The largest residential masterplans and development hotspots, as well as future housing delivery and the impacts of planning policy, were in focus at this sold-out Place North West event.
More than 300 people attended the half-day conference at Manchester’s Science & Industry Museum which saw a panel of experts discuss the housing market’s major opportunities and constraints, as well as a showcase of projects including Manchester’s 6,000-home Great Jackson Street masterplan.
The speakers at the event were Ian Simpson, founding partner of SimpsonHaugh; Jon Sawyer, director housing and residential growth at Manchester City Council; Beckie Joyce, project director of real estate at GL Hearn; Indigo Planning executive director Doug Hann; Suzanne Benson, partner, Trowers & Hamlins; Brock Carmichael managing partner Chris Bolland; Neil Baumber, residential development director at Peel L&P; Alan McCartney, studio director, Glenn Howells Architects; Paul Westhead, head of new business at Laurus Homes; Ben Fearns, founder and managing director at Novo Property Group; Nicholas McAlpine-Lee, chief executive of Heylo Housing; Simon Bayliss, managing partner at HTA Design; Frank Hont, chair of Foundations; Rebecca Eatwell, managing partner at Newgate Communications; and Hunter Lyden, development manager at Urban Splash.
The event was sponsored by Newgate Communications, Indigo Planning, Close Brothers Property Finance, and GL Hearn, and was chaired by Place North West editor Jessica Middleton-Pugh.
Ian Simpson of SimpsonHaugh kicked off the conference with a presentation on Manchester’s Great Jackson Street framework, set to create 6,000 homes in a city centre tower cluster.
- Simpson provided a history of the site, which was previously looked at for a mixed-use masterplan featuring both commercial and residential pre-recession
- Following the recession, the masterplan was looked at again, with Simpson arguing the refreshed framework for the site is “far better” than its previous iteration
- The framework includes 23 towers and around 6,000 homes, leading Simpson to dub the area a “mini Manhattan”
- On the towers’ design, Simpson said: “Manchester doesn’t have the values to be gymnastic with our structures, so we need to keep them simple and elegant”
- Responding to a question from the audience on whether there was enough demand for homes in the city centre, he added: “We need 200,000 people living here, not 20,000. If we worry about demand we’re just thinking about a very short-term moment. I’m very confident these homes are going to sell, and will be homes for Mancunians”
Simpson’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion involving Rebecca Eatwell, Beckie Joyce, John Sawyer, and Doug Hann.
- Hann said communities were “getting harder to persuade” when it came to residential development: “As planners, we’re needing to become more agile and to work differently to build support for schemes. The most common response we get is, ‘yes there’s a need for housing, but not a site close to me’”
- Eatwell said there was a real argument that developers should do more to understand what young people want from new homes: “It’s easier to keep churning out the same housing types, but are we really delivering what people want – what other industry wouldn’t innovate or market test?”
- Sawyer said Manchester City Council “strongly believes developers should make a profit”, but added what’s being developed “has to be appropriate”
- He also criticised the construction industry “for not wanting to innovate in many ways”, adding: “Retailers didn’t predict the likes of Aldi would come in and be so successful, and in construction, you have factory-made homes coming in which are proving housebuilding can be done to a better standard, quicker, and cheaper”
- Joyce said there was “still tension within design teams even on fully compliant and consented” housing projects, as well as tension between developers, councils, and registered providers
- “Councils have to have an impossible skillset, where they must be empathetic but also ruthless: co-design and co-development is important to create genuine empathy for the people and places developers and councils are trying to create”
Following a networking break, Alan McCartney of Glenn Howells Architects presented on plans for homes at Wirral Waters, one of the region’s largest development sites.
- At East Float, where 500 homes will be delivered by Peel L&P, McCartney said construction would hopefully start this year, with a construction tender being issued in “within three or four months”
- “It’s about two years behind where we would have liked it to have been, which reflects what we’ve had to go through to secure HIF money, which has been the right approach”
- He outlined the “cocktail of funding” from different sources which will enable works to get under way. Some of this will help to kick off the first 1,100 homes at the mixed-use site
- Other projects at the site include Peel and Urban Splash’s £55m, 347-home modular-build scheme; McCartney said two more housing types, alongside Splash’s existing modular homes, would be revealed “in the coming months”
A panel discussion followed, focussing on developers taking alternative approaches to housing delivery; the panellists were Ben Fearns, Hunter Lyden, Paul Westhead, and Neil Baumber.
- Baumber outlined Peel’s approach at Wirral Waters and its wider housing ambitions; it is already developing its own private-rented schemes, and launched its ‘traditional’ housing arm, with its first project likely to come forward towards the end of this year: “The key for us is to work with innovative partners,” he added
- Westhead reflected on Trafford Housing Trust’s tie-up with L&Q, representing a £4bn investment in housing in the North West. “Our relationship with L&Q is two years old, we achieved our initial objectives, and that gave them belief and trust that we were the right partner to be charged with delivering 20,000 homes in the North West”
- Lyden said modular housebuilding was “a fringe subject” when it was first looked at by Urban Splash, but is beginning to gain momentum: “Modular has shaken off the negative aspects of the word ‘prefab’”, he said
- “We can show modular can now offer real quality and choice in a market where that’s not always what’s happening”
- Fearns said Novo’s approach had been around “challenging the accepted norm” in established locations like Altrincham, where it is particularly active
- “I’ve argued many a time with councillors three times my age, but we need to bring something modern, new, and fresh – we shouldn’t shy away from engaging”
- He added Altrincham had been “a victim of its own success” in many ways, and the challenge would be to keep affordable housing within the town centre as values rise
Great George Street
Chris Bolland of Brock Carmichael then presented on plans for the Great George Street site in Liverpool, formerly known as New Chinatown.
- The site south of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral has had a chequered history, with a previous scheme stalling before being purchased last year
- Bolland said the site “has pretty much every constraint you can think of” and has been “forgotten”: “It’s 10m too small in every conceivable direction, there are ventilation shafts, a substation, tunnels underneath, and Network Rail assets”
- He outlined the fresh proposals for the site, which will feature apartments, 45,000 sq ft of offices, 65,000 sq ft of retail and leisure, along with a hotel
- The first phase of 117 apartments will be built in line with a previous planning consent; this will be followed by a further 500 homes
- There are also plans to activate one side of the site with commercial space and a park
- Bolland added the first phase would be on site “in a few months” with enabling works on the second starting before the end of the year
Future housing delivery
Frank Hont, Suzanne Benson, Simon Bayliss, and Nicholas McAlpine-Lee then took to the stage for the final panel discussion of the morning.
- Hont gave the background to Foundations, Liverpool’s arms-length housing organisation: “Liverpool has high levels of private rent and low levels of ownership at under 50%; we’ve set ourselves a massive challenge to deliver 10,000 homes with 2,000 properties to be added in the next 18 months to two years”
- “There are thousands of people are property-rich but cash-poor, and they are under-served by the current market,” he added
- Bayliss said there had been “huge steps forward” in the quality of suburban housing, particularly in the build-to-rent market
- He also identified a gap in the market for the over 55s with a great deal of existing stock “not fit for that purpose”
- McAlpine-Lee explained Heylo’s approach to shared ownership homes, which he argued should be “a slider from renting all of a property to owning all of it, and potentially back again”
- “It should be an equity-release product that allows people to sell a home and buy back half of it,” he added
- Benson argued the growth of build-to-rent and private-rented projects should “set a standard”, which will in turn unlock further opportunities and investment potential
- But she added: “It’s a challenge to politicians of how to manage it, whether that is through regulation or not”
The presentation slides can be accessed here:
Click any image to launch gallery