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Trinity Islands: four huge new skyscrapers - among Manchester’s tallest - get approval to go ahead

The towering buildings feature nearly 2,000 flats in central Manchester.

A nine-year project to build four skyscrapers – including one which is set to be the second tallest buidling in Manchester – has been given the green light.

The apartment blocks, ranging from 39 to 60 storeys in height, are planned for two parcels of land on the banks of the River Irwell known as Trinity Islands.

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The ‘elegant’ buildings featuring 1,950 flats would be located on land between Regent Road, Liverpool Road and Water Street which is currently a car park.

Nearly two-thirds of the site off Trinity Way will be turned into green space which will be twice the size of Cathedral Gardens and open to the public.

However, none of the new apartments would be deemed affordable as the developer said this would affect the financial viability of the £741.7m scheme.

An initial contribution of £106,000 towards affordable housing elsewhere in the city has been agreed and a ‘clawback’ clause means the developer could be asked to contribute more cash if the project becomes more profitable.

The developer has also agreed to contribute £1.5m towards a new school at Crown Street and values its planned public realm improvements at £10.3m.

Plans for Trinity Islands in Manchester. Credit: Renaker.

What was said at the meeting?

Manchester city council boss Dave Roscoe told the planning committee that there are some ‘very serious challenges’ with the site – but this project is ‘special’.

He said: “We’ve looked at this very, very carefully.

“There are some significant financial public benefits that come out of this – the £10m public space, the £1.5m towards the school, which is essential social infrastructure, and all the benefits around creation of construction jobs.”

Councillors on the planning committee questioned whether the development had found the right balance between affordable housing and public space.

The one-hectare green space will be around 40 % of the size of Mayfield Park.

Deansgate councillor Joan Davies, who represents the ward where this site is located, said she was ‘disappointed’ with the amount of afffordable housing.

But she was pleased that the ‘clawback’ clause creates the possibility for the council to demand more money from the developer later down the line.

The developer is projecting a profit margin of around 12.04 %, falling short of the 18 to 20 % industry standard for a development of this scale, according to a financial viability statement submitted as part of the planning application.

It comes after previous plans for five towers – including one which would have been the tallest residential building in Western Europe – failed to materialise.

But one of the skyscrapers in the latest plans by Renaker – which bought the site in 2018 – would still be among the tallest towers in the UK outside of London, second in Manchester to the South Tower at Deansgate Square.

The planning committee approved the latest proposal at a town hall meeting on Thursday (17 February) with just two members abstaining from the vote.

Reaction

A spokesperson for Renaker said the company is ‘delighted’ with the decision.

They said: “We look forward to delivering these new, iconic buildings, as well as new homes and facilities of the highest quality for residents and the wider community.”

Manchester city council leader Bev Craig added: “It’s important that we look at major schemes like Trinity Islands in the round, alongside our city’s plans and the positive impact that this sort of growth continues to have on our city. I am passionate about ensuring that Manchester’s growth benefits everyone.

“Manchester remains a place of prodigious population growth and the city can only meet the demand for new housing through major schemes such as this one, which also brings brownfield land back into use.

Coun Bev Craig, who has been appointed the new leader of Manchester City Council

“This sits alongside our Housing Strategy that bring forward ambitious plans for more social and genuinely affordable homes.

“Trinity Islands is a significant investment in our city, which is testament to the confidence developers continue to have in Manchester, despite the ongoing economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This development alone will create 2,000 homes and 4,000 jobs in the construction stage.

“Renaker have agreed to invest £10m to create high quality public space that will create a new green riverside destination and will cover an area 40% of the footprint of the new Mayfield Park.

“However, what it perhaps most attractive about this sort of development is the social impact – it’s exciting we are seeing the first city centre school being built.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the £1.5m that Renaker are investing in the Crowne Street School – along with a further £100k contribution to be used for offsite affordable housing.

“It’s sometimes too easy to focus on the perceived negatives of development in our city, but we should also remember the positive impact behind the headlines that growth that is sustainable can have on our communities.”

The planning committee also agreed to amend the affordable housing arrangements associated with plans to build 410 homes at the former Manox factory in Miles Platting with no change to the total in the new agreement.

The committee also considered an application to build a detached two-storey dwelling next to the Jolly Butcher pub in Brooklands ward – subject to seven letters of objection, including from the neighbouring pub – which was rejected.