The election of our next prime minister has so far proven to be a peculiar, introspective affair. A wide spectrum of national concerns and priorities has apparently been cast aside in favour of a ferocious mud-slinging match over a single topic: tax.
Evidently, the voting constituency of Conservative Party members has narrower concerns than the nation at large.
Those of us still interested in topics like sustainability, levelling up and regeneration can perhaps draw comfort from three projects outlined this week by Property Week.
The £1.4bn redevelopment of the Mayfield area in central Manchester is taking shape, springing up around a new 6.5-acre park at the heart of the 24-acre project. Last summer, initial works uncovered the River Medlock where it snakes its way through the scheme.
The waterway had been covered over with concrete slabs and confined within narrow culverts for 50 years, hemmed in between industrial units. Returned to a more natural state, it now promises to become the site’s star attraction.
“You can walk up and dip your toes in the river, which you can’t do anywhere else in Manchester,” says Mike Hood, chief executive of regeneration specialist U+I – one of the partners in the public-private joint venture behind the Mayfield project.
Meanwhile, in east London, another waterside project holds plenty of promise. Neglected for 40 years, the Royal Docks in Silvertown is now the focus of a £3.5bn regeneration scheme, given a considerable boost by a £233m infrastructure loan from Homes England.
The site contains the landmark Millennium Mills warehouse, ripe for retrofit reinvention, as well as an imposing 1920s grain silo, grade II listed, that is set for a new life in the 7m sq ft mixed-use scheme.
As our story explains, previous efforts to redevelop the site have come to nothing, but the stars appear better aligned today.
As well as the government loan, the site benefits from great connectivity. The recently completed Elizabeth line stops nearby, the adjacent London City Airport has reignited its plan for expansion just this month, and
major excavations are about to start on the Silvertown Tunnel. The new crossing is due to provide rapid passage under the Thames by 2025, handily ahead of the Royal Docks timeline.
In Poole in Dorset, a more modest regeneration scheme holds promise of a different kind, by demonstrating one way to enliven a failing high street. By covering rent and rates for a few years, the site’s owner has brought in a roster of entrepreneurial new tenants – if that’s the right word for occupants not actually paying for the privilege.
The transformation this temporary offer has wrought is impressive, although it remains to be seen how the plan will hold up when the introductory scheme is completed. Eventually, the tenants must begin to grapple with the usual overheads.
Several business owners voiced concerns about their long-term survival. Rosie Rowe, co-owner of a coffee shop currently nestled within the revamped parade, tells PW: “Our only concern is the business rates, which are very high due to being on the high street.”
Which brings us full circle, I suppose. Perhaps it is all about tax, after all.