Campaign against Eastlands arena ‘misleading’

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Manchester City Council has called a campaign against the Eastlands regeneration framework by Manchester Arena operator SMG “very misleading”, while facing resistance from a mass of city centre businesses including The Printworks, Arndale, Corn Exchange and Harvey Nichols.

A public consultation on a revised plan for Eastlands, which revealed the council had received interest from investors looking to build a 20,000-capacity arena at the Etihad Campus, took place last month.

The council said “international investors and operators see Manchester as one of the few cities in Europe with the ability to successfully host more than one large arena”. However, the operator of the city centre Manchester Arena spoke out against the proposals, with executive vice-president of SMG John Sharkey telling Place North West “it is just not possible” for the city to support two arenas, “and if it’s not ours then the city will lose 1.2 million people coming through it, and could turn to tumbleweed.”

Now the consultation has completed, the high level of responses and objections have been revealed. More than 1,400 comments were received during the consultation, largely regarding either the arena proposal, or the plans to build MXM on green space around the New Islington tram stop, a 220,000 sq ft creative workspace scheme which is set for a planning application in the autumn.

There is also an online petition against MXM, which has topped more than 2,600 signatures.

Manchester ArenaSMG conducted its own campaign to raise awareness of the framework consultation, including distributing leaflets with information the council called “very misleading”.

“Many residents believe that it is proposed that the council intends to invest in a second arena at the Etihad Campus. This is not the case.

“If a second large indoor arena was to be brought forward then it would need to be funded in its entirety by the private sector.”

In the report to Manchester City Council’s economic scrutiny committee, which recommends the revised Eastlands strategic regeneration framework for approval, details of the objections from several large city centre stakeholders were also included.

The group includes Aviva Investors, owner of the Corn Exchange, hotel operators Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, and Innside by Melia, Hard Rock Café, Harvey Nichols, Manchester Theatres, and Vapiano. They all oppose the project, because the second arena would directly compete with Manchester arena, and reduce the footfall and trading performance in the city centre.

The objections continued; alongside SMG, detailed objections were put in from MJV, the long leaseholder of Manchester Arndale made up of Intu and M&G Real Estate, and DTZ Investors, owner of The Printworks. According to MJV, the arena proposals are “premature” and there has been “no proper market testing”, while The Printworks said there could be “significant adverse impact” on its own development plans should an arena go ahead.

In recommending the framework to be progressed for executive approval, the council responded to the objections, insisting that “if such development were to be pursued, each planning application would be subject to consideration in the usual way.

“This would include a full assessment of the proposals in accordance with both national and local planning policy and any material considerations”.

The creation of a second arena is not a done deal, the report suggested, as “the revised draft framework does not seek to allocate land for an arena” and “the crucial issue of market assessment which will be important factors in determining the robustness or otherwise of planning proposals”.

In response to the objections against MXM, which largely focused on the loss of green space and resident amenity, the council said the site had been earmarked for employment use for some time, and within the upcoming planning application, a 35,000 sq ft “linear park”, and a 15,000 sq ft square would be included.

Ultimately, the council said the interest from investors “is to be welcomed” as “it reflects the council’s long held ambition to develop a globally competitive sport, leisure and recreation offer in this part of the city.

“The new employment opportunities that would flow from this next generation of investment across the Framework area could make significant impacts on the lives of East Manchester residents and contribute to the delivery of the long term regeneration of the East Manchester area.”

Responding to the report, Sharkey said SMG has delivered its own campaign “after speaking to local residents and city centre businesses who were unaware of the Council’s proposals to include a 20,000+ capacity arena in the Eastlands Regeneration Framework.

“Even if the arena build costs were privately funded, in our experience, a development of this scale at Eastlands would require additional funding from the public purse to cope with the increased strain on the area’s already stretched public services – not least the road and tram networks and policing.”

He continued: “Ahead of discussions with a private investor, the Council cannot say with absolute certainty that public funds will not be required. As it stands, the framework does not provide any information about how any associated infrastructure would be funded, and how this might impact on existing priorities with already limited resources.

“There is nothing in the Framework to suggest the Council has carried out any independent market, environmental or traffic impact assessments before seeking to include this proposal in a document which will be a material consideration in planning applications – which if correct, is extraordinary.”

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The owners of the Manchester Arena are just bitter because they haven’t bothered investing in updating their arena in decades and now that someone new is coming along they’re worried about losing money.

It’s called capitalism mate, deal with it

By Anonymous

MXM sounds cool, and the current green space is rarely used

By York Street

Imagine the carnage of this and a week night footy match on at the same time. Roads and Metro are already stuffed. Often takes an hour to get out the car park if I drive. Not a good idea – don’t be greedy.

