The Government intelligence and security organisation GCHQ is planning to open a base in Manchester by 2019, creating “hundreds of new jobs”, although the size of the requirement or preferred location is being kept under wraps.
Director Jeremy Fleming has said that GCHQ will have “a new secure site… using cutting-edge technology and technical ingenuity to identify and disrupt threats to the UK.”
While Fleming specified that the office would be “in the City of Manchester”, the potential location has not yet been revealed, and it’s understood that discussions are being kept within a tight-knit selection of senior people in Manchester City Council.
The location of a city centre office for hundreds of staff by 2019 poses something of a mystery, namely where the need would be satisfied with a limited number of offices under construction. Space for 300 staff could equate to a requirement of less than 50,000 sq ft. While there are schemes such as 125 Deansgate or Landmark due to complete next year, both are well over 100,000 sq ft and would see GCHQ take occupancy alongside other tenants, an unlikely choice for a high-security organization.
The occupier may also have specialist requirements for the construction, location, and utilities connected to the building. High-security buildings often have standoff distances meaning that they are built well away from other structures, and need electricity supply and internet cabling provided on an independent grid.
Outside of the city centre, large regeneration sites such as Airport City, next to Manchester Airport, could be attractive to GCHQ due to accessibility, but would still not be able to deliver an office block in the time frame.
GCHQ’s network of sites in the UK currently includes headquarters in Cheltenham, offices in Bude in Cornwall, and Scarborough.
GCHQ works alongside MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This announcement will create hundreds of jobs and represents a huge vote of confidence in the talent pool of potential employees in and around Manchester. GCHQ perform a vital role helping to keep the country safe and we look forward to welcoming them to the city in 2019.”
GCHQ said it is already recruiting for a range of roles across its existing sites, and jobs at its new Manchester offices will be advertised later this year.