Going, going, gone
There’s been something of a bullish feel to the Liverpool office investment market so far this year, with the Observatory at Queen Square the latest asset to change hands – social housing provider Torus paid £3.75m for the building, which it will occupy. Elsewhere, a Hong Kong investor is said to be ready to pay £70m for the 360,000 sq ft Exchange Flags, while earlier this year Squarestone Growth paid £7m for 5 Temple Square, and Palace Capital picked up One Derby Square. With record take-up and a chronic lack of supply, occupiers might be looking nervously at how many years they have left before terms leap skywards.
Already rattling along on Handforth Garden Village, more signs that Cheshire East might be getting in front of the game in Macclesfield. Hillcrest has now consulted on the King’s School site, while Peaks & Plains is to start demolition on mills at Park Green, to be replaced by 67 apartments. The council has also granted itself, by way of a local development order, powers to push forward brownfield sites in North Side and Whalley Hayes. CEC is of course ever mindful of housebuilders’ desires to build in the region’s wealthiest borough, so getting to a place where it can confidently bat away proposals in the leafier areas must appeal –and indeed, hopefully result in fewer actual appeals.
One of the more intriguing proposals of the month came in Liverpool suburb Woolton, where Studio RBA has designed a scheme of 10 houses for Rushton Properties that are described in planning documents as ‘part-subterranean’. Rushton has owned the site since the 1990s, and since then it has received knockbacks for housing, a garden centre and elderly care bungalows. This is the most low-impact, unobtrusive proposal so far for a site currently denied to the public, and if successful could show the way for others with Green Belt or green wedge sites. Did somebody say “Calderstones”?
Will Windmill Green ever catch a break? Co-working operator Our Space has pulled out of a 13,600 sq ft deal to move to Fore Properties’ Manchester office, which should be well placed to catch the St Peter’s Square buzz, but doesn’t seem to be doing so, with one agent dismissing it curtly as having “too many columns”. Despite occupiers bemoaning lack of supply, as yet the 78,000 sq ft building, a “cut and carve” expansion of what was London Scottish House, remains empty. Another workspace operator is said to be close – and frankly, you can turn on a tap in Manchester these days and a co-working business will fall out, so let’s hope this one sticks around.
To the Manor born
From one type of “Fore” to another. Late in 2018, the smart money seemed to be on the proposed £200m Celtic Manor and Jack Nicklaus golf resort at Hoylake getting permanently lost in the long grass. Things have moved on, with Nicklaus Joint Venture Group bringing in Willmott Dixon to deliver the Celtic Manor resort element – hotel, spa, conference facilities. Two motions at an extraordinary council meeting this week called for council support to be withdrawn, with Wirral leader Phil Davies remaining resolute in support. With Davies stepping down, another bump in the road could come in May’s local elections. The betting is still very much in the balance.
Carlisle City Council is cracking on with the second stage of masterplanning for the UK’s largest garden village, the 10,000-home St Cuthbert’s, with consultation to come in May. The region’s garden villages in general are proceeding at whatever speed is most expedient. Knowsley’s Halsnead, a tidily compact site, is motoring on with Bloor Homes engaged; Cheshire East, as outlined above, is also mustard keen in Handforth. Don’t expect much soon at Lancaster’s Bailrigg – the Local Plan will be examined this spring, so even with a prevailing wind an area action plan for the wider South Lancaster area won’t be out until autumn.