Peel Group is in advanced talks with an institutional investor to fund the roll-out of private rented sector apartments across its vast nationwide portfolio starting with up to 3,000 flats on Pomona Island in Trafford, which would be renamed Manchester Waters.
The identity of the prospective joint venture partner has not been revealed but is understood to be a UK institutional investor.
At 22 acres, Pomona Island is one of the largest cleared development areas in and around Manchester city centre. The land forms a long flat narrow strip between the Bridgewater Canal and Manchester Ship Canal. Residents’ groups have campaigned for its retention as green open space and strongly opposed the recent Rowlinson and Peel joint application to build 164 flats at the St George’s Island end of Pomona. The application was granted consent earlier this month.
A planning consent in May 2007 to build 546 flats, designed by Leach Rhodes Walker, was implemented when site preparation works were carried out by Peel. The developer now plans to build out that scheme, at the Salford end of the island, as one of the ‘urban living’ elements of its Northern Powerhouse programme of 150 projects published in October. The Leach Rhodes Walker design was for five blocks varying from eight to 16 storeys in height.
In March 2014, Peel’s submission, written by Turley, to the Trafford Local Plan consultation process recommended an estimated target of 2,500 dwellings for Pomona Island “in the high density form which is recognised as being appropriate for this location”. Peel increased the target to 3,000 units to meet demand for city living in Manchester. Peel has yet to submit planning applications for the apartments.
Trafford Council has since paused its Local Plan work to see how the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for all 10 local authorities, currently being drafted, pans out.
Renaming the area Manchester Waters would follow other major schemes adopting the Waters name in Peel’s vast portfolio, including Liverpool and Wirral Waters, planned for several years, Chatham Waters in Kent and Trafford Waters launched at MIPIM in March this year.
Peel has more than 10,000 consented residential units across its national portfolio. A PRS joint venture would seek to extract value from this land bank at a time of high values and high demand as the country balances consumer recovery against a housing shortage. Housing development consultant Neil Baumber was recruited by Peel in January 2015 to lead the residential push. Peel director James Whittaker is leading the Pomona Island development.
Before the Pomona Island project can begin in earnest, Peel is waiting for the proposed Cornbrook Hub development framework to be implemented. The framework, written by 5plus Architects, was published in November 2013 by Trafford Council and Manchester City Council jointly as the area straddles the boundary between the two local authorities.
The 5.6-acre site is at the road entrance to Pomona Island via Cornbrook Bridge and surrounds the Cornbrook Metrolink stop which could be repositioned as part of the mixed-use project. The development framework calls for a “full comprehensive approach” which would require land assembly to take complete control of the site. Currently part of the site is owned and operated by scrap metal dealer Bennett Bros. A compulsory purchase order is being considered if negotiations do not result in the sale of the scrap yard land. Eddie Smith, strategic director at Manchester City Council, is leading on the CPO which is due to be approved shortly, according to the council’s register of key decisions published on 23 November 2015. The order will “facilitate the carrying out of development” to allow the site’s “full economic, social and environmental potential to be achieved.”
Cornbrook Hub redevelopment would include a new entrance, commercial space, better links to Timber Wharf, St Georges Island and Pomona Island. St George’s Island and Timber Wharf already contain more than 1,000 apartments developed by Urban Splash and Dandara among other developers. There would be new apartments and re-use of the Victorian arches beneath the tram station. A single lead developer would be appointed to bring the project forward.
Most of the Cornbrook Hub development site is in the ownership of Manchester Ship Canal Company, a subsidiary of Peel Ports, the port authority and operator controlled by Peel Group. Cllr Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, is a non-executive director of Manchester Ship Canal Company.
A spokesman for Peel said announcements are due to be made in the New Year.
A spokesman for Trafford Council said: “Following the publication of the first draft Local Land Allocations Plan in January 2014, the decision was taken to hold any further work, including new draft versions. This was pending the ongoing work relating to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
“Given that this Greater Manchester work is continuing, Trafford Council is yet to approve any changes, including any submitted by interested parties, to the original draft Plan.
The council also confirmed that it “didn’t have a concern about the change of name from Pomona Island to Manchester Waters.”
All other parties were unavailable for comment.