Salford on Song as BBC Put Manchester Studios Up for Sale
As the BBC appoint property agent Lambert Smith Hampton to sell their Manchester studios, as part of their move to their much-publicised new home at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, more development is planned for the region that suggests it is certainly not grim up North.
MediaCityUK is set to become home to a number of BBC departments, including Children’s, Radio 5 Live and most notably BBC Breakfast – the first time that a flagship programme of this kind will be located outside of London. And with the news that their former studios on Oxford Road in Manchester are now being marketed as a “major mixed-use development opportunity”, the BBC is moving one step closer to their final Salford destination.
The BBC may have been in the headlines in a less favourable light, as news leaked out in recent months that some bosses may not be following their London colleagues ‘up North’, and instead may have the option of renting a second home close to the new Salford office and studios.
But regardless of the outcome and the level of speculation regarding the move, the BBC have certainly succeeded in raising the profile of the opportunities available in the North West.
Salford – which has enjoyed a prolonged period of attention since plans for MediaCityUK first took shape – is perhaps spearheading a wave of development in the North that defies recent news of misfortunes for regions in the Northern ‘half’ of the UK.
One such example is the announcement that 500 jobs are set to be created by the arrival of a new mixed use development in Salford, part of the wider regeneration of the Ordsall area, just 500m from MediaCityUK. The scheme was approved by Salford City Council on Wednesday.
The injection of interest and investment in the North West is summed up nicely by Simon Ashdown, development director at LPC Living – the property developers behind the new scheme – who commented: “With the BBC moving to their new base in 2011, Salford Quays is rapidly gaining national significance.”
He added that the region should “benefit directly” from the investment being brought into the area, referring to the developers’ plans to employ local people and therefore “positively impact” the opportunities and development of the area.
Similarly, Alan Bainbridge, Portfolio Director for BBC North, said: “The move to Salford will add value for audiences across the UK, deliver economic benefits to the area and build a world-class media talent pool in the North West.”
But development is not just limited to Salford.
Many other parts of the North are experiencing significant interest, such as Liverpool’s acclaimed ┬ú4.5bn Wirral Waters scheme – the UK’s largest planning application – which will cover 3.6 million sq m in the area around the Birkenhead docks and be delivered over a 30-year period.
The Wirral Waters project forms part of Peel Holdings’ ambitious ‘Atlantic Gateway‘ development (formerly known as the Ocean Gateway), a ┬ú50 billion investment strategy for the North West which will be delivered over the next 50 years.
In addition, Peel Holdings – also the company behind MediaCityUK – initially intended to create their own LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) to support development in the region. Although this strategy was eventually dropped in favour of a “special delivery vehicle” to promote the Atlantic Gateway, which will be accountable to the three existing LEPs, the intention certainly demonstrated the scale of the Group’s investment and commitment to the North.
Not to be outdone, Sheffield is producing its own headlines such as ‘The Square’ – a mixed-use development in the Castlegate area – which has now reached phase three, having successfully introduced the second and third phases which brought around 85,000 sq ft of office space and a 114 bed Travelodge Hotel.
According to Carillion Development Director Neil McMillan, the scheme is designed to aid the “long-term regeneration objectives of the city”, and demonstrate the success of Sheffield as a commercial destination.
These developments, which represent just a handful of new and exciting regeneration schemes taking shape across the UK’s Northern counties, seem to ridicule the recent news suggesting that the North will be significantly worse off in the wake of funding cuts by the coalition government.
Is there no end to the opportunities springing up North of the divide – and has MediaCityUK started something that could rival the traditional values and prestige that is so often associated with the South?