A £27m funding shortfall needs to be overcome if the Irwell River Park project between Salford and Manchester is to be fully realised.
The ambitious project is aimed at connecting developments running from Media City UK in Salford Quays to Cathedral Square in Manchester city centre.
Funding is being sought through a combination of public and private sector investment, with £45m already secured from the European Regional Development Fund, North West Development Agency, Homes & Communities Agency, Salford City Council, Manchester City Council, Trafford Council and private sector partners.
The £72m project aims to transform the 690-acre area running 8km along the course of the River Irwell, from Salford Quays through Ordsall and Castlefield, Chapel Wharf, off Chapel Street, and Manchester city centre onto The Meadows, in Broughton, and Salford University.
Irwell River Park is being led by Central Salford, an urban regeneration company, and being delivered through a partnership of the three local authorities, the NWDA, a range of funders, regulators, developers and the local community.
Partners and stakeholders were taken on a boat trip along the Irwell yesterday to see how proposed new walkways, six new bridges, and new cycleways and riverside community spaces would be installed over the coming years.
Karen Hirst, development director of Central Salford, said: "The total programme cost is £72m over the next decade of which £45m is already secure while £27m is still to be secured. Irwell River Park is recognised as a strategic site by the North West Development Agency and since the planning guidance was given approval in 2008 developers are beginning to realise that they should embrace the river and use it as part of their schemes running alongside it."
Hirst said the funding gap is being tackled via a range of funding opportunities based on "both individual sections of the project and the scheme in its entirety".
Meanwhile, over 50% of the project is currently underway and a number of developments are expected to be completed in 2010 or by the end of next year. They include:
- Footbridge at Media City UK and Trafford Wharf promenade, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, due for completion in October
- Route improvement plans from Imperial War Museum North to Princes Bridge, incorporating Salford Central riverside, scheduled to be complete by September 2010
- Soapworks at Ivy Wharf including a new link between the riverside and Ordsall Lane, Salford City Council last month agreed in principle for the Carlyle Group and joint venture partners Abstract Nikal to transform the former Colgate factory in Salford Quays, being renamed Soapworks, into a 380,000 sq ft office scheme
- Improvement works at Woden Street and St George's arches including new lighting
- A new bridge at Allied London's Spinningfields as well as improvements to Stanley Street
- Phase one of the area near the Chapel Wharf residential area and the riverside, including Trinity Approach
- Link to Ask Developments' 32-acre Greengate development area, on the edge of Salford, by Manchester Cathedral, incorporating the planned paved square with water features and a light installation underneath the former Manchester Exchange Station, to be known as The Cove
Beyond 2011, the project aims to deliver the following further elements:
- Cathedral Square
- Clippers Quay bridge to improve access to Old Trafford football ground and Lancashire County Cricket Club's ground
- Trinity Square
- Phase two of the Chapel Wharf area on the riverside, which Bruntwood has helped fund
- New improvements near West Properties' Premier House
- Cathedral Walk bridge, funding is still being sought for this access bridge
- A Salford 'aspirational route' within the Wilburn Street basin
- Planned water taxis, dubbed 'Waxis', to run along the Irwell river, are also proposed
Chris Farrow, chief executive of Central Salford urban regeneration company, added: "Today is all about bringing partners and stakeholders together and to have a reality check on the proposals. The project will link together £3bn of private sector investment and could create up to 30,000 jobs within the surrounding areas. Manchester has been rated as the fourteenth greatest European city in an independent survey. The other thirteen cities ahead of Manchester all have fabulous waterfronts but the Irwell River Park project can drive regeneration forward. The Irwell ship canal is the life and blood of Greater Manchester and by keeping a singular vision we can make it become a unique place to visit."