Javid calls House
Wirral and Liverpool councils are both on the naughty step of Communities Secretary Sajid Javid over Local Plans. Javid acknowledged that Liverpool is at least showing some progress but he’s not happy at all with Wirral, sending a spiky letter. The peninsula’s leadership then issued a baffling response, huffing that “it is for Wirral residents through Wirral council to determine what our housing needs are,” which really is exactly what Javid has been asking for all along. The old “Tories are picking on us” card has been played too, but as only three of the other 14 councils under Javid’s eagle eye are Labour-run, political bias is hard to claim.
Splashing the cash
There have been a few positive announcements around transport, with Lancaster and Wigan/Bolton making it to the next round of Housing Infrastructure Forward Fund bidding and the land assembly for Congleton’s link road getting the nod. Anyone might think that there are local elections on the horizon, because cultural cash is on the table too – four Lake District projects are to share £3.3m from the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, while Blackpool is to get £4m towards its £14m Amuseum, a deserving winner for the name alone. Wirral lost out in its bid for money for a Eureka children’s museum, which might hurt more even than a stinging rebuke from Sajid Javid.
Everything’s gone green
In the year’s least surprising turn of events to date, some locals have kicked off about Tatton Group’s plan to team up with Manchester Metropolitan University on a £6m 3D printing hub in some farm buildings near the M56. It’s not so much the facility itself but the more ominous-sounding “science, manufacturing and logistics park” alongside that seems to be causing alarm. The “it will bring jobs” line doesn’t really play with wealthy dormitory locales like Bowdon, while anything green, however nondescript in appearance, is clung to as if it’s an Alpine vista. One gets the impression that some skill will be required to make things happen here.
We are the mods
Things are happening in the world of modular construction. No sooner had Urban Splash announced the acquisition of SIG’s modular arm, which had been working for it on the House brand, then a 70,000 sq ft factory was set up in Speke by new venture Ideal Modular Homes. It will produce 10 units a week on 24-hour shift patterns and said it is working on its first orders already. There will always be a certain amount of people who’ll never be convinced by modular, but they’re probably outnumbered by people who’d like to buy a house and can’t, so surely this one stacks up.
Here comes the new boss…
Cheshire West & Chester announced a search for a new chief executive, becoming the tenth North West council within a 12-month period to undergo change at the top. There have been some retirements, and some were necessitated by moves, such as Eamonn Boylan’s ascension to the Greater Manchester role, but a fair few were the kind to bring about wincing all round. There were suspensions in Cheshire East, Liverpool and Bury – the latter followed by a resignation – and the messy departure from Lancashire County Council of Jo Turton. Here’s hoping for a more wholesome year for our handsomely paid civic figureheads.
The day we caught the train
There’s been more light shed on what the future will look like for Manchester Piccadilly station and its surrounds after the city council updated its strategic regeneration framework for the area. The Bennetts Associates images add some clarity as to how the new through-platforms will link in, along with the undercroft retail, which is handy, and basically it will probably look a bit like Paddington, which is no bad thing. Although images might not look overly inspiring, these are only indicative at this stage. Not to be outdone, Allies & Morrison followed up with a hint of what neighbouring East Village could look like, as spearheaded by Capital & Centric. The firm masterminded the Kings Cross revamp, so you may see a pattern emerging here.