Deal secures land for new civil service hub in Manchester

Multi-department digital campus will host 7,000 jobs on site of former shopping centre
Concept sketch for how the new government digital campus could look Photo: Manchester City Council

By Jim Dunton

17 May 2024

Plans to create a government digital campus bringing 7,000 jobs to Manchester have moved forward this week, with the exchange of contracts on a two-hectare site in Ancoats.

The Government Property Agency is acquring around half of the site of the former Central Retail Park shopping centre, which is roughly 500m from Manchester Piccadilly Station.

In 2022, CSW reported that landowner Manchester City Council was keen to regenerate the plot with a scheme that would attract government jobs – and had received "potential interest" from the GPA.

Earlier this year, the city council confirmed negotiations over the now-cleared site were at an advanced stage.

According to the GPA, the project will deliver an office complex bringing together a number of civil service departments "with a focus around digital skills". The agency said that while contracts have been exchanged for the site acquisition, purchase will be dependent on securing planning consent for the development.

Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart said the government's latest expansion in Manchester is an investment in digital excellence and signifies "dedication to contributing positively to the city’s vibrant community and economy".

"We are excited to create more modern and productive work environments in the heart of the city, where civil servants from across the north west can be inspired and take pride in delivering the best possible service to the taxpayer," he said.

GPA director of capial projects Clive Anderson said the development will be a collaboration with the city council and will support the Places for Growth programme, which is moving 22,000 jobs away from the capital by 2027.

"The GPA is proud to be creating fantastic and sustainable workplaces to support the transformation of the civil service," he said. "We are committed to growing its presence in Manchester, drawing upon the city’s pool of talent."

The agency said the land purchase is expected to complete fully next year, ahead of construction starting in 2026.

A topping-out ceremony was held last month for the new government hub at First Street in Manchester city centre.

It is due to host around 2,600 civil servants from the Legal Aid Agency; the Office of Rail and Road; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; the Office for Standards in Education; and the Department for Education.

The building is expected to be ready for internal fit-out by the end of the year.

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