LCR to start search for railway site developers

The Government-owned land promoter is exploring opportunities to acquire or assemble plots allocated for thousands of homes in Stockport, Trafford, Rochdale and Chester, and appoint delivery partners.

In the coming months, LCR – previously known as London & Continental Railways – will go to market to source joint venture partners to bring forward more than 700 homes across Trafford and Stockport, 7,000 homes in Rochdale as part of the borough’s Rail Corridor Strategy, and upwards of 500 homes as part of the long-awaited Chester City Gateway masterplan.

In the first instance, LCR is working with Trafford and Stockport councils on plans for six underused railway sites across the two local authority areas, mainly in suburban rather than town centre locations, LCR’s regional director Adam Wisher told Place North West.

“We are examining a portfolio of sites along rail corridors in Stockport and Trafford and looking at potential land acquisitions, whether by us or the relevant local authorities, to help unlock these sites for development,” Wisher said.

The work is part of the Greater Manchester Station Alliance, a partnership headed by Wisher and comprising Transport for Greater Manchester, national rail operator Network Rail, relevant rail franchises and LCR, to deliver regeneration opportunities across the city-region.

The alliance is conducting due diligence for the sites – which are in mixed ownership – alongside Trafford and Stockport councils, and will be formally engaging with developers later this year, according to Wisher.

“Within the next six months, we will look at establishing initial opportunities in the Stockport and Trafford portfolios and progressing sites,” he said.

Meanwhile in Rochdale, LCR is working with the council on its plans to redevelop land around the borough’s five railway stations to create 7,000 homes, 2.5m sq ft of commercial space and an £11m cycle corridor to increase connectivity and boost the local economy.

Under the plans, brownfield land around Rochdale, Castleton, Smithy Bridge, Littleborough and Mills Hills stations would be redeveloped for housing as part of the borough’s largest regeneration masterplan for decades, unveiled last April.

Rochdale Stations

Broadway Malayan and WSP have designed Rochdale’s rail corridor masterplan.

In particular, land around Rochdale and Castleton stations is earmarked to deliver a total of 3,000 homes, and the strategy proposes development around a potential sixth railway station in the borough, Slattocks in Middleton. The masterplan has been drawn up by architect Broadway Malyan and multidisciplinary firm WSP.

Rochdale has been the first borough to work with the Greater Manchester Station Alliance. Wisher said: “We are already engaging with developers on what role they could play alongside us and the council in bringing forward development there.”

The plots of land in Stockport, Trafford and Rochdale were identified as part of LCR’s ongoing programme with Network Rail, formed in 2018, to find opportunities to free up underused land for residential development at and around stations across the national rail network.

The approach centres around collaboration with Network Rail and neighbouring landowners and councils to pool or acquire the critical mass of land required for development at each station. LCR would then work on potential development issues to secure planning certainty and eventually bring opportunities to market.

To date, LCR and Network Rail have conducted an initial review of 1,250 stations across England and are now advancing a programme of housing delivery across the sites deemed suitable for development.

In the North West, LCR is also working with Cheshire West & Chester Council on the Chester City Gateway masterplan, which is being drawn up by London-based architect 5th Studio and is due to be published in the coming months.

The masterplan is expected to map out opportunities for upwards of 540 homes in the area around Chester’s train station, 480,000 sq ft of public realm, and other uses spread across 328 acres of reclaimed brownfield land.

LCR, Cheshire West & Chester and Network Rail are considering next steps to de-risk the land and bring opportunities forward, although the work is in the early stages, Wisher told Place North West. LCR is also starting early work with the Wrexham Gateway Partnership on regeneration plans for the Mold Road area of the North Wales town, where the council has begun a land acquisition drive to enable development.

Wisher was appointed regional director for the North West last April, and expects to grow his team headquartered in Manchester over the coming year.

LCR’s regional portfolio includes the 24-acre mixed-use Mayfield scheme in Manchester, with LCR part of the consortium delivering the £1.4bn project over the next decade. It also owns the Piccadilly Gate office block near the city centre station, from which it generates rental revenue to help fund its activities, alongside Government funding.

Adam Wisher

Wisher was appointed regional director last year, having first served as LCR’s development director

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We need local government and goverment agencies to invest as joint-owners n (not ‘spend taxpayers money’ on) property development projects so that they have recurring revenue for future projects. This would be an upward spiral and economic development and the common good would not be held by by ‘clubs of individualistic tory taxpayers’. What Manchester does today, the world …

By James Yates

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