Property round-up: Stonebond; First Street; Earlestown Town Hall; Exchange Quay; Annex; Animate; Langtons Professional

CGI of Manchester Road

Salford City Council has approved plans for 71 new affordable homes in Little Hulton.

The new homes will be built by partnerships developer, Stonebond, and Great Places Housing Group, one of the North West’s largest housing providers.

The homes will be offered in Shared Ownership and Affordable Rent tenures and will be built to M4(2) accessibility standards, making them accessible to a range of future occupants. Two homes will be delivered to further enhanced M4(3) wheelchair user accessibility standards to meet an identified need for that type of accommodation locally. Additionally, the development will provide a new area of open space and a local area of play.

The two partners will provide £275,000 in financial contributions to help improve local infrastructure, including two new pedestrian crossings on Manchester Road West which will enhance pedestrian safety in the area.

This project is the latest development that Stonebond and Great Places are currently bringing forward. In 2023 the two businesses announced a new, long term strategic partnership that will initially deliver over 600 affordable homes on multiple brownfield sites across Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

Mark Russell, Land & Partnerships Director at Stonebond, said: “Since we announced our strategic partnership with Great Places, we have already secured planning permission for over 260 affordable homes at four sites across four Greater Manchester Local Authorities.

“By working in partnership, we are making a significant contribution to the region’s affordable housing supply and providing local residents with access to different housing options that best suit their needs, whilst also boosting local economies and improving local infrastructure.”

Nick Gornall, Director of Development at Great Places Housing Group, said: “To have brought forward over 260 affordable homes in less than 12 months since forming the partnership is a testament to the power of working together to unlock complex sites.

“We are looking forward to construction commencing on site in the coming months as we begin to transform this underutilised site into much needed high quality affordable housing. Great Places are committed to the delivery of significant volumes of affordable housing within Greater Manchester; an ambition which is shared by Stonebond.”

Stonebond and Great Places were advised by Lichfields, Eddisons, E3P, Redmore, Ascerta and Lanpro.


First Street topping out

A topping out ceremony was held at the Government Property Agency’s (GPA) First Street hub, in central Manchester, to mark the building reaching its highest point.

The ceremony marks the beginning of the countdown to completion of the nine-storey c.12,000 sq ft office building, which is scheduled to be ready for internal fit-out by the end of the year.

Once complete, the hub will accommodate approximately 2,600 civil servants – with almost 700 relocated from London – including the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), and the Department for Education (DfE).

Lead developer, Ask Real Estate, and its joint venture partner, Richardson, secured a full pre-let of the Grade A BREEAM Excellent office building to the GPA, which then signed a lease with PIC, the building’s owners, in 2022.

Senior representatives from the GPA, Ask Real Estate, BAM Construction and PIC – the investor funding the hub’s construction – and members of the wider supply chain gathered to mark the occasion with a traditional ‘Topping Out’ ceremony.

The First Street Hub is in the heart of Manchester and a few minutes’ walk from Oxford Road and Deansgate rail stations. It has been designed to be class-leading, meeting inclusive and accessible design standards.


Earlestown Town Hall

A full planning application and Listed Building Consent for the refurbishment and revival of Earlestown’s Grade II-listed Town Hall has now been submitted by St Helens Borough Council and its development partner, ECF.

These latest planning submissions follow the reserved matters proposals in March to revive Earlestown’s Market Square – home to the oldest working market in the country.

The proposals would see the much loved and iconic Town Hall building reopened to the public with community meeting rooms, flexible workspaces and a new courtyard garden and café area, together with public toilets and a changing places facility. It’s main hall – once host to a concert by The Beatles – will be brought back to life as a performance and events space, complementing and developing the evening economy in the historic market town of Earlestown.

Earlestown Town Hall, which has been closed since 2017, has already benefited from an extensive external restoration and the refurbishment and revival submissions follow a comprehensive public consultation at the end of 2023, which drew more than 240 people to public exhibitions and feedback sessions across Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows and Wargrave. Responses demonstrated high levels of support, with 84% in favour of plans to refurbish the historic Town Hall.

Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “Local residents and businesses are keen for positive change to begin, and these designs for Earlestown reflect our ambitions to make this happen – and in a way that celebrates and builds on our proud local character and qualities.”

Tom Ivinson, Development Manager at ECF, said: “Our proposals for the Town Hall reflect the quality we’re committed to achieving in the regeneration of Earlestown. We want to encourage people from all walks of life to come and explore such a historic market town, and by providing a multi-faceted and sustainable community hub, we can create a valued asset for generations to come.”

Separate proposals for accessibility and environmental improvements to Earlestown Rail Station are being developed by St Helens Borough Council with partners from the rail industry as part of the Levelling Up Fund Round 2 programme.

Plans are being funded by a £20m grant from Round 2 of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) with £8m in matched funding provided by St Helens Borough Council, and are being brought forward by ECF, the regeneration joint venture of developer Muse, Homes England, and Legal & General.


Exchange Quay has appointed contractors to work alongside Mitsubishi Electric on a decarbonisation initiative to upgrade space, while simultaneously diversifying its campus offer through the creation of new Plug and Play space.

Austin Brody Associates has been appointed to decarbonise the 116,000 sq ft Building 8, replacing gas with air source heat pumps to upgrade it from EPC D to EPC B and this will be operational at the end of June this year.

The initiative forms part of a wider programme of works at Salford’s Exchange Quay, which will see a total of 130,000 sq ft of space upgraded to EPC B, as well as the refurbishment of a series of offices suites into Plug and Play space.

