DIARY | November 2015 – the month in property

Neil Tague

A new monthly catch-up on the deals and plans shaping the region.

Fire in the hole

Allied London this month got its hands on London Road Fire Station, everyone’s favourite neglected beauty, after Britannia Hotels finally put the place up for sale in April. It’s a result that Sir Howard Bernstein could have barely dared dream of when Alex Langsam’s QC was dragging him (metaphorically) by the hair around a CPO hearing in 2011. As with the BBC Oxford Road site, one of the city’s favourite developers eventually won the day. Nice when that happens, isn’t it? Unlike at St John’s Quarter though, Allied is not working with the council here, but on its own, with Levitt Bernstein (no relation) on board as architect. Manchester Firehouse is the funky new brand.

Reach for the stars

We can safely say that recovery is full-blooded, even edging into a state of “boom” when really, really tall things start to appear on the skyline, or at least in planning meetings. Manchester’s planning committee of 12 November approved Brigantes’ 35-storey apartment tower at Whitworth Street West, a couple of weeks after Forshaw announced it was hoping to start on site with a 42-storey tower next to Mancunian Way, designed by Ian Simpson Architects way back in the day. December is set to see a start on site for Property Alliance’s long-awaited 27-storey Axis tower by Deansgate Locks. The market, however, hasn’t yet reached such a state of mania that the word “Scousescraper” has returned. Be thankful.

Revival acts

It’s been a return to the headlines for projects and towns that missed the boat in the last heady upward swing of the property cycle. Oldham, which really missed out, has made strides under the leadership of Jim McMahon. Should he win the Oldham West & Royton by-election and follow former Oldham chief exec Charlie Parker to Westminster, the likes of the £60m Prince’s Gate will be a decent legacy. Neighbour Rochdale is also back in the game, as developer Genr8 announced two chunky pre-lets at its proposed 200,000 sq ft retail and leisure scheme, with 50,000 sq ft going to M&S and 22,000 sq ft to Next. Still no word from McDonalds, which deserted the town centre in 2011. Next one to watch, Cheshire East’s efforts in Macclesfield…

Osborne to be wild (for Manchester)

George Osborne hearts Manchester, pass it on. It matters not that the city’s pretty much a Labour one-party state when it comes to local government, it delivers the goods, and it’s on the doorstep of Osborne’s Cheshire constituency. It was no surprise then that the Chancellor used the Autumn Statement to pledge tons of money for things to happen in the city and its Cheshire hinterland. This included a promise of £9m a year to run The Factory, an arts venue that’s not even built yet, and £5m for a South Asia Gallery at the Manchester Museum that might be a nice photo opp for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s next visit. Already looking forward to pics of Xi and George supping a pint in the Sandbar.

Eager devo beavers

Property stories rarely get sexier than a good old devolution deal. Liverpool has become the fifth northern city region to sign on the dotted line, with Robert Hough, chairman of the Liverpool City Region LEP, declaring that private sector support for devolution is “immense”. The deal comes with £30m a year over 30 years, the same amount as the Sheffield City Region and the North East Combined Authority, and exactly double that of the Tees Valley. £30m a year doesn’t really sound like a massive amount, in civic budget terms. Maybe Liverpool needs to dream up an arts centre like Manchester’s Factory to really get the funding flowing in.

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