GCHQ is understood to have signed a 15-year lease for office space at Heron House in a move that could create hundreds of new jobs in Manchester.
The Government intelligence and security organisation announced in April this year it was planning to open a base in the city in 2019, although details of the size of its requirement were understandably kept under wraps.
GCHQ is now understood to have taken a lease on part of Heron House, a 96,000 sq ft building owned by the council and managed by Bruntwood which sits opposite the Town Hall and Albert Square. A refurbishment designed by architect 5plus and contractor Kier is currently under way.
The exact amount of space that GCHQ has taken in the building is currently unknown, although fit-out of the space is understood to be ongoing.
Papers due to go before Manchester City Council next week confirm a 15-year lease has been agreed with a “specialist occupier” for Heron House, with an agreement completed on 15 November. This will ensure building works are completed in time for GCHQ to take occupation in the middle of 2019.
Manchester City Council had previously asked for £5m from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop 12,000 sq ft of Heron House as a cyber innovation hub, as part of the Government’s wider £1.9bn National Cyber Security strategy.
GCHQ’s network of sites in the UK currently includes headquarters in Cheltenham, offices in Bude in Cornwall, and Scarborough. The organisation works alongside MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6.
A Manchester City Council spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on speculation about the end user or users of Heron House.” A GCHQ spokeswoman said: “For security reasons, we would discourage speculation about the location of our new Manchester office.”