Renaker's scheme in Manchester's Castlefield was the latest to feel the heat

The month in property | October

Neil Tague

We are family

Not so long ago, it was all mutual backslapping in Manchester property, developers always careful to say nice things about each other. Not any longer! We had Mike Ingall and Morgan Leahy piling into the increasingly heated debate around Gary Neville’s St Michael’s project with some blunt tweets. Then Castlefield Estates’ Sarah Ramsbottom spoke out against Renaker’s 21-storey apartment scheme at Chester Road, which according to your preference, either sits on the edge of the Castlefield Basin heritage area or towers over it. “The Manchester Family” always did sound a bit twee anyway.

The space race

At least “The Manchester Family” guff has never stopped full-blooded competition in the digital and media sector, ever since Peel blitzed central Manchester’s BBC bid with its MediaCityUK vision for Salford Quays. First there was the Sharp Project off Oldham Road, then the Space Project in Gorton, a TV production facility where a 90,000 sq ft second phase was this month approved. Nothing wrong with healthy competition, but this is a more specific sector than vaguely “tech-focussed” co-working places, with their bright chairs, bare walls and not much else, so is there really enough demand to go round?

Royal Liver BuildingLiver palaver

No sooner had Liverpool City Council announced its intention to sell off the Municipal Buildings in a cost-cutting drive, than it was announcing a potential £40m splurge on the 330,000 sq ft Royal Liver Building, on sale for the first time in its history. Chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said the council thinks “uses can be flexed and would work for a mix of commercial, hotel, or statement leisure, like we’ve done at the Cunard”. Yes, but wouldn’t it be better being flexed by somebody else? A property company, say.

An economic geography by any other name…

Hands up who knows what the Northern Gateway is? Basically it’s Cheshire and Staffordshire, the councils and LEPs there having pooled resources to punt the bit between the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine. Because without a grandiose name you don’t exist in the eyes of international investors, seemingly. The Northern Gateway used MIPIM UK to announce UK Regeneration’s Jackie Sadek as its new chairman, a good move as without a high profile boss those of us suffering from Barmy Nomenclature Fatigue might forget what it is.

kirkby-masterplanSaints go marching in

Good luck to St Modwen in Kirkby, where designs for the Merseyside town centre’s redevelopment went on display to the public. The locals have been waiting a long time, going back to plans by Tesco and Everton FC in 2006 to plonk a big supermarket, football ground and a load of retail and leisure into the town. It wasn’t a subtle plan, and was abandoned after a host of complaints, prominent among them a certain developer engaged in the regeneration of neighbouring Skelmersdale. Turns out it was St Modwen. Funny that.

 ‘Ello John

Intu and M&G Real Estate have gained control of the empty 110,000 sq ft former BHS unit at the top end of Manchester Arndale, which can only be good news. What might happen there? John Lewis has already moved to quieten speculation, saying the Trafford Centre and Cheadle are quite enough for now, thank you – but it would say that, wouldn’t it? Interesting times in the area as Commercial Estates Group has a 70,000 sq ft site opposite at 20-36 High Street, which it’s being coy about. One to watch.

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