This summer there was no European Championship football or Olympic Games to distract us from the news, but at least nobody was talking about tiers.

In July, a celebrity chef withdrew plans to open a restaurant in Salford while an outspoken developer gave planning committee members a piece of his mind.


Byrne was due to open Blackfriar in Salford

BRIDGES BYRNEDCelebrity chef Aiden Byrne has pulled out of a project to reopen Salford’s Blackfriars pub, a £2m scheme by developer Salboy, as a fine dining restaurant, in favour of a slightly more modest operation: selling cured meat out of a garage in Lymm. Given the choice between lobster thermidor within the confines of a grade two-listed building and hawking salami out of the boot of his car, Byrne chose the latter. And who can blame him? Cleaning out an old garage next to his Lymm eatery, the Church Green Pub, and flogging his own range of charcuterie seems like a much smaller financial risk in these uncertain times. Salboy director Simon Ismail said: “Aidan told us his decision a couple of weeks ago and we understand that. But our commitment to the restaurant is unchanged. The fit-out is on track and is looking amazing. It is an incredible opportunity for a new name to establish themselves in the city and we are already talking to some exciting and interesting people.”

McGoff Boxing 1

McGoff, left, didn’t pull any punches

GOING Mc-OFF… There are few professionals on Twitter who will dare say what they actually mean for fear of treading on the wrong toes. So amid the beige back-slapping and corporate pandering posts, it is good to have people like Chris McGoff around to remind us what it is like to speak your mind. Boxing fan, McGoff, chief executive of care home developer New Care, pulled no punches as he delivered a damning assessment of the planning system: “In my general experience [committees] are populated by, unqualified, NIMBY-sympathising, retirees, lacking basic planning knowledge.” Many will agree, only privately.

In August, Manctopia’s Tim Heatley opened up about the pitfalls of fame, Darwen made a break for it, and Yoko Ono made music with the University of Liverpool.

Tim Heatley

FEELING THE HEAT…The BBC Two series may not have been to everybody’s liking, but it certainly got people talking. Capital & Centric co-founder Tim Heatley found himself in the spotlight as the ‘big bad developer’ but his willingness to talk candidly, coupled with his refusal to beat around the bush, had to be applauded. It is not every day you get to hear a developer talk about £450m pipelines AND blowjobs. With three episodes still to go in the series, we waited with bated breath to see what challenges he faces next. He said it had been an “emotionally exhausting” week but hopes that, by the end of the series, “people will have a full picture of the benefits property development can bring”.


Darwen is straining at the leash

DEXITEncouraged by the ‘success’ of Brexit, the Lancashire town of Darwen, fed up of being shackled to neighbouring Blackburn, is making a bid for freedom. A petition to break free has garnered more than 2,000 signatures since it was launched. According to the petition, set up by local resident Izzy Ahmed, the people of Darwen want more control of their own affairs and are “sick and tired of being second best and waiting for dribs and drabs” from Blackburn with Darwen Council. Darwen has a population of around 30,000 and was its own borough before joining forces with Blackburn in 1974, the year of after another ill-fated union. I wonder if the Leave campaign will hire a bus to push their message…


Yoko Ono Lennon Centre

Imagine there’s a new concert hall

OH YES… The £22m auditorium at the University of Liverpool’s campus will be named the Yoko Ono Lennon Centre, after “honorary University of Liverpool graduate, campaign ambassador, cultural icon and long-standing philanthropic supporter to the University”. Set to open in late 2021, The Yoko Ono Lennon Centre, designed by Ellis Williams Architects and currently under construction, will house the Tung Auditorium, a 400-seat performance space, and the Paul Brett Lecture Theatre, the largest purpose-built lecture space on campus.

In September, we heard from beef-rearing planners and got a sneak peek at the future of offices.

Gary Halman Cows

BREEDING BEEF…Forget about supply chain disruption in a global pandemic – Gary Halman, planning principal at Avison Young, has his food security situation covered. Manchester-based Halman invested in acquiring a herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle during lockdown and has been spending his free time on the farm near his home looking after them. The herd of glossy beasts includes 16 cows, one bull and eight calves, which Halman even helped to deliver. As 2020 hobbies go it beats baking banana bread, Thing told Halman, who, honouring us with his first face-to-face meeting in the city centre since March, admitted: “There was quite a bit of that going on too.” Regrettably, it may be some time before he and his family (and any eager property industry carnivores out there) can enjoy a tasty homegrown steak – the process of rearing organic, grass-fed beef cattle is “almost as slow as planning”, Halman laments. That is really saying something. Might have to return to the baking, Gary.

ABC Dome Allied London

ROOF POD…Ask any expert and they will tell you that the changes to the office we are seeing post-Covid were already in the works before the pandemic hit, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting. Everywhere you look there is an office block being transformed to cater for today’s occupiers with a focus on wellbeing and flexibility. At Allied London’s ABC Buildings on Quay Street in Manchester, the developer is taking amenity provision to futuristic heights with the installation of a rooftop geodesic pod. The 1,800 sq ft glass dome, which looks like it has been stolen from the Eden Project under cover of darkness, will be used as a meeting room and event space by occupiers of the refurbished 1960s office building. No doubt those who use the dome will be hoping to reap the rewards of blue sky thinking.

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