Jagged little pill
Bruntwood pulled off a nice coup, securing Jaguar Land Rover for the last two floors of Neo, meaning the redevelopment of Bank House can be called an unqualified success. Some have wondered, with JLR being a big Merseyside employer, why not Liverpool? The word is that this was pretty much always going to be Manchester, despite the car maker’s UK operations in the Midlands and Liverpool. The talent pool was the main thing, it’s understood, and this type of space is undeniably thicker on the ground than in Liverpool, where hotels and apartments have moved in on old office stock, such as Orleans House, sold in 2016 by… Bruntwood.
Ride on time
Chris Boardman’s Beelines cycling infrastructure plan for Greater Manchester seems a no-brainer in a municipality choked by congestion and public transport beset by inconsistency, but as with any public spend, the naysayers have piped up. Let’s take a look then at Copenhagen, which this week released figures showing that 43% of commutes in 2017 were by bike, up 2% year-on-year. The Dames calculate, on time saved and CO2 not emitted, that each bike journey chosen over car travel means an economic gain of 10 kroner per km. To underline the long-term nature of all this, Freiburg invested an average of €836,000 per year between 1978 and 2014 on cycling infrastructure. Surely an economic powerhouse like Greater Manchester can find £160m to improve itself?
China in your hands
Plans for Liverpool’s New Chinatown are once again alive and kicking, with the old maxim third time lucky possibly etched on someone’s office wall. Other old favourites that came forward in the last cycle have also made progress, with the old Royal Mail sorting office site at Copperas Hill – which saw a 2014-conceived scheme stall, but has already been on the cards since a decade ago – being reworked by Liverpool John Moores for a 2020 completion. And in South Manchester, phase two of housing at Barnes Hospital, a site that simultaneously is highly visible and a complete mystery as to how to get there, is to go ahead following a Natwest funding deal. Phew.
The history boys
Developers don’t always find a sympathetic ear when they gripe about working with listed buildings – if there’s one thing Britain does well, it’s heritage lobbying. But could we be better off without some listings? The proposal from Trafalgar for 43-47 Piccadilly Gardens seems to please nobody. The listed building on site is part of the Stevenson Square Conservation Area, which might have made sense when there was a building of similar scale at the now empty plot 43, but has resulted in a scheme where there’s a hulking building, splayed out over the pavement, and a gap at the front for the sake of saving a paper shop next to Wetherspoon’s.
You are the quarry
The idea of a local authority refusing a scheme designed by the firm that wrote that local authority’s design guide might strike some as bizarre, but this is Cheshire East. It should be said, urbanist eScape was working alongside Persimmon’s in-house team, rather than taking sole charge, so it’s impossible to say who ordered what to go where in the White Moss Quarry scheme that was hoofed into touch by planners for myriad reasons. Persimmon accepted its fate amicably enough but would be forgiven for an eye-roll or two at the point, deep into proceedings, where the chair had to gently explain to a committee member that the size differences between the outline consent and the reserved matters part weren’t important. They wouldn’t be alone.
Cheshire West & Chester Council could never be accused of making life easy for itself, and with Northgate causing it headaches – £1m spent in fees in the last year, House of Fraser somewhat inevitably walking away – its planning committee has landed squarely in another juicy affair, refusing a retrospective planning application for the University of Chester’s science and engineering campus at Thornton Science Park, which has been operational for four years, but might be putting students at risk due to the nearby oil refinery. The rejection hinged on advice from the Health & Safety Executive, which classifies students in a different way than the council. The punchline writes itself, really.