The property arm of the gas company has revealed a plan to release 200 acres of brownfield sites across the region, and bring forward around 1,000 homes through a range of partnerships.
National Grid has a large portfolio of available plots across the country, including 40 in the North West, which vary in scale and were formerly used for gas works and gas holders.
The wholly-owned National Grid Property has worked for a number of years offloading the sites through direct sale, however is now looking to enter into joint ventures with partners across the public and private sectors to deliver homes on the land.
The search for potential partnerships is being led by Ben Gaunt, head of land development. According to Gaunt, the decision to move into the delivery of homes was inspired by National Grid’s St William joint venture with Berkeley Group in London, which gave the company appetite to “move up the risk curve”.
While the South East joint venture is progressing higher-value homes, in the North West Gaunt said National Grid was looking to progress a range of housing types and tenures, with conversations already ongoing with local authorities, housing associations, and private developers.
“After being involved in selling the sites, we now want to be involved in the whole life-cycle of the development, with more say in the types of homes and their impact on communities” Gaunt told Place North West.
“We’re keen to spend time and effort unlocking the sites, making them viable, and finding the right partner to bring the scheme forward in a way that works. We’re particularly looking for people with a good social agenda, as type and quality are important.”
Gaunt stressed that due to their previous uses, the sites are not “oven-ready.”
“They need thought, there are obviously viability challenges. Work has been under way remediating the sites to a statutory level, but there may also be sub-structures and other aspects which need work.
“Without intervention the sites would remain as they are, and as they’re all brownfield, in urban locations, there’s massive potential and that would be a huge shame. But we need partners to enable that.”
The sites range in size, from 16 acres in Garston, to 10 acres in Birkenhead, seven acres in Barrow and three in Stretford.
Prominent sites include the gas holders on Bradford Road near Manchester City FC’s Etihad stadium, which are seen as a local landmark.
Manchester City Council has previously described the gas holders as “constraints” to its developments plans in the surrounding area, including the Etihad expansion plans and residential projects with Manchester Life, the joint venture with club owner Abu Dhabi Investment Company.
Including remediation, Gaunt said the National Grid sites would be largely deliverable in the next five years, and could have capacity for around 1,000 homes.
Nationally, a number of the former gas holders are listed, and a prominent example of how the structure can be incorporated into development and public realm can be seen at Gasholder Park in King’s Cross, although Gaunt suggested building in and around the frame may be often challenging due to viability challenges.
As the gas holders are often locally-loved, Gaunt said National Grid worked closely with communities and heritage organisations to capture stories about the sites, and ensure their preservation in the National Gas Museum should the frames need to be demolished.
National Grid has launched a website and interactive map showcasing the range of available sites across the North West, and according to Gaunt, the organisation is open to both general enquiries and site-specific interest.