around the outer edge of the city centre. The event was held in association with Corridor Manchester and New East Manchester. Click on the topics below to read the findings.
Manchester roundtable panel members
- Eddie Smith, chief executive, New East Manchester
- Mike Horner, regional director, Muse Developments
- Richard Hatton, development director, Urban Splash
- Jackie Potter, chief executive, Corridor Manchester
- Alaisdhair MacPhie, partner in commercial property and construction, Hill Dickinson
- Phil Basten, head of property finance, the Co-operative Bank
- Chris Roberts, development director, Bruntwood
- Andrew Hamilton, director and head of Manchester office, BNP Paribas
- Karen Hirst, development director, Central Salford URC
- Ian Beaumont, director, MBLA Architects + Urbanists and panel member of the Places Matter Design Review
- Ian Barker, partner and head of regeneration, Pinsent Masons
The event venue, Chips, was the first major building delivered in New Islington, taking the place of a 200-unit housing estate, itself a place undergoing reinvention.
Richard Hatton, development director of Urban Splash, described the changes over the past decade since the project was conceived. He said: "The line at the time was that this area was one of the worst places in Manchester. We went through the sensitive issue of re-housing people, just over half of the units were occupied.
"The project was always incredibly ambitious and deliberately so. We started off by saying we probably wouldn't achieve all of it but we will have a damn good go and by doing that we have achieved a lot more already than might otherwise have been done."
As well as the colourful Chips building (pictured) development activity has delivered a health centre to cope with the predicted expansion of the population in the area. A separate site has been earmarked for a new primary school. The NWDA and HCA have funded public realm and infrastructure works to create park space and improve canal links, which complete in early 2011. The Metrolink tramline is being built outside Chips and the platform has been completed in readiness. Hatton added: "Hopefully by this time next year there will be people in the park and boats in the water and it'll be a real place. People also forget how handy this area is for Piccadilly station, which is only in fact a short walk away."
Eddie Smith, chief executive of New East Manchester, said, contrary to common perceptions, local families complain they cannot find available places for their children in primary schools. He added: "We have been working on the case for a primary school and it's not easy. It's one thing we need to address on the whole eastern side of the city."
Beyond lobbying for social infrastructure, Smith said more needs to be done, with the help of the private sector, to open the area up to visitors. "We cannot make that sort of play in isolation, for instance we have to deal with the sheds on Central Retail Park on Great Ancoats Street. All this good work Splash has done is very neatly hidden away [behind the wall of stores].
"You wouldn't know what was going on here unless you drove here or were a Man City fan and walked here every other Saturday."
Talks with the owners of Central Retail Park, Henderson Global Investors, are ongoing.
Smith added: "That part of Great Ancoats Street has to be more open and permeable to walk through to the park and see there's things there."
For now, Hatton is encouraged that even though Chips sits on a construction site the commercial space on the ground is letting; enterprise centre Fab Lab has taken two units and others are under offer.
With connectivity and public investment supporting the private sector New Islington is on the way to showing how places can be given a new lease of life.