What does the future hold for Manchester's expanding skyline


In spite of everything Brexit has been able to throw at it, Manchester’s economy has been powering ahead and has created a need for a massive programme of building and rebuilding to accommodate new companies, the growth of established companies (and the universities) and to provide homes for the people who work in them, a significant percentage of whom have moved to Manchester from elsewhere.

The challenge currently facing Manchester is to keep supporting its continued growth without compromising the affordability or lifestyle options which made it so appealing in the first place.

Below, Hopwood House, Property Investment Company in Manchester, shares their view on the Manchester property market.

Continued growth means a continued need for new property

According to the annual Manchester Crane Survey undertaken by Deloitte Real Estate projected delivery over the next three years is greater than the total number of residential units delivered between 2007 and 2018.

While this is an estimate, it’s based on real-world evidence, such as the fact that there were “only” 410 active construction projects in Manchester for the year 2017, but by 2018 this had increased to 48 projects delivering a total of 14,480 units across. The demand for both residential and commercial units is shown by the level of interest in off-plan purchases and pre-completion lettings.

It’s difficult to obtain hard figures for off-plan residential purchases, but it is known that in 2018 a quarter of all new city-centre office space was pre-let.

This was a massive 10% increase from 2017. At the current time, there is absolutely no indication of the level of demand tailing off, quite the opposite in fact. Based on activity so far this year, it is looking like 2019 is on track to set another batch of new records for construction in Manchester.

New property brings both new opportunities and new challenges

The local authorities in Manchester are well aware of the fact that continued building is vital to maintaining housing affordability and hence avoiding ordinary people (especially young people) feeling like they are being priced out of the market.

At the same time, they are also aware that Manchester needs to maintain its status as an attractive place to live, which includes having plenty of outdoor space, particularly green space and a suitable level of light reaching all properties.

While the issue of maintaining green spaces in cities is, in practical terms, largely resolved through local authorities retaining ownership of them (or at least placing restrictions on what private owners can do with them), nobody owns (or can own) light, however developers absolutely can design properties which, effectively, take ownership of light by throwing their surroundings into shade.

In principle, there is a certain degree of legal protection against this happening, but the legislation in question dates back to the early 19th century and the mid-20th century (the Prescription Act 1832 and the Rights of Light Act 1959) and has not been meaningfully updated since then even though the 2010 case of HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney drew a lot of attention to the issue of light obstruction and even though the Law Society has produced recommendations on the topic.

It will therefore fall to the local authorities in Manchester to manage this issue at a local level and potentially to push for central government to update the existing, very archaic, legislation.