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Britannia Basin, Castlefield, Manchester Delivering Better Places: Visual Case Study 3


WHAT ARE CASE STUDIES Case Studies aim to set out thinking, briefing or possible forward action on a specific topic or question. They provide in-depth information and can outline ways to tackle issues. This Case Study has been prepared by A+DS. WHAT IS THIS CASE STUDY ABOUT? This case study has been informed by Delivering Better Places, a collaborative publication from The Scottish Centre for Regeneration, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland and Architecture and Design Scotland, who worked with the University of Glasgow to create a good practice guide. The guide helps public, private and community stakeholders identify good practice and improve their understanding of delivering better places. Delivering Better Places, S Gov, 2011

This case study provides a visual analysis of the Castlefield, Britannia Basin development, presenting text from the Delivering Better Places analysis of the development alongside images which illustrate the findings. The objective of this case study is to provide a visual tool to highlight elements of successful developments from around Europe, to help inspire the delivery of better places for Scotland. The images within this case study have been selected from the Steve Tiesdell Legacy Collection, which can be accessed in full on flickr.


Site Location



Throughout the 1980s, Central Manchester Development Corporation had invested heavily in developing the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park as a place to live and visit. To the immediate south-west across the Mancunian Way, lay Britannia Basin – a series of derelict canal-side factories and warehouses, surrounded by car breakers. Britannia Basin was not an appealing place, but in the mid-1990s Urban Splash saw that Britannia Basin was well-located and had significant development potential, showing how regeneration in adjacent areas (i.e. Hulme and ‘original’ Castlefield) can increase a previously undesirable area’s development value. Urban Splash bought the Britannia Mills buildings and redeveloped them as loft-style flats. These (and others) sold well and encouraged Urban Splash to commit to developing most of the rest of the area, in line with a non-statutory masterplan drawn up with Peel Holdings (the other major local landowner) by EDAW. Six Urban Splash phases have been completed to date. Dandara (2) and Mayfair Developments have also completed major projects in the area. Castlefield/Britannia Mills shows how place-making as a core element of a developer’s business model can enhance place quality, and how landowners’ interest in maintaining the value of their investment through ensuring subsequent developments continue to be built to high standards. It also shows how a pro-development local authority committed to high quality design standards can contribute to place quality without itself playing a major role in the delivery process. This example of developer-led place delivery corresponds to potential regeneration projects in fringe areas of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and perhaps also Stirling and Perth city centres, where a design-minded landowner-developer with an interest in the longterm value of the land could use a similar model to deliver a quality place.


Does the place have a distinct identity? The place’s identity is of a similar nature to the earlier Castlefield development to the north of the A57, but is more daring and contemporary in its design. Its location is also well defined by physical boundaries, which makes it more distinctive..


Does the place have spaces that are safe and pleasant? Urban Splash has taken over some of the main streets and manages them as part of the scheme. Other parts of the site are managed on behalf of Dandara, one of the other major developers on the site. At the same time, the area is not fully developed and there are a number of unattractive areas of waste ground that do not enhance to the area.


Is the place easy to move around (especially on foot) (‘permeable’)? Yes, though it could be better. A towpath leads along the Bridgewater canal and there is a good grid of roads. Its main deficiency comes from the very large block that makes up Timber Wharf and Britannia Mills, as well as connections to the north of the site. It is also not easy to get into original Castlefield by foot; the only route is via the dark towpath under the A57.


Does the place make visitors feel sense-of-welcome? There is very little evidence of excess gating and there are active frontages. There are also two bars and a good local shop. This is a pleasant contrast to Slate Wharf to the immediate north, which is a much more straightforward early-mid1990s development with very vocal security and parking restrictions and no immediate amenities. Parking in Castlefield is not difficult (yet) though there is evidence of car break-ins.


Will the place adapt easily to changing circumstances (‘robust’)? The individual units are able to accommodate a variety of ground floor uses (retail, offices etc) so can (and have) adapt to changing circumstances. Shell fit-out schemes such as Box Works and Albert Mill are also adaptable. The remainder of the site is held as a series of currently-used parcels, so they can be developed as and when required. It does appear to be relatively robust. “We are not slavish to one particular design or use”. (Chris Stalker, Urban Splash).


Does the place make good use of scarce resources (‘sustainable’)? While not exactly at ‘passivhaus’ standards, it does reuse the structure of a series of substantial buildings, saving embodied energy. It is also possible to live without a car (underground parking spaces cost extra).

Project Information LOCATION:

In central Manchester, sited to immediate south-west of Castlefield Urban Heritage Park, and within walking distance of the city centre. PROJECT CONTEXT: Urban/brownfield PROJECT TYPE: Intensification / transformation RATIONALE: Pioneering and cultivation of a new neighbourhood as an investment opportunity. PROJECT DESCRIPTION: There is no formal project. The area’s development is essentially developerled. In combination, the projects will produce about 500 residential units, plus retail and office space. Has new-build and refurbished components and retains space for future expansion. PLACE PROMOTER: Urban Splash, assisted by the local planning authority’s pro-development approach, which is also committed to design standards. The project was mainly driven by the entrepreneurial vision of Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash, who provided day-to-day leadership on the project. Urban Splash were greatly assisted by the pro-development ethos prevailing in Manchester, largely attributed to its ChiefExecutive, Sir Howard Bernstein. LAND OWNERSHIP: Land ownership is fragmented. Acquisition of development sites has been by private purchase. Former industrial land and buildings gradually acquired by Urban Splash from the mid-1990s onwards. Urban Splash also hold options held on many adjacent undeveloped sites/buildings. DELIVERY METHOD: Enlightened developer adopting a long-term development strategy based upon enhancing overall place-value through a series of well-judged interventions and building projects. The developer is seeking to pioneer the development of a place. Each project is designed to contribute positively to the greater whole. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: Emerging since the late 1990s. There is no formal programme, and it is effectively a series of projects within a limited area. Project was conceived in mid 1990s. Britannia Mills, as the first phase commenced on site in March 1998 and was complete by summer 2000. Subsequent phases followed in 2002 (2 and 3), 2004 (4) 2005, (5) and 2009 for the sixth (and so far final) phase. Architecture and Design Scotland Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate Edinburgh EH8 8DD Level 2, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, G1 3NU T: +44 (0) 845 1 800 642 F: +44 (0) 845 1 800 643 E:

Castlefield Visual Case Study  

A case study providing a visual analysis of an exemplar development informed by Scottish Governement publication Delivering Better Places an...