Factory Image July 2018

Council considered ‘scrapping’ The Factory

Charlie Schouten

After a £20m increase in the arts centre’s budget was signed off by Manchester City Council yesterday, minutes have revealed the council had looked at scrapping the £130m scheme entirely before agreeing to borrow money to support the project.

At the start of the month, the council said it would need to provide an additional £20m towards The Factory, designed by architect OMA, in the face of rising construction costs and design issues. This will bring its contribution to the project’s capital budget up to £40.8m of a total £130.6m; in total, The Factory will provide facilities including a 1,520-seat theatre.

Minutes from the council’s resources and governance committee, which took place on 8 November, have revealed leaders had looked into “scaling the project back, value engineering, and even scrapping [it] completely”.

However, council leader Sir Richard Leese said axing the project would have incurred costs to the council of £23m, “with little left to show for it but an empty piece of land”.

Similarly, taking a value engineering approach would have “taken away some of the project’s purpose, putting grant funding from central Government at risk”, and would have also failed to deliver sufficient budgetary savings “to make it deliverable”.

Leese added that the situation of a budget increase “was not ideal” and acknowledged “it did not portray a good picture to Manchester residents”.

The council initially said the costs would be funded entirely through receipts from sales of council-owned land, which it said “has significantly increased in value during the extended design period.” However, this is now to be met with prudential borrowing instead, as per a recommendation made to the committee on 8 November.

At the council meeting yesterday where the cost increase was signed off, Lib Dem Cllr John Leech criticised the rise in the project’s budget, citing a report from 2015 which said there was “no risk of exceeding the budget”, which was then £110m – this was a maximum the council was expecting the project to cost.

“The question we ought to be asking ourselves is, how many other reports are coming to the executive giving no indication there is a serious risk of the costs to the council being significantly more than is reported?” he said.

“Residents in Manchester have a right to know whether council reports accurately reflect the financial risk to the council. Cllr Leese ought to come clean and admit how many other reports have underestimated the potential financial liability to the council.”

In response, Leese said he had given a “very detailed account” of the cost increases and added the council had been subject to an independent review carried out on behalf of the Treasury and Arts Council England, which took place last week.

Leese added the outcome of the review had been “incredibly positive on the progress we are making with this project”.

As a result of the cost increases, the council has agreed to provide quarterly updates to the resources and governance committee on The Factory, and its progress against agreed costs.

The 145,000 sq ft venue is to be managed by MIF, which will create its artistic programme. A revised planning application was approved in July this year and the various land deals required to secure the site concluded in August.

Manchester’s required contribution is still less than a third of the total, with slightly more than £78m coming from the Treasury and a further £7m in Lottery funding from the Arts Council going for approval in January. Central government is to contribute £9m a year in running costs for the first three operational years at the facility.

Laing O’Rourke is on board as contractor and is set to start on site next year.

Leese added: “There is nothing like The Factory anywhere in Europe, let alone the UK and its game-changing impact for Manchester and the North of England cannot be overstated. That’s why it has been able to attract so much central government funding and is such an exciting prospect.

“Compromising on The Factory’s quality and ambition would have undermined its uniqueness, its purpose and the benefits it will bring. It’s a bold and ambitious undertaking and such projects do not come without complex challenges which we have tackled head on now so we can be confident going forwards.”

The professional team on the project features Buro Happold as structural and facades engineer; Gardiner & Theobald as project manager; BDP as services engineer; Charcoal Blue as theatre consultant; Level Acoustics and Vibration as acoustic engineer; Vectos as transport consultant; WSP as fire engineer; Deloitte as planner; and Planit IE as landscape architect.

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Presumably the “design issues” include the fact it looks f’ing terrible?

By Macca Airport

what a complete and utter farce and waste of public money.

By FAC51

Maybe I am ignorant but how can this building costs so much? It is disproportionate no matter what way you cut it. Does it have gold plated walls and diamond light bulbs?

By MCRlyfe

Not much of a story, I’d be worried if they weren’t considering all options.

There is so much negativity around everything, the city is booming and so many people are just moaning about anything and everything.

Yes, the design is questionable and always going to be divisive; but this is an amazing asset for the city, investing heavily in a ghostly part of town. Cheer up everybody.

By Thumbs Up.

The only reason this building would be scrapped after so much time and money has already been poured into it is because it wasn’t designed by SimpsonHaugh. I’m not the biggest fan of the current design but an fair and open competition was held so let’s just get on with it rather than wasting more time over what could have been..

By +

@+ Ironically SimpsonHaugh put in a design bid which was better than the current design although my favourite was Mecanoo’s.

By sherbert_lemon

This facility should be the best of the best with no expense spared. £20m is a drop in the ocean compared to the value both economically, socially and in terms of cultural offer. We shouldn’t just be looking at these issue sin cold hard shillings and pence. Lets hope this gets delivered as quickly as possible.

PS everything cannot be designed by just one architect. would be a very boring city!

By Culture club

Looks a mess

By cal

I think it looks fantastic, a modern theatre space will attract forward looking companies from around the world. MIF can make Manchester a destination for the people who go to Edinburgh. With all its other potential, get on and build it.

By Nic

Should’ve gone with the Ian Simpson one. Much better. Don’t bother with these big name architects who don’t understand the area.


They need to just get on with it….more delays, more cost.

By Coolmanc

Good new! Great scheme. Lets get it built.


Two lessons to learn – 1) as effectively a one party state Manchester City council is not subject to enough scrutiny 2) public bodies should not get involved in commercial property development, especially with borrowed money

By Anonymous

I know it’s not the same money but meanwhile in Oldham they have scrapped a new theatre that cost roughly the same as the overrun on this project because it wasn’t value. All this money spent in the centre while places outside are left to rot.

By John

I am a big fan of Rem Koolhaas and OMA, the casa da musica in Porto is a fantastic example of a performace venue by OMA but this is a truly horrific design.

The project is stuck between a rock and a hard place, continue to pile money into a god awful/over priced scheme or scrap it entirely/go with a new design and then MCC will be acused of wasteing Tax payers money.

By Disappointed

“public bodies should not get involved in commercial property development, especially with borrowed money”. This isn’t commercial property development.

By Loganberry

Does it need scrapping entirely? That’d be shame, and a loss of a resource in a quiet part of town calling out for it.

Just come up with a design that doesn’t look like an Amazon boxes that has been left out on bin collection day with a placcy bag attached and surely we’ll be on.

By Daveboi

Cancel it, it’s absolutely pointless and in the wrong place anyway. Should either have been at Circle Square or inside MAyfield train station.

By Andy

Huge vanity project.
Manchester isn’t short of venues, those venues are just short of funding.
Agree totally about Oldham. The authorities around Manchester will regret the day they signed up to a greater Manchester authority. Funding just gets dragged to the city centre.
The buiding is essentially one big room with some accoustic screens and theatre seating on one side. Tesco Extra with some extra cladding.
I could stomach the folly if MCC were cash rich but the broken infrastructure and rough sleepers confirm that’s not the case. It’s all about priorities!
I also fear for MIF. It’s great name is going to get tarnished by this mess.
What happens when the 3 years of central funding stop. My guess, lots of £50 a head pop concerts and very little cutting edge art.
I hope I’m wrong but fear I’m right.


What an appalling design and total waste of money when so many problems in Manchester right now.

By Waste