The new suites will range from 1,000 sq ft upwards and will complement the flex space on offer at Serendipity Labs and the traditional offices, up to 20,000 sq ft, available in a variety of buildings across the campus.

As a result, Exchange Quay can now offer occupiers all options with additional lease terms, flex space and fully furnished accommodation from a two-person office upwards.

Les Lang, Director, Till AM said: “As we look at ways of decarbonising our buildings on the road to net zero, we are continually investing into the campus to remain at the forefront of sustainability, as well as meeting the evolving needs of our occupiers.

“This latest initiative accelerates the ESG agenda at Exchange Quay and our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint. Additionally, the new fully furnished space ensures that our offering is fully inclusive and businesses of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the superb environment.”

Dan Margolis, Associate Director, Colliers, said: “As occupier demand for design-led, plug and play office space continues to increase, it is great to see that our client, Till AM, is investing in delivering plug and play suites, which will complement the flex space at Serendipity Labs, together with the traditional CAT A space. With the added on-site amenities, such as the on-site children’s nursery, gym, restaurant, and bar and café, Exchange Quay continues to be a compelling office location for businesses.”


OBI Property has concluded an extensive refurbishment project at Annex, located on Manchester’s Quay Street, with completion of the second floor fit-out.

OBI has worked with the owner, Brydell Partners, on the repositioning strategy to deliver a premium workspace building with a high level of amenities located in the heart of the city centre.

Annex now offers occupiers a variety of meeting rooms and breakout spaces, as well as a state-of-the-art podcast studio. The basement includes a cycle hub and luxury shower facilities, as well as a premium gym for occupiers of the building.

The final piece of the project, a 3,861 sq ft Grade A space, boasts a tech-enabled plug-and-play suite, with breakout spaces and meeting rooms that are digitally future-proofed to accommodate flexibility in working styles.

The firm successfully leased all floors to professional services businesses alongside joint agents, JLL.

Dominic Horridge, Building Consultancy at OBI, said: “Since Brydell purchased Annex in 2021, the team at OBI has worked strategically to formulate a clear and sustainable business plan that would achieve maximum reward. As a result, our in-house teams of expertise including leasing, interior design, and project management delivered a seamless and unified approach to this strategy.

“It’s great to see the building now attracting such a high calibre of tenants and is a reflection of the quality fitted and furnished workspace that has been delivered.”


Bonnie Craig

A local artist’s homage to the history and culture of Preston has been completed at the city’s £45m-plus Animate leisure complex, one of six major projects planned under the Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme.

Maple Grove Developments, the local developer delivering the project for Preston City Council, commissioned local artist Bonnie Craig to create a pattern for Animate’s metal façade cladding, which wraps the top third of the leisure complex. These distinctive bronze coloured cladding panels form a key feature in its design.

Bonnie, a Lancastrian who also completed glass artwork for the University of Central Lancashire’s student centre, was appointed to the project and took her inspiration from Animate’s location on Tenterfield Street.

Its name comes from the tenter fields, where outdoor frames held the woven fabric as part of the production process. The stretched fabric was held in place by tenterhooks, and the shape of these hooks was employed throughout the cladding design.

Preston was awarded £20.9m from the Government’s national Towns Fund initiative in March 2021, and the Harris Quarter is a unique part of the city centre undergoing a £200m investment programme to transform its historic buildings, sites and public realm into a diverse culture, leisure and employment offering.

Animate is being brought forward by Maple Grove Developments, part of Preston-based contractor Eric Wright Group, in partnership with Preston City Council.

Bonnie said: “When asked to create designs that explored the area around the Animate site, I was intrigued by the interesting shape and name of Tenterfield Street, as well as the art-deco style design of Lancastria House on one corner of the street.

“I developed a simple shape based on the tenterhook and the street itself. The motif repeats over the metal panels in a grid pattern inspired by the windows, interior wall panels and stonework used in Lancastria House and aims to explore the idea of tension – created in both the tenter frames and the meaning of ‘on tenterhooks’ – and resolution/visual balance.”

John Chesworth, chair of Preston’s Towns Fund Strategic Board, said: “Completion of the Tenterhook design represents a sympathetic and welcome acknowledgement of Preston’s industrial heritage and the part Lancashire played in building an economy that was incredibly important to the nation’s prosperity.”

Almost fully pre-let, Animate will feature an eight-screen cinema, 16-lane bowling alley with gaming zone, five family restaurant units, a food hall, public realm, a competitive socialising unit and 164-space basement car park, with national leisure brands including Hollywood Bowl, ARC Cinemas, Zizzi, Cosmo, Las Iguanas and Loungers already signed up as tenants.


Langtons Professional has refurbished and refitted its Liverpool office space in The Plaza, 100 Old Hall Street, to provide increased capacity and a superior environment for a growing team following a period of strong growth.

The newly-configured space provides the independent advisory firm with a state of the art open plan working envrionment, combined with enhanced client meeting rooms, break out areas, a soundproofed ‘Zoom Room’ and an open plan kitchen diner.

From its headquarters in Liverpool, Langtons provides independent accountancy and advisory services with dedicated teams for Corporate Finance, Tax, Audit & Accounts and Payroll. The firm is a member of Accelerate, an association of UK accounting firms, providing access to a community of UK firms, as well as international expertise via Crowe Global.

Andy McCall, Managing Partner at Langtons, said: “The redesign of our offices is a key part of our growth plan, which provides enhanced capacity to grow our team in line with increased demand for our advice and services.

“We are very fortunate to have some of the best views in the city. We wanted to create a space that our team loved spending time in, and it appears we’ve pulled that off.”

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