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What effect has HS2 had on Manchester?

  1. 23 May 2017
  2. By Rosie Rogers

reallymoving.com analyses the impact of HS2 on Manchester's property market. 


In a previous blog we looked at the impact HS2 is having – and could have in the future – on the property market in Leeds. In this piece we focus on another major Northern city, Manchester, and how Phase Two of HS2 might affect the housing market in one of the UK’s major metropolises. 
As we outlined last time, HS2 has been beset by delays, complications, protests, strong opposition and question marks over its cost and viability since it was first announced by the Labour government in 2009. 

Work is set to start at some point this year, but with major distractions – not least June’s snap general election and ongoing uncertainty over Brexit – it seems unlikely that construction of the ambitious, nationwide line will begin anytime soon. It wasn’t set to reach Birmingham until 2026, even under the best case scenario, with