And you shall receive
This month developer Ask pulled out of the proposed Macclesfield leisure scheme, which was to bring seven cinema screens and eight F&B units to the Churchill Way site. It always felt an odd fit – the modern day Ask looks a more streamlined, focused business than the outfit that used to chase work all over, at one point in the 2000s working with six of Greater Manchester’s 10 councils at once, plus the leisure sector’s woes are excuse enough to depart. Macc and Cheshire East have been hunting a big scheme for years, dating back to the first flirtations with Wilson Bowden in 2006, but still nothing much has happened. At grassroots level – markets, festivals, supporting independents – Macc has done well. Maybe those people should be listened to more as Cheshire East seeks a way forward.
The collapse of CAU, the junior brand of Argentine steakhouse group Gaucho, surprised absolutely nobody. Essentially, this was a mid-market product charging top of the market prices, with nursery school décor and a creeping sense among diners that somewhere in a City office a smarmy private equity guy was laughing at you. The “casual dining” sector is having a stinker of a year, but frankly there have been some awful, ‘one size fits all’ business models undeserving of success. Failures like this are awful for staff losing jobs of course, but maybe well-travelled, discerning diners are rejecting the chains for a reason. Might this be a nudge for developers and landlords to take a chance on more attuned locals ready to step up a gear? Here’s hoping.
Two applications, from MCR and Maya, were refused for canalside apartment schemes in Altrincham, and following Trafford’s refusal the previous month for UA92’s controversial Turn Moss plans, the ‘new broom’ effect since Labour took over following May’s local elections is clear to see. Chief executive Theresa Grant and corporate director Joanne Hyde have exited stage left, with Salford’s Jim Taylor stepping in as interim boss until year end, because if you’re running one council how hard can two be? Trafford’s planning meetings are getting more heated, and one suspects the appeals might start to stack up before too long.
Cain and able
Encouraging news at Stanhope Street, home to Liverpool’s Cains brewery. Leisure entrepreneur Andy Mikhail is to plough £7m into four phases of leisure, with a big Irish bar to kick things off and a hotel in the final phase. A 94-bedroom hotel was included in a consent granted in 2013 for a hefty mixed-use scheme, but everybody’s keeping schtum as to what’s happening with the rest – you’d think a 725-home scheme might have attracted the city’s more aggressive developers, given activity elsewhere. The leisure should do well – Baltic Market does well here, and it’s very easy to see a less hipster version of Truman’s brewery off Brick Lane in East London working well. Could that be enough to kickstart the resi?
LEP it up
The Local Enterprise Partnerships of the region have been given the chance to scrap for another £20m over the next two years, having been found a role in making the Government’s Industrial Strategy a reality. The LEPs have always floated around a bit in policy terms – set up by an austerity-fixated coalition government as a cheap alternative to regional development agencies, they pretty much made it up as they went along. Growth Deals gave them a purpose, and there certainly seem to be a proper role for them outside of the big city regions. Part of the latest challenge for them is making their boards more inclusive, with a 50/50 women-men split targeted by 2023. Some are close, but one LEP in the region currently has two women in a 19-strong board. Just a bit of room for improvement there.