How shopping centres can help Greater Manchester meet housing targets


The new Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has signalled his intention to radically review the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and within it the role that green belt land will play in delivering new homes.

As part of that objective, he has issued a call to developers to revitalise and reshape Greater Manchester’s town centres so that they are residential centres fit for the future.

With 227,000 new homes required in Greater Manchester by 2035, can revitalising existing shopping centres play a strong role in meeting the GMSF’s housing targets?

Increasingly shopping centre landlords are taking a creative approach to their assets. In response to a shift in consumer habits and a requirement to modernise, landlords have sought to provide a much wider offer to increase attraction and dwell times within shopping centres. This has resulted in new and re-imagined forms of attractions in shopping centres with an increased emphasis on leisure floorspace.

London has led the way with around a third of its shopping centres subject to redevelopment plans and crucially all of the plans accommodate delivering new homes as part of the proposals.

In Greater Manchester, recent activity has seen Regency Residential’s Six Acre House above The Square Shopping Centre in Sale deliver 80 new homes and the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund has recently issued a Development Framework, supported by Manchester City Council, for the delivery of 195 new homes as part of the planned redevelopment of Chorlton Cross Shopping Centre.

A town centre’s residential offer can make a strong contribution to its quality of place and how that place is perceived. This in turn can contribute significantly to the economic competitiveness of the town centre.

Greater Manchester has approximately 50 shopping centres all located in accessible urban areas with good links to public transport that lend themselves to high density development.

Shopping centres can therefore play a significant role in meeting the GMSF’s housing targets by delivering mixed-use schemes with high density residential development, which can in turn boost the economic profile of the town centre.

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Yes. But a) financial viability, b) housing need (rather than crude numbers) and c) speed of delivery. Developers will plead all three to demonstrate that such an approach is not deliverable to the extent GMSF eventually seeks to rely on and, consequently, demonstrate the need for release of greenfield sites from the Green Belt.

By InterestedObserver

Viability in terms of conversion, cost of conversion and demand for end product are all big factors here. Further once you take the only remaining shops and eateries out of a town centre what is the attraction/magnet to attract people to live in what would effectively be ghost towns by night.

By Another interested observer

I think the idea is mixed use rather than single use. It’s a good idea to adjust the GMSF in this way although developers whose stock in trade is poor quality suburban boxes will hate it. It may need some public money up front to prove the market though, particularly in outlying centres.

By Design for Living

The ONLY way to revitalise shopping centres is to reduce business rates and have free parking. Otherwise shopping centres are doomed to a slow death.

By Steve B

The headline was misleading. Burnham was calling for town centres to be revitalised and to have more housing. This is an excellent idea, and would help revive local shopping centres and other local facilities. What a refreshing change from landowners and developers who just want to cover the green belt with housing because it is easy and generates the most profit.

By Peter Black

The Rock in Bury Town Centre is a good example of how retail development can incorporate apartments too. It can be done, developers can be persuaded.

By Buckwright

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Matthew Sobic

Matthew Sobic

  • Director of Planning
  • Savills