If you’ve been watching “Manctopia” on BBC2 on Tuesday evenings, then you’ll have a good idea of the current situation when it comes to Manchester’s ongoing regeneration. Feedback on Twitter has been mixed at best, with Tim the Property Developer now appearing to be the antagonist, while Anne from Collyhurst is touted for Prime Minister!
Manchester has always been an important part of the North West, as its industry and its great people have driven significant growth around it. The rivalry with port town Liverpool stems back hundreds of years. The Manchester Ship Canal caused the then “North West Capital” Liverpool to suffer job losses because of cargo ships being able to bypass the ports of Liverpool and go straight to the more industrial base of Manchester directly. After suffering similar economic downturns due to the Thatcher government of the 70’s and 80’s a grudging respect formed, even in spite of the footballing rivalries. Since the days of the late 80’s Manchester has reformed into a venerable hub, with huge FTSE-100 companies calling it home or “Northern HQ”. The focus of the TV programme “Manctopia” is very much based around this, how a once tightly knit city with a reputation for “doing things differently” is now changing in front of residents very eyes into something barely recognisable.
There is, however, much to be proud of as one of the residents pointed out. A university researcher and activist attempted to speak out against the regeneration projects in the city. However, Anne challenged this view (as a resident of the area her entire life), she remembers what certain areas used to be like. Ancoats was a wasteland, full of crime, empty buildings and with no prospects. Since developers and investors have moved into the area it has gone from strength to strength as continued investment has helped bring jobs into the area, better accommodation and made it a place she feels is far, far better than it previously was. Anne’s view is that property developers are destroying whole estates and rebuilding on top of them, just to change the demographic and look of the area which is causing concern on a wide scale as in her eyes, there is nothing wrong with the properties that already exist there.
The highlighted factor then, was that while there are residents that are happy with certain things that are improving their home – there are other things they dislike. One of these, is that Manchester itself is becoming too pricey. There are apartments in the Northern Quarter that have tripled in value in 5 years. This makes it almost impossible for a normal person to afford the accommodation. A large part of this is demand. Demand is skyrocketing, and with a wealth of executives from larger companies coming in, it’s not likely to subside. You only need to look at the skyline of Manchester to see how developers are struggling to meet demand.
This then, results in projects being undertaken that run into difficulty. Tim the Property Developer selected to pass surveying one of the disused mills he is converting into apartments to save time and as such uncovered a problem that set his project back 6 months and at a cost of £1million pounds. Not to mention the distress this has caused the owner-occupiers he had already taken investment from as they’ll have to seek alternative accommodation. This isn’t to say delays don’t happen, but if you’re looking to save time – passing the whole building being surveyed correctly is always going to cause issues. One of the concerns from his investors was a lack of communication. This is paramount whether working with owner-occupiers or investors to keep them abreast of every challenge and success within the development. It’s how you build trust with people. It was clear that he had diminished this by only telling the people that had invested with him about the challenges he’d met at the last minute. This is what happens when you outsource to contractors – The Heaton Group control every aspect of our developments and fully research all sites before committing to them.
Improving the demographic, properly
There’s been much said about the demographics of Manchester changing from “real people” to “Starbucks Central” types. While the city centre will always naturally undergo this sort of transformation as larger companies seek to build a base, the concern is that this sort of thing will leak into the other surrounding areas. At the Heaton Group, we work with investors and owner occupiers and seek Young Professionals as tenants and work with a wide range of investors, from those overseas looking to secure their finances in a booming property market through to UK investors who are looking to diversify their portfolio and take advantage of the new high yield areas.
Therefore, instead of looking into the city centre and building apartment blocks, we’re working with disused buildings on the outskirts, specifically for the commuters into the city centre. Our development at Johnsons Square (sold out) is now home to tenants paying reasonable rents (not city centre rates) and has been purchased by investors who haven’t been forced to pay the city centre property prices. These properties are achieving north of 7% yield for investors and are tenanted by people who are happy to pay under city centre rates, yet live close enough to enjoy the delights of Manchester. Our latest development in Stretford (The Bank) is similar, with investors getting a great price on property close to Manchester city centre. There are only 5 of these remaining, so if you’re thinking of investing, we highly recommend getting in touch with our sales team.
Charities and Homelessness
It’s no secret that the city centre does suffer with a high number of homeless individuals. A talking point of Manctopia is how it’s become apparent that charities and shelters that have been running for decades helping the people of Manchester in difficult times are being moved out in the face of the regeneration. There has been some considerable backlash on Twitter regarding this, as charity balls were held to raise £200k – even despite the Chairman of the Homeless charity claiming his latest property development would net him roughly £12 million on completion. Property Developers would always seek to make a profit, but the narrative of the programme and the way it was told was poor here. It is painting property developers in a light that we wouldn’t agree with.
There does need to be a consideration for the history of the area when looking to regenerate it. Space is at a premium, which is why we’ve largely looked to stay out of the city centre and instead focus on the surrounding areas at minimal/no disruption to local communities and we seek to add value, rather than change the area completely. This may happen over time, naturally – but our properties won’t price out locals. We have a contingent of owner occupiers as well as investors and have very competitively priced apartments. 1 Bedroom Apartments at The Bank start at £118,000 for example.
So far, Manctopia has not been kind to developers. The focus on the contrast between homelessness and developers is unfair. There’s been a problem with homelessness in Manchester for decades. This is a problem with social care, government funding and a wealth of other factors. However, the way the programme is portraying Property Developers, you’d think they were directly responsible! What is happening is that the support network for those who are struggling is being slowly taken away. There is more that can be done as always, but regenerating the areas where these people are isn’t a direct cause of their plight. It doesn’t fall on the Property Developers themselves to fix this problem, it should be a collective effort but this is a narrative that Manctopia isn’t pushing. It’s squaring blame at the doorstep of those seeking to make somewhere better, which is not where it should be.
We’ll continue to watch the programme, however it’s with trepidation we do so, as the narrative became clear in Episode 2 that it was willing to paint Tim Healey as the “bad guy” which he isn’t. There may have been mistakes made when he failed to communicate to his investors and when he passed the survey, however his motivation is sound – there’s profit to be made in an area that has had too much investment to fail and he is taking advantage of how much money is coming into Manchester. The BBC will claim this is to the detriment of the wider populace but Anne herself has said that the majority of what’s happening is a good thing. Her issue lies with levelling the surrounding areas. The BBC also forget pretty quickly that they’ve also invested heavily in Manchester with Media City being a huge part of their future plans and the executives they’ve brought in are the very people Tim’s developments attract.
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