Newly granted planning powers are being tested for the first time by Greater Manchester Combined Authority to compulsorily purchase sites at Cornbrook Hub, the gateway to Peel’s Manchester Waters scheme on Pomona Island, although the authority is confident a deal will be agreed with the landowner before the legal tools need to be fully deployed.
The GMCA was handed unprecedented planning powers last month to allow it to make cross-boundary compulsory purchase orders, using the same powers held by the Homes & Communities Agency through the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008. These would replace the Town & Country Planning Act CPOs normally used by councils, where orders are constrained within a single local authority boundary. Two CPOs, resulting in two public inquiries, would otherwise be required at Cornbrook, which straddles Trafford and Manchester.
Manchester and Trafford councils are due to vote this month on the move which will then go to GMCA for ratification in January. The legal fees and land purchases for the CPO would be paid for by Manchester Ship Canal Developments, a Peel subsidiary.
The more efficient single CPO would target three sites owned by the Bennett family, trading as Bennett Bros, a scrap metal recycling company, and its affiliate Mancuncian Springs.
A sticking point in the negotiations between the Bennetts and Peel has been finding a suitable site to relocate the scrap yard, traditionally difficult types of businesses to move due to commercial requirements of not being sited near a rival yard as well as the likelihood of resistance from residents to accepting waste recycling operations on their doorstep. It is understood a suitable site in Salford has been found for Bennett Bros to continue trading and negotiations are at an advanced stage.
James Whittaker, director of Peel, said: “Peel Land and Property have been working on the now approved Cornbrook Hub Regeneration Framework for the past four years. We have commenced the CPO process to enable the redevelopment of the site to come forward and are working with Bennett Bros with regards to finding a suitable new business location, allowing us to transform the land around Cornbrook Metrolink interchange into a new city gateway.”
Mobile phone masts operated by Hutchinson 3G also occupy the Bennett Bros site between the Metrolink line and Bridgewater Canal, and would have to be relocated.
Deals have already been agreed with other land owners at Cornbrook and several premises vacated and demolished. The formal closure of Westminster Street has been obtained, terms agreed with Clear Channel, an advertising billboard operator, and hoarding of the site facing Chester Road completed.
Manchester Ship Canal Developments proposes a mix of commercial, leisure and residential on five acres at Cornbrook according to a framework adopted by Manchester and Trafford authorities. A hotel, 100 residential units and office space are planned in a phased development. Land assembly via CPO could take two years to complete, pushing the start of development back to 2019. The start on site could be sooner if a deal is agreed without requiring the legal order to be made.
The Cornbrook Hub development would serve as the entrance onto Pomona Island, rebranded Manchester Waters, over Cornbrook Bridge, where thousands of flats are proposed by Peel. The first residential development on Pomona is currently on site, by Rowlinson.
Eddie Smith, strategic development director at Manchester City Council, said talks with the Bennetts over the acquisition of three sites was “positive” and he was “very optimistic” a deal would be agreed.
Smith said working through the process of the Cornbrook CPO remained a useful exercise to test the unprecedented powers and as “a safety net to make sure all parties keep their eyes on the ball”.
If the test goes well, the new form of CPO could be deployed, if required, at Northern Gateway, the 8,000-unit residential development proposed for Lower Irk Valley and Collyhurst in east Manchester.
GVA is advising Peel. Bennett Bros declined to comment at this stage.