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Ancoats regeneration in jeopardy as landowners vanish without a trace

It’s one of the ‘final pieces of the jigsaw’ in the regeneration of Ancoats – but no one knows who owns some of the sites near Manchester city centre.

Phoenix Ironworks redevelopment

A GCI impression of how the redevelopment could look

Most of the plots of land which are primed for development have now been purchased.

However, the owners of three small plots on the Phoenix Ironworks site remain unidentified. It comes eight years after developer Manchester Life first started buying up the land behind Beehive Mill where 256 homes are set to be built.

Sheikh Mansour and Manchester City FC

But the company – which is owned by Manchester Council and Manchester City FC owner Sheikh Mansour – says that ‘all avenues have been exhausted’ to trace the freeholders of the land which it already has 811-year leases for.

All of the land bounded by Naval Street, Poland Street, Jersey Street and Radium Street is now owned by the developer or the council, at least on a leasehold basis.

But unregistered freehold interests and restrictive covenants on three plots mean a compulsory purchase order (CPO) will be required.

Manchester Council’s strategic director for growth and development Rebecca Heron

Councillors signed off the start of this process at a town hall meeting on Wednesday (June 28) where they were told why these powers would be used. Manchester Council’s strategic director for growth and development Rebecca Heron said: “The council and its partners have assembled the vast majority of the land required, but there are three small plots that are unregistered freehold interests and they’re also subject to restrictive covenants.

“Those outstanding interests need to be acquired to enable the development to progress. Whilst we would normally attempt to acquire those interests through negotiation, we’re not able to identify the owners in this case, hence the recommendation for the CPO.”

Labour councillors welcomed the plans, describing the development of the area as the ‘missing piece’ in the regeneration of Ancoats.

1500 new homes for Ancoats Green

The third phase of redevelopment in the neighbourhood includes building 1,500 new homes, a mobility hub with 406 parking spaces and improvements to Ancoats Green.

Affordable housing is also being built in the area through the council’s own development company This City. However, Lib Dem councillors questioned why affordable housing will not be included in the Phoenix Ironworks plan.

Speaking at the town hall meeting, Lib Dem leader John Leech said: “The council is doing its bit, it’s going through this CPO process, but I’m very disappointed that there isn’t a commitment to a decent proportion of affordable homes out of the residential properties that are being proposed on this site. I don’t know if there have been discussions behind the scenes but surely, given the role the council is playing in this process, we should have been demanding that a proportion of these homes are going to be affordable.”

Affordable homes in Ancoats

Council bosses have said that this scheme may not be viable if it included affordable housing. However, they highlighted the number of affordable homes which are currently being built elsewhere in the Ancoats area.

According to the local authority, 30 pc of the 649 homes under construction in Ancoats and New Islington will be affordable. The town hall claims that more affordable homes are now being built in the city centre than at any other time.

Manchester Life

A Manchester Life spokesperson said: “Manchester Life’s plans for Phoenix Ironworks are part of a coordinated set of developments to ensure a broad range of homes, including a significant affordable component, and new public and commercial spaces are delivered in the Poland Street Area as part of the next phase of Ancoats’ regeneration.

“As per the 2019 Poland Street Neighbourhood Development Framework, Phoenix Ironworks transforms derelict and previously light industrial land into homes in line with Manchester’s housing requirements. The designs preserve and work around heritage buildings and local businesses on Radium Street and provide new public and private outdoor spaces and up to 1,350 sqm of creative workshop and local business space.

“Manchester Life has been working on land assembly for Phoenix Ironworks since 2015. 100 pc of the land is already owned on a Freehold or Leasehold basis by Phoenix Ironworks Development Limited or the City Council.

“The CPO’s underway is a formal process to either address redundant rights of way and covenants to prepare the land for development or where all avenues have been exhausted to trace freeholders for the 811-year leaseholds already owned by Manchester Life.

“If the owners of any of these historic interests come forward during the CPO process, Pheonix Ironworks Development Limited will be happy to purchase their interests at market value.”

Manchester council’s executive committee authorised the use of CPOs for the Phoenix Ironworks development at its meeting on Wednesday (June 28). A planning application for the scheme was submitted earlier this month and can be viewed on the council’s website using reference 137346/FO/2023.

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