Neil Tague: Behind the numbers

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In theory, the press machines of central and local government bodies quieten down in the purdah period leading up to an election, when anything that might sway voters should not be released. But how much can one tell about a council from its releases over, say, the month prior to that? This is how the press releases from four regional authorities tally up for March 2015.

Lancashire County Council Cumbria County Council Cheshire West & Chester Cheshire East
Roads, parking, trains 9.5 8 3 13
Community news 10 9 12 6
General news

(eg waste/recycling

public consultations, awards)

16 5 15 15
Business and property 7 1 5.5 6
Children and schools 9.5 10 4.5 2
Health and well-being 4 3 1 0
Benefit cheats 0 0 0 2
Other baddies 0 1 1 0
Total 56 37 42 44

So who prioritises what? There’s a business focus at Cheshire East, and there’s also a lot there for the motorists, not to mention those irked by benefit fraud. The north of the region sees more of a focus on children and schools and health, although Lancashire looks keen to push the business stories too. For the record, both Cheshire councils are Tory-controlled, with no overall control at Lancashire and Cumbria.


Talk of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) was everywhere at MIPIM 2015. The idea’s simple enough: can the principles of grade A office development – a well-designed, well-built scheme built for renting out unit by unit, subsequently sold as an asset to an institutional buyer – be translated to residential? Although there’s not much of a track record so far, this model (broadly similar to the US condo model) is now taking hold.

125 – PRS schemes with up to 20,000 units are live or in the pipeline in the UK, according to JLL.


250 units at The Keel (the former HMRC building at Queens Dock). Glenbrook is the development partner for Moorfield Real Estate, with Pochins on site and on track for completion this summer.

324 units at the former Windsor site in the Baltic Triangle. Neptune has put together a £24m funding package.

325 units within Liverpool Waters. Moda Living is to develop the Princes Reach tower, with delivery due in the last quarter of 2017.

There are other schemes with PRS potential: Carpenter Investments’ Vine Street (two blocks of 84 and 30 units); the Investec/Vinci scheme at Chaloner Street (Queens Dock) where 192 units are proposed; and Urban Splash’s long-mothballed Tribeca site at Great George Street, where there could be up to 700 units. City Residential managing director Alan Bevan reckons there will be ten PRS schemes in Liverpool by 2019.


13,000 PRS units are in the public domain (as on-site, in planning or in the pipeline)

7,000 – shortage of units in city centre supply pipeline, according to Manchester Place chief executive Deborah McLaughlin.

Some of what’s happening in Manchester:

455 units at Angel Gardens, NOMA (Moda Living) – approved in March

580 units at Adelphi Wharf (Fortis Developments) – phase one due for completion August 2016

614 units at Urban Village, Clippers Quay (Amstone Developments) – plans announced October 2014

144 units at The Hat Box, Milliners Wharf, New Islington (Scarborough Group) – onsite, completion early 2016

995 units at Chapel Wharf, Salford (Dandara) – re-purposed as a PRS scheme in August 2014

90 units at Chapel Street, Salford (English Cities Fund) – ECF partner Muse also forward-sold the latest phase of Smithfield Square in the Northern Quarter as a PRS deal to Global Real Estate Investments

Other projects with PRS potential: Renaker’s 497-unit and 282-unit schemes in Greengate and Cambridge Street respectively (it has a £55m Homes & Communities Agency ‘Build to Rent’ loan to support these); Capital & Centric’s Aytoun Street project; Brigantes’ 330-unit proposal in Whitworth Street West; and Scarborough’s Middlewood Locks.


Wilson Bowden’s been pretty successful over the years, delivering tricky schemes such as Rochdale’s Kingsway with aplomb. Bought by Barratt in 2007, current projects include Derby’s excellent Infinity Park.

At one time, WB’s name seemed to be attached to every other town in the North West with plans for a retail and leisure overhaul – plans that, with no blame attached to anybody, didn’t make it unscathed through a deep and bitter recession. It’s interesting to look at how things have panned out.


In 2007, Wilson Bowden was putting the finishing touches to a 90,000 sq ft shopping and leisure centre for Oldham’s Old Town Hall site. The council has pressed on and delivered the scheme alone, from public borrowing and a one-off £1m dividend from Manchester Airport. Odeon is to operate the 800-seat cinema. Six new restaurants will be added, fronting a new public space, Parliament Square, from March 2016.


In 2004, WB was chosen as preferred developer on the 350,000 sq ft Central Square scheme, but parted company with Bolton Council in 2010. The town’s Market Place shopping centre was extended at a cost of £40m in 2008.


WB has been attached to Macclesfield since 2005, but the picture has changed several times since, including a proposed link with a 144-acre project south of the town centre including a new stadium for Macclesfield Town.

Now known as Silk Street and weighing in at £90m, the scheme received planning permission in June 2013, to be anchored by Debenhams and Cineworld, with other retail units, a 718-space car park and a square. Debenhams pulled out in March 2015. Cineworld remains committed and the council has redoubled its own financial commitment. Ex-Magnus boss Nick Hynes was appointed in March as chair of the Macclesfield Design Board, so here’s hoping for progress.


In 2005, WB was selected as preferred developer for the £200m Barons Quay riverside scheme, but Cheshire West & Chester Council and Weaver Valley Partnership agreed to tear up the development agreement in March 2011. In February 2015, Balfour Beatty started onsite with a £80m scheme to be anchored by Odeon and Asda.


On any occasion that government ministers are chucking out those “minister bingo” phrases: “Rebalancing the economy” “Mittelstand” “Added-value, the Made in Britain mark of quality” – university technical colleges are likely to be involved. What’s the picture in the North West and where does it fit into the national picture?

30 UTCs are currently open across England (two of which – Hackney and the Black Country – will soon close). 20 new UTCs are planned to open in 2015 and beyond

Since 2011, TEN University Technical Colleges have been approved to open in the North West. Four are open, four are due to open this year or next, two have now been shelved (Liverpool Low Carbon & Superport UTC and the Birkenhead UTC).

Live North West projects:

College Specialisms Opening Date
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC Life Sciences Sep-13
UTC Lancashire (formerly Visions Learning Trust UTC, Burnley) Construction and Engineering Sep-13
Wigan UTC Academy Process Engineering and Environmental Technologies Sep-13
The Greater Manchester Sustainable Engineering UTC (Oldham) Engineering and Digital Technology Sep-14
UTC@MediaCityUK Digital Industries Sep-15
UTC Bolton Health Science and Engineering Technologies Sep-15
Crewe Engineering & Design UTC Engineering, Manufacturing and Design Sep-16
UTC Warrington Engineering and Energy Sep-16

(With thanks to Kerrie Norman of Flinders Chase)

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