By CityFan

Whilst investment in Manchester should be encouraged, this location is not connected enough to justify an arena. There is not the transport infrastructure to deal with 20,000 concert goers. Victoria (and the immidiately adjacent Metro Stations) can do this.

By Acelius

Get in built, as someone said below MEN has been neglected for years. Its a dump

By Bob

“The creation of a second arena is not a done deal” yet i’ve spoken to people who are already working on it, someone isn’t telling the truth here.

By CityCentre

Why would Harvey Nicholls be affected by this?

By Elephant

I am with SMG on this. Manchester City Council should be supporting the city centre and not their Arab business partners

By urbanista

If they want to develop the area around Eastlands they need to look no further than what has been built around Wembley Stadium now. A Hilton Hotel, Premier Inn, The London Designer outlet, Restaurants and Bars, Apartments above some of the shops. The area needs something like that which would be used more frequently than another arena and would be more beneficial to everyone and not the few concert goers

By Anonymous

Big business have to compete. Just like everyone else .let’s keep improving east Manchester. Its brilliant from 20 years ago .

By Paul Taylor

Greedy Manchester City Council. Not enough infrastructure to cope now. As most of their top managers don’t even live in Manchester, why should they be concerned. They pass permissions far easier as they don’t really care about the City, it doesn’t affect them.

By Former employee of MCC.

The M&S bank arena is already struggling for events, the north west doesn’t need this too

By Bad idea

Can we not get something more creative to anchor the next phase of regeneration in this part of the city. The transport connections are awful.

That said I have no sympathy for the owners of the Arena, its a dump and they deserve to get some competition.

All of those car park owners around the Etihad must be rubbing their hands.


Why not not have a new arena on the now demolished central retail park on great ancoats street – close enough to the city centre and to victoria and piccadilly stations plus it would be close enough to the new HS2. terminal as well!

The Manchester arena does need some competition in town and the old central retail park site I feel would be a better location! than at sport city.

Also I feel in time Great ancoats street could be the next deansgate with bars and cafes plus restaurants.

By Northwich

Hard not to be cynical about these comments about the impact of a 2nd arena. Investment and competition are part of the upside of free market capitalism. If the arena succeeds it should be because it offers a good product in a competitive market, not because it has a monopoly. How does a lazy monopolist help the city prosper. If this can be privately financed it tells you there is a gap in the market, and the net effect would be to grow the market for events in Manchester.

By Rich X

@bad idea, are you sure about the M&S arena? From local reports they are filling the place out all the time, can you clarify please?

By on the dock

I agree with the message below about the place being a total dump. I went watching Peter Kay there a while back and John Bishop is loads better than him.

I like him who says out out too.

Imagine the carnage on the streets if you had City Vs United and a Take That gig on the same night. It’d be carnage. Need to think about traffic and all that, just look what happened to that fire in the car park in liverpool!

By Liver Fella

For to long the Manchester arena owners have been complacent so some competition might not be a bad thing however I think the city needs a smaller arena of around 3,000 seats to accommodate the likes of Manchester Giants basketball team and Thunder netball team.

By Anonymous

Well the business people in town so short sighted and do not like the good expansion to the east of Manchester, it is untrue and stupid such investments would stop people to come to town. I think the council got it right and ithe development such big project would generate the wealth and prosperity to the east of town and whole Manchester. Media city and improvement of Salford has not affected the town and surely east Manchester regeneration project would not.

By Jayden

It is not capitalism. It is town planning within a social-market economy, which is why projects are always subject to democratic decision making — thank goodness. This is business competition, but that is not restricted to mega capital corporations; in they fact, they usually anti-competition and try to monopolize markets, which is of course, what Manchester Arena is trying to do, as correctly pointed out, but the opponents could still have valid points: which is why it is important that a democractically-elected supervisory body should have the final word..

By James Yates

This is very underhanded buy Manchester city council nobody has really been informed about what is going on just we are getting an arena no consulting the people in the area you need to remember councillors you work for us stop making decisions without informant everybody

By Julie

Not hard to imagine that MCC might want something radically different for Victoria station and surroundings. Its ambience doesn’t fit their vision of/for the city. Were the MEN to shut down, I expect a large scale government underwritten redevelopment of the area would not be far behind.

By James

That’s a super interesting point by James. Not sure you would reinvent the MEN in its current location as Manchester grows that Victoria location becomes strategically very important.

By Rich X

@Liver Fella see John Bishop all the time as he lives in Manchester, not funny in the slightest though.

By Floyd

Ridiculous idea.

By Nyl