Circle Square Cranes Sunset
Cranes at Manchester's Circle Square

Manchester construction costs third-highest in UK

Charlie Schouten

The city’s construction costs outstrip the likes of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Leeds, according to research by Arcadis, with Liverpool also ranking highly.

According to the consultant’s annual International Construction Costs report, Manchester is the 22nd most expensive city in the world to build in, placing it ahead of other regional centres including Birmingham and Cardiff.

In the UK, only London and Bristol have higher construction costs. Liverpool also registers strongly, ranking as the 26th most expensive city for construction, placing it ahead of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Leeds.

Overall, Manchester is the third-costliest city in the UK for construction, while Liverpool ranks in fifth place.

The statistics will come as no surprise to the Manchester market, which has seen residential construction hit its highest point since 2006, according to Deloitte’s most recent crane survey.

More residential units are due to be delivered in the next three years than in the last 10 years combined; between 2007 and 2018, 13,439 units were completed, while between 2019 and 2021, 14,480 units are due to complete. Similarly, office construction is on the up with 2.1m sq ft currently under way.

A number of developers and main contractors have reported rising costs across the city centre in particular with the subcontractor market particularly buoyant; residential developers have reported huge demand and increasing costs for finishing trades including decorators as a number of major schemes look to complete.

Issues with subcontractors and costs have reportedly delayed some residential projects, including Murrays’ Mills in Ancoats, being delivered by Graham and developer Manchester Life, which was completed nine months late.

In Liverpool, a booming hotel pipeline and demand for hotel space has driven increased construction activity, while a lack of available office space is expected to lead to a drive in new-build office delivery, particularly at Pall Mall, where Kier and CTP are planning to bring forward 400,000 sq ft of commercial space.

The city is currently the third-best performing hotel market in the country, with further proposals coming forward in the last three months, including an Epic aparthotel at Gambier Terrace, proposals by YPG to convert the Magistrates Court, and a boutique hotel by Elliot Group at Beetham Plaza.

Blundell Aerial 1

Liverpool is seeing rising levels of both residential and hotel construction

According to the rankings, New York City is the most expensive city in the world to build in, while the UK’s costliest city for construction is London.

The research covers 100 cities globally, and measures 20 different building sectors; the data used in the research was current as of the first quarter of 2019.

Jonathan Moore, city executive for Manchester at Arcadis, said: “In 2019 and beyond, smart investment in three key areas is going to be crucial for future success. Technological innovation and digitization present an opportunity for construction companies to increase efficiency, lower costs and raise productivity, while simultaneously improving the end product for customers and communities alike.

“Secondly, in order to create long term value there needs to be a much stronger focus on how the buildings we construct can work for and meet the changing requirements of the people who actually live in or use them.

“Finally, constructing and operating buildings has a significant impact on the environment, in terms of water and energy use, carbon emissions and waste. As a consequence, clients are looking to incorporate resiliency and sustainability into building design and use as part of their business and growth strategy. These key areas all require the whole supply chain to collaborate more deeply to deliver the potential value in the investments being made.”

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A massive issue which will gradually get worse and worse is the lack of places to tip soil, and it’s getting harder and harder for places to get permits to open tips.


Manchester is still being called the U.K.’s third city below Birmingham, why I don’t know. The growth in commerce & accommodation alone in the last few years says different. Unfortunately there has been a severe price to pay in many ways. The roads are gridlocked, accommodation prices are sky high & that will only increase as time goes by. Below all that is what is happening to the hundreds of thousands of tons of earth excavated to accommodate this massive development. Open land has always been much sought after & lack of availabilty affords very high prices. Countrywide landfill therefore is now a major concern to all councils particularly Manchester due to the simple question, “where is all this excavated soil going to finish up..?” Having lived in 4 miles outside Manchester city centre for all of my 69 years I do not like what the centre has now become. I rest my case, thank you

By John V. Paolo

I don’t think world class cities such as Paris, London, New York etc give a monkies about where soil ends up! It’s a rapid growing, world class city. Like it or lump. Accommodation costs are also about to plummet making it more affordable, vibrant and a booming economy

By Old Faithful

You can’t have your cake and your ha’penny.

By Elephant

Is the comparison here between Manchester, Bristol etc and London including Greater Manchester or just the usual single of 10 Greater Manchester borough/cities to all 33 of Greater London’s borough/cities?


GM is just 10 single authorities and London 33. I guess that’s what they mean. It does not say the South East for London or up to and including Scotland or even Winterfell for GM?

By Cockney Geezer

I guess growth creates as many problems as decline, they are just better problems to have.

By Rich X

A multi-centred north along the M62 corridor, long-predicted by visionaries, is emerging, and hopefully as time goes by this will be more sustainable and more livable than the single centre you have in the South East.

By Roscoe

Transport infrastructure still the big thing holding us back in my opinion. Metrolink is still disjointed in the way it serves the conurbation in an ‘all routes to London’ kind of way. SeMMS link 2 is still a distant dream. 30 years to get the first route and how long until the next?

Meanwhile London and the South East gets Olympics, Crossrail, Crossrail 2 and everything else. We need to get a proper infrastructure fund which can get major projects through in short order – otherwise we’re all here talking about improvements that’ll come to pass when we’re well in to retirement.


I don’t think we need anymore trams people don’t want to use them. We need more roads and wider roads to ease traffic so people can get to work and more jobs away from the city centre as people don’t want to have to go to the city centre everyday.

By Sam tif

They’ll have to give us ‘Crossrail 3’ up here; it’s so blindingly obvious. But, yes, retirement beforehand for many!

By Roscoe