Old Trafford, new problems
Manchester United’s plans to give Old Trafford a bit of TLC were given the go-ahead by Trafford Council this month, albeit not with much fanfare. On the face of it the changes are relatively minor – more about making the stadium more accessible for a wider range of fans, which is welcomed – but they did spark a debate about whether the stadium is still fit for purpose. While it might be the largest football stadium in the country, other than Wembley, it’s certainly showing all 109 years of its age, and those of you that have been know that it’s not exactly the most pleasant of spectator experiences. Looking at what could be – Spurs Stadium for one – feels a bit galling when you’re queuing for the duration of half time to pay £5.50 for a lukewarm Heineken. Time to propose something radical? We wouldn’t count on it, but worth remembering Old Trafford in its current state can’t last forever.
Stockport’s in the headlines again, and it’s no surprise this time: the council’s hugely ambitious vision for Town Centre West, a huge swathe of land stretching away from the viaduct, is now heading to public consultation. Stockport Council should certainly be lauded for its ambition with its plans to deliver 3,500 homes and 1m sq ft of employment space, all to be delivered as part of its new Mayoral Development Corporation. It’s fair to say the area of the town it covers is pretty unloved and long overdue regeneration, with such relics as Replay and the Stagecoach depot still in situ. The council has proved it can do regeneration right – just look at Stockport Exchange – so if even part of this vision can be delivered it’s only a good thing for the town.
A vision for the future
Picture the scene: It’s 2039, the EU has collapsed, Ivanka Trump is in the White House, queues of faithful Momentum-ites line the streets for Jeremy Corbyn’s state funeral, and a 69-year-old Andy Burnham, now in his fifth term as Mayor, is still trying to get the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework approved. At least, that’s what it felt like at times with the news of the latest delay to the 201,000-home plan for the city region. It’s now looking unlikely the revised draft of the plan to guide development across the 10 boroughs will be anywhere near approval before next year, leaving plenty of developers in limbo as to what they can and can’t propose to build. The GMCA’s attempts to point the finger at the Government for the problem this time seem to be a bit disingenuous, but that’s the problem with trying to please everyone: you often end up pleasing nobody. An update on where we’re at is expected “in the coming months”, but don’t hold your breath for any concrete progress.
There’s no such prevarication in Liverpool, though, with the city council certainly not hanging about to press on with its plans for Paddington Village. The £1bn scheme is already flying with The Royal College of Surgeons’ new home well under way along with the Kaplan International College and others. A deal with Bruntwood SciTech to take a stake in the council’s development vehicle for the site, announced this month, will only accelerate things further, and we’re betting it won’t be long before the site starts to resemble Manchester’s current crane-fest Circle Square. Hats off to the council for making it happen and having a clear vision for what it wants; the next two schemes, a 17-storey hotel and a multi-storey car park, pictured above, are expected to start soon with a build-to-rent block following soon after.
Making a splash
In life, we’re always told to expect the unexpected, but we at Place can happily admit to being blindsided by a couple of schemes this month. The first was Therme’s 28-acre resort at EventCity, near the Trafford Centre, which is vast: 700,000 sq ft of leisure space, a huge rose-shaped garden, a lake, and a public square. It’s not every day you see a proposal like this and it’s certainly a huge vote of confidence in the region with Therme operating numerous resorts globally. The second was Urban Splash frankly not living up to its name by being named development partner for a site around Windermere railway station: decidedly rural, and not exactly what you’d associate the developer with. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the site to see what comes forward, but if done right – combining the modern modular approach with the Lakes scenery – it could be something special.