The vision of the scheme is to create a globally significant new media city that will be capable of competing with similar emerging locations in places such as Copenhagen, Seoul and Singapore. The intention is to create a modern digital city for the UK, where creative talent is drawn by the quality and excitement of the environment and the range and mix of people.
A new headquarters for BBC North will be established, encompassing: BBC Sport, Children’s, Radio 5 Live, Learning and parts of Future Media and Technology. Some of the BBC’s most iconic shows, including Match of the Day, Blue Peter, Dragon’s Den and Question of Sport will now be broadcast from MediaCityUK. ITV Granada will move to Media City in 2012. A new production centre for Coronation Street is being built on Trafford Wharf, next to Imperial War Museum North. Dedicated officers have also been earmarked within MediaCityUK’s Orange Tower, which will house ITV Studios’ production and management teams and ITV regional news.
The £650m project – owned and managed by The Peel Group, one of the UK’s leading infrastructure, real estate and investment enterprises – will see the relocation of 1,500 BBC staff from London or the BBC’s existing North West headquarters in Manchester. This includes the 25% of Marketing, Communications & Audiences and 33% of Connect & Create staff that are prepared to relocate. The BBC said that in total, 55% of the staff affected by the move have now agreed to relocate, including volunteers from outside those departments going to Salford.
The move from London reflects the growing opinion that media giants such as the BBC and ITV need to widen their scope and develop exciting new media outside of London. In 2007, Sir Michael Lyons, who heads the BBC Trust, told the Royal Television Society that the loyalty of viewers outside of London was dwindling as a result of their perception that the BBC failed to reflect their communities or interests.
Manchester is certainly an excellent place to relocate: it is acknowledged as a leader in the creative and digital industries, and is home to the second largest cluster in Europe, consisting of more than 20,000 companies and almost 150,000 employees. It was reported that between 2002 and 2007, there was an 88.5% increase in productivity (Source: NWDA).
The project has engaged with numerous public sector bodies, including Northwest Regional Development Agency, Salford City Council and the Salford Urban Regeneration Company. So far, 2,000 people have been involved in construction, and 7.3 million man hours have been spent on-site. The intention is to establish MediaCityUK on approximately 220ha of land in and around Salford Quays and Trafford Wharfside, with the 14.8ha Quays Point site at its core. The area covered is bounded by Eccles New Road, Trafford Road, Ordsall Lane, Manchester Ship Canal and Trafford Park Road.
Phase One of the development – which is spread over 36 acres, with the potential to develop up to 200 acres over the coming years – has included: 780, 870 sq ft of commercial office accommodation spread across 6 buildings, 60 000 sq ft of retail, a 250,000 sq ft studio complex, 378 apartments across 2 buildings, a 218 bed Holiday Inn hotel, a 2 300 space multi storey car park, a 5-acre piazza including a hard standing area for events, The Greenhouse (office accommodation) and The Pie Factory (sound stages and office accommodation). MediaCityUK is a long-term development and there is no rigid timetable for Phase Two, so expansion will be dependent on demand.
MediaCityUK is the first scheme in the world to become a BREEAM-approved sustainable community, by incorporating leading-edge design into the individual buildings and elsewhere across the campus. The tri-generation power plant helps to minimise CO² emissions by centralising heating and cooling equipment for the buildings. It utilises water from the Manchester Ship Canal before returning it cleaner than before.
The project has also developed strong links to the neighbouring community. Salford University is creating a new higher education centre at MediaCity UK, designed to accommodate 1,700 students and staff and offering 40 courses from journalism, animation and TV documentary-making, to technology-based programmes. It has also recently signed a sponsorship deal with the Salford City Reds: their logo will be the main sponsor on the kit from the start of the 2012 season, providing additional branding for the media complex throughout the new £26m Salford Community Stadium. MD for MediaCityUk has said that he is “thrilled” with the deal.
MediaCityUK has already played host to a range of events, including the Manchester International Festival, Rugby League World Cup Launch and the BBC Philharmonic Presents festival.
Those involved on the project have hit back at criticism levelled at MediaCityUK – the striking architectural design has been put forward for a Carbuncle Cup, an award for the ‘worst new building of the year’, whilst documents drawn up by BBC managers express the concern that ‘the move north ‘could turn out to be an £877m white elephant responsible for a decline in programme quality’. Peter Salmon has urged the critics to: “take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to stop their hectoring and begin to embrace a future that isn’t London-centric.”