Factory tour official MIF MCC p.Factory International

Factory will complete next year. Credit: Pawel Paniczko

The themes that have defined 2022

From soaring costs to political pandemonium, here is Place North West’s breakdown of the top talking points from what has been another busy year.

Liverpool’s mixed bag

Boxpark Liverpool Boxpark p.planning docs

Boxpark first looked at the Cain’s Brewery site in 2017. Credit: via planning documents

After a testing couple of years of reputational damage, Liverpool City Council seems to be moving in the right direction. 2022 saw Liverpool chosen as the host destination for Eurovision, while Boxpark picked the Baltic Triangle as its first destination outside of London. Several stalled schemes were also picked up, including the dilapidated Heaps Mill – to be revamped by Legacie – and Infinity, a former Elliot Group scheme, which was acquired by a consortium of investors. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Council chief executive Tony Reeves and director of finance Mel Creighton resigned in the wake of an administrative blunder that saw the city council faced with a £16m energy bill, while progress on Pall Mall, one of the city’s most high-profile developments, remains elusive. 2023 should give a clearer indication of how far the city has come since the dark days that followed the Caller report. 

Political headaches

Liz Truss UK Government c House of Commons

Truss lasted just 44 days. Credit: House of Commons

It is hard to look back on 2022 and not groan about the impact politics has had on the property industry. This year has seen unending upheaval at a national level. Three Prime Ministers, constantly changing cabinets, Liz Truss’s mini-budget, and the proposed scrapping of housing targets have caused a great deal of unease across the industry. The chaos that has reigned in Whitehall for much of 2022 has manifested itself at a local level. Political uncertainty has prompted Stockport Council to pause consultation on its long-awaited local plan not once but twice, while Places for Everyone finds itself on an increasingly unstable footing. As we all know, property developers like certainty, but this year, that has been in short supply. Rishi Sunak seems to have done a decent job of steadying the ship after the markets were spooked in September, but the political waters are still choppy for the Conservatives. Next year, the property industry will be asking for more stability than in 2022, which shouldn’t be too hard, should it? 

The green machine

Ev Nov Bruntwood p.Citypress

Sheppard Robson is the architect for Ev0. Credit: via Citypress

By now, we all recognise that the pursuit of sustainable forms of development is one that cannot be avoided. The E in ESG is more important to investors than ever before and is a key driver in decision-making. Progress has been made in this area in 2022. In May, Bruntwood unveiled plans for the UK’s first new-build office that would be net zero in operation and, perhaps more poignantly, in construction. Ev0 will feature a timber frame among its plethora of green tech. However, the race to net zero was never going to be easy, as evidenced by Manchester’s tribulations trying to reduce its carbon footprint. A report by the Manchester Climate Change Partnership published earlier this year showed that the city needs to do more if it is going to achieve what it set out to do – namely being a net zero city by 2038. Two years ago, it was predicted the city would have to reduce its emissions by 13% every year up to that date if it was going to hit the target. This figure has now been revised to 16% annually. Property has a big part to play in this, as buildings in Manchester account for 64% of the city’s direct emissions. 

The price is hiked

Knowsley has paused its plans for a new cinema complex in Kirkby. Credit: via planning documents

Rising costs have been the biggest headache for the property industry this year. The price of materials has gone up anywhere from 20% to 30%, depending on who you ask. This has made it almost impossible for developers to lock contractors into fixed-price deals – unless you’re Everton FC – which is likely to suppress the number of projects starting on site in the coming months. Rising prices have also driven up the cost of schemes already under construction. Take Manchester’s Factory International. The city’s flagship cultural venue is due to complete in 2023 but not without an additional £25m being added to the bill. Salford City Council was forced to shelve plans for a new leisure centre in Pendleton because of inflation, while Knowsley Council took similar evasive action in Kirkby, where it paused long-awaited plans for a new cinema complex due to “ongoing national economic uncertainty”. One inevitable side effect of rising inflation is a corresponding rise in interest rates, which threatens to stymie any designs the property industry may have had on building its way out of the impending recession. 

Dude, where’s my train?

The nation’s railways are in disarray. Credit: Fraser Cottrell via Unsplash

You can’t have a conversation with anyone these days without eventually stumbling onto the subject of trains. While previously an occasional sore point, the state of Britain’s railways has been one of the most enduring gripes of the last 12 months. Constant delays, last-minute cancellations, unreliable operators, and more recently, strikes, have rendered the rails almost unusable. In the North, the government’s plans to strip back Northern Powerhouse Rail went down as well as you might expect, while Manchester’s tug-of-war with the government about how best to develop an HS2 hub at Piccadilly looks destined to end in defeat. Many put public transport and levelling up in the same conversation and rightly ask how London can have such a seamless system, while passengers in the North are left hoping against hope that their ancient train between Manchester and Sheffield is not cancelled two minutes before it is due to depart. 

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A great summary, although very painful to read.
So much for the roaring twenties to follow COVID.

By Anonymous

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