Auf wiedersehen Berlin, au revoir Paris – Manchester reaches for the skies with more tall towers than European capitals.

Manchester’s hard-earned and well-deserved status as a major European hub city is being cemented (literally) by the construction of more tall residential towers than the capitals of Paris and Berlin combined in a development drive that is forecast to grow its population in the central core to more than 150,000 by as soon as 2022.

This exponential growth in the UK’s second city has been brought to public attention thanks to forensic research by Ed Howe, stats guru at UrbInfoManchester, the data division of residential property manager urbanbubble.

Ed has analysed plans for thousands of new apartments being delivered over the next three years in central Manchester and neighbouring Salford and Trafford – these being the areas where the trend for city living goes from strength to strength because of pent-up demand among ‘generation rent’ and shall we say, a more mature market who’s little darlings have flown the nest and want to downsize by deserting the ‘burbs with a back garden for a more manageable and cost-effective urban home with everything on their doorstep.

His research shows a pipeline of 35,990 new apartments coming on stream via 53 residential schemes, of which 21 are tall towers of more than 20-storeys – more than the 17 tall towers in Paris and 19 in Berlin approved or being constructed.

Calculating future population from an average occupancy of 1.4 people per home, based on urbanbubble’s current portfolio of 4,500 apartments managed in Manchester, Ed concludes that the creation of what’s effectively a new city within a  city will increase the current central population by a staggering 50,000 from a total of 104,357 to 154,357 in 2022.

This development revolution is propelled by an explosion in the number of build-to-rent (BtR) apartments being delivered across the city core by partnerships of developers and investors such Legal & General Investment Management (L&GIM) Real Assets at landmark schemes including Slate Yard in Salford and the imposing West Tower at Deansgate Square, a 44-storey tower that will be the UK’s tallest BtR scheme.

Doubters will understandably ask who’s going to occupy and afford this plethora of new property? Surely the expectation of well-heeled professionals and those with substantial retirement income for outside space, gyms, lounges, swimming pools and a concierge to come as standard rather than extras will price property out of the reach and purchasing power of most people, leading to ‘ghost towers’ of empty homes?

Not true says Michael Howard, founder and managing director of Manchester-based urbanbubble.

He argues that the arrival of tens of thousands of high-quality apartments to rent will make city centre living more affordable to more people by creating an over-supply, exerting downward pressure on the rental value of existing properties and providing a more diverse rental market to allow people previously priced out of the city centre to join the revolution.


Justin Strong