While 2020 was somewhat stifled by the pandemic, 2021 could see a rebound in activity as the public and private sectors seek to claw back time lost dealing with Covid-related problems and progress their projects with renewed vigour.
Here is our pick of some of the most important and interesting projects to look out for in the Manchester and Liverpool city-regions, and the rest of the North West, in the coming months.
ID Manchester winner
The University of Manchester is expected to appoint a development partner for the £1.5bn city centre innovation district following a delay in 2020. It put the procurement process on hold during lockdown but resumed talks with longlisted bidders in July and intends to announce the winner by next spring. The longlist includes Bruntwood SciTech with developer Stanhope; Peel L&P and Urban Splash; and HBD, formerly Henry Boot Developments, with Singapore-based investor Mapletree Investments. Under the proposals, ID Manchester would be a 4m sq ft mixed-use scheme to attract science, research & development, cultural and technology companies to the university’s estate.
Piccadilly Gardens overhaul
The long-awaited and much-needed revamp of the city centre park began this year with the demolition of the free-standing portion of Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s concrete wall. Landscape architect LDA Design is leading the project; the firm’s proposals for the rest of the regeneration project have not yet been revealed. A period of public consultation is due to begin in early 2021, at which point we should have a clearer idea about what Piccadilly Gardens could look like in the future.
RHS Bridgewater opening
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed back the opening of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Worsley park by 12 months and the venue is due to open on 11 May 2021. After some recent bad press surrounding the culling of a small number of roe deer at the 11-acre site, the RHS will be eager to put the controversy behind it and push ahead with the opening of its fifth garden attraction. Arcadis is managing the project on behalf of the RHS, while Bam Construction is on site delivering the Welcome Building, designed by Hodder + Partners.
Everton FC’s Bramley-Moore Dock
The fate of Everton’s proposed 52,000-capacity stadium rests with Liverpool City Council’s planning committee, which will decide whether the harm the £500m project would cause to the grade two-listed Bramley-Moore Dock is outweighed by the benefits it would bring to the wider community. The objections to the plans from conservation groups such as Historic England have caused anger among those who believe the city’s heritage credentials are holding back lucrative development opportunities.
The Spine completion
Concerns over a shortage of office space in Liverpool could be eased once the 140,000 sq ft The Spine at Paddington Village completes next year. The 14-storey building, designed by AHR Architects, looks set to attract a clutch of high-profile names to the city. Anchor tenant The Royal College of Physicians has agreed to take 70,000 sq ft across seven floors and CBRE, the retained letting agent, says it is in talks with other potential occupiers. The property is being built by Morgan Sindall Construction and topped out in January, and Overbury and CBRE began the fit-out in June. The project is on course for completion in spring 2021. Meanwhile, plans to deliver a further 240,000 sq ft of offices and 240 apartments at Paddington Village, where The Spine is located, are also in the works.
Readers will be keeping a close eye on Merseyside Police’s property-related corruption probe in 2021 and demanding answers to a string of ever-knottier questions. Operation Aloft launched last year and has seen 11 people arrested so far, including Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson (who has since stood down from day-to-day duties to co-operate with the police investigation), and Nick Kavanagh, Liverpool City Council’s head of regeneration. No charges have been brought. The probe is examining suspected corruption within Liverpool’s political and business spheres, in particular fraud related to building and development contracts. Arrests have been made in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation, corruption and conspiracy to defraud.
Logistics has boomed this year as other sectors have struggled, but, while there is growing demand for industrial space, the question of whether Green Belt land should be sacrificed to deliver it remains unanswered. Four schemes totalling 5.2m sq ft across the region were called in for determination by Secretary of State Robert Jenrick in 2020 and the industry will be awaiting the conclusion of the inquiries. The projects up for review are:
- Langtree’s 1m sq ft redevelopment of Parkside Colliery in St Helens
- Tritax Symmetry’s 1.44m sq ft warehouse Symmetry Park in Wigan
- Harworth Group’s 1m sq ft Wingates in Bolton
- Peel L&P’s 1.8m sq ft Haydock Point in St Helens
Few places have as many exciting projects per square mile than Blackpool and the council’s ongoing Talbot Gateway regeneration scheme, being delivered alongside Muse Developments, could bear even more fruit in 2021. The next phase includes the construction of a Holiday Inn hotel on the site of the town’s former Wilko store, and an extension of the tramline to link Blackpool North train station with the promenade. Other projects that could progress in 2021 – thanks in part to a £40m funding boost from Whitehall – include Nikal’s £300m Blackpool Central leisure development and the extension of Houndshill Shopping Centre.
Manchester North Hospital redevelopment
Planning and design work for the £600m redevelopment of the North Manchester General Hospital site in Crumpsall into a “healthy living campus” kicked off in the second half of this year and is expected to gather momentum in 2021. Manchester City Council’s economy scrutiny committee in November approved a draft regeneration framework for the project, paving the way for a public consultation to launch in the early part of next year. The Sheppard Robson-designed scheme has already secured a provisional £54m from the Government to help spur its delivery. Under the plans, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust would create a second health campus to follow the Citylabs 1.0 health and technology hub in the Knowledge Quarter. This second campus would focus on healthy living with a residential component, as well as specialist care facilities and commercial uses. Join our Healthcare + Senior Living event in January
Chester Northgate gathers speed
The people of Chester have waited for more than two decades for the delivery of the retail and leisure scheme and in 2021 they can look forward to seeing it come out of the ground. Lead contractor Vinci started work on the £70m development in the summer and it is due for completion in early 2022. Meanwhile, plans for the second phase of Northgate, a residential scheme in the city centre, are being worked on.
Baltic Triangle station
With a strategic regeneration framework signed off for the 93-acre neighbourhood on the edge of Liverpool’s heritage quarter, it is full steam ahead for the next phase of the Baltic’s transformation. Over the past decade, an influx of development activity has lured creative businesses to the area, and the city council wants to further diversify the district and encourage people to live, as well as work, there. A key plank of the strategy is to improve transport links with the rest of Liverpool. In October, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram pledged to create a new Merseyrail station near the former Cains Brewery by reopening the subterranean St James station that closed in 1917. The city region has committed £1.5m to the plans and agreed a deal with Network Rail to progress to the next stage of the design process. Merseyrail also agreed to buy a plot of land off Stanhope Street for a station ticket office.
Warp & Weft outcome
The Warp & Weft saga will likely reach its conclusion in the next 12 months as developer Real Estate Investment Partnership prepares to lodge an appeal against Manchester City Council’s decision to refuse its proposals for five-storey block containing 20 apartments on Thomas Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Under REIP’s plans, two grade-two listed former weavers’ cottages at 42-46 Thomas Street would be demolished, a proposal that some residents and conservation groups opposed earlier this year. The developer maintains that, if the cottages were retained, the scheme would be unviable. Objectors to the project include Piccadilly ward councillors Jon-Connor Lyons and Sam Wheeler.
In North Wales, the stalled £20bn nuclear power plant at Wylfa Newydd could finally progress if a bid from a consortium led by engineering firm Bechtel is successful. The consortium, which also includes US utilities firm Southern Company and Westinghouse, the Preston-based nuclear company whose reactors would be installed at the Anglesey site, has been in discussion with the UK Government since September, but a deal has yet to be announced. The project was being taken forward by Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Japanese firm Hitachi, but work stopped in January 2019 and concluded that it was unable to progress the scheme for viability reasons.
Trafford Centre next chapter
The sale of the Greater Manchester shopping mall was high on the industry’s radar in the second half of this year following the collapse of its owner Intu Properties in June. More than five months later, a buyer had yet to be found and a somewhat-less-lucrative-than-hoped deal was struck with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, or CPPIB, one of Intu’s biggest creditors. Its subsidiary CPPIB Credit acquired the ownership of the 2.2m sq ft Trafford Centre last week by exercising its share rights as the main secured creditor of the asset’s owner. The value of the deal was not disclosed but was thought to be around £800m, significantly below the mall’s most recent £1.2bn valuation before Intu’s collapse. CPP has said it intends to appoint a long-term operating partner for the Trafford Centre and will “evaluate the [asset’s] complex capital structure to ensure its return to long-term viability”, so there could well be more in this story in 2021.