Derelict stations could become community hubs across the region.
People want to live in places where there is plenty to see and do, and where getting around is easy. Therefore, transport, shopping and leisure are among the most important property fundamentals that professional investors look for when researching the best places to invest in property UK.
There is already plenty to do in Manchester, and it has great transport links too (which will become even better with the introduction of High-Speed Rail). But Town Hall bosses want to improve the city’s offering even further and have an ingenious plan to provide GP surgeries, gyms, wedding venues and tea shops across the whole of the Manchester region. They want to take over 96 railway stations and transform them into community hubs.
We think it’s a great idea and one which would further aid the regeneration of Manchester.
Regenerating railway stations for the 21st century
Many railway stations up and down the country are lying derelict. They’re in a poor state of repair, and little more than unmanned stopping points. In Manchester, they want to do something about this. Town Hall bosses say that without their intervention, dozens of such stations in the Manchester area will be left to deteriorate beyond repair. They use Salford Central, with its leaky roofs and poorly equipped platforms, as a case in point.
Railway operators don’t want to repair, redecorate and repurpose these buildings and their surrounding land. Town Hall believes they are ideal venues to create community hubs and simultaneously build 120 much needed new homes.
Town Hall’s plans are ambitious but achievable. They provide a strategy to use brownfield land that would otherwise become eyesores in a great place to live, work, and play. And Town Hall can point to Irlam Station as a shining example of how their strategy will benefit rail users and the wider community.
What could happen to Manchester’s railway stations?
The plan is for more than £400 million of council money to be pumped into the regeneration of Manchester’s railway stations over the next 20 years. Stations which include Stockport, Altrincham, Wigan, Bolton, Oxford Road and Victoria would become pivot points of local communities.
Instead of the drab, run-down affairs, they are now, and stations would be re-energised as ‘beautiful spaces’. Proposals include providing venues for concerts, festivals, and weekend markets. Community hubs are offering gyms and health facilities. Places that encourage the setting up of small businesses. A real destination and hive of activity, rather than simply a place to embark and disembark trains.
It’s not simply the stations that could be transformed, either. Surrounding land could be used to provide new homes and shops.
What makes a ‘bad station’?
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) points to Salford Central as an example of a railway station that is underachieving its potential in 21st century Manchester. For sure, the frontage has been improved, but beyond the façade lies a unwelcoming place with leaky roofs, uneven platforms, and dangerous stepping heights from trains. Some trains are too long for the platforms.
What is proposed here is a multi-million-pound facelift, which will include intercity platforms. They want to make it more like Irlam Station, which has been completely transformed from a previously disused facility.
Irlam – the blueprint for the future of Manchester’s railway stations?
Irlam is the busiest unmanned station in Manchester. Before the Hamilton Davies Trust bought it, the station had laid derelict for a quarter of a century. A local resident said:
“After many years of neglect, the once-solid old building had slowly become derelict, an eyesore with boarded-up windows, slates missing from the roof and birds flying in and out of it.
“It’s been wonderful to watch its transformation back into such a fine-looking station.”
The station’s regeneration cost £2 million. TfGM worked with the trust and provided cash for the restoration. It is now a popular destination for local residents, housing a café, cycle hub, and a 60-space car park.
The then Mayor of Salford Ian Stewart said that the station had been “totally transformed from an embarrassment to somewhere the whole community can be proud of”.
It is now a must-visit location for residents, both as a transport link and place for leisure.
When could this happen?
While this type of regeneration could be considered small-scale in comparison to the enormous property development projects in the city centre and surrounds, it is no less important. The takeover of all local railway stations was included as part of the devolution agreement signed in 2014.
Network Rail currently owns these stations, and the Secretary of State for Transport must first approve for TfGM’s planned takeover. The hope is that the end of 2018 could launch a takeover bid. After this, TfGM would take control of smaller stations first. Manchester Oxford Road and Victoria would be transferred in the mid-2020s, and eventually Piccadilly.
Stations would then be leased at peppercorn rents, allowing rail operators to concentrate their money and energy on providing excellent train services.
It should be hoped that work on regenerating all the 96 railway stations in the plan would be completed by 2035, by which time property investors should have witnessed the building of a planned 227,000 new homes in the Manchester region to cope with a rapidly-growing population and regional economy.
Manchester has an incredible transport network, and these plans will promote that network to be central to communities across the region. And communities encourage long-term tenancies and homebuying. Great news for investors looking for the best property investment opportunities.
Live with passion,