Red Bank Brewery Square Northern Gateway Fec Manchester City Council March 2020

Collyhurst is one of the areas being redeveloped under the Northern Gateway proposals

‘Manctopia’ Ep 2: Anne brings nuance to development debate

The story of Anne Worthington finally provided some nuance in the second episode of the BBC Two series, as she battled to reconcile her admiration for Manchester’s regeneration with dismay at the propect of losing her home to redevelopment.

The first episode of Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom was criticised for oversimplifying the issues involved in property development for the sake of good television.

While the layman may watch the show and draw the conclusion that all developers are greedy, unscrupulous individuals and Manchester City Council gives them free rein, those within the industry are unlikely to be fooled by the BBC’s black and white approach to the city’s property boom, and Episode 2 thankfully starts to delve a little deeper. 

Worthington is an outspoken and likeable Collyhurst resident who stands to lose her home as part of the council and developer Far East Consortium’s Northern Gateway project. 

The Northern Gateway development zone is anticipated to deliver 15,000 homes over the next 30 years across 383 acres north of the city centre. 

One of the first phases – the construction of 330 new-build homes at Collyhurst village – is likely to see Worthington’s home demolished as part of the redevelopment, with a planning application for the project expected imminently. 

During last night’s episode, filmed in 2019, she said she felt trapped “in limbo”, uncertain of what the future held in store. 

While understandably distraught at the prospect of losing her home, Worthington sang the praises of those responsible for many aspects of Manchester’s regeneration. 

Indeed, Worthington was not nearly as anti-development as her friend Jackie, who described the gentrification of Miles Platting as “sickening”, or Jonathan Silver, a university researcher and campaigner seen leading a guided tour around Manchester under the auspices of pouring scorn on the results of foreign investment in the city. 

Towards the end of the episode, Worthington questioned Silver’s anti-development stance as the tour stopped in the vibrant Cutting Room Square in Ancoats, an area packed with flats, bars and restaurants. 

“People remember Ancoats with rose-tinted glasses. It was derelict and would have fallen down if hadn’t been redeveloped,” Worthington said. 

The interviewer challenged Worthington on why she was so supportive of the regeneration of Ancoats but not that of her own area – even though it was her own home at risk – to which she responded:  “But there was nothing there [in Ancoats] before – it was all car parks and rough ground.

“Here, they’re just replacing perfectly good housing. We’re not talking about 1970s slum clearance – these are good houses, there’s nothing wrong with them. To pull something down just to build a new version of it is ludicrous.”

Worthington provides the series with the nuance that had been lacking in the previous episode, positioning herself in the grey area between pro- and anti-development and showing that it is acceptable and understandable to hold both views. 

To be fair to the BBC, attempting to convey the nuances of a broad and convoluted issue like Manchester’s property market in one hour must be almost impossible – but the introduction of the series’ most colourful character so far certainly helped its cause. 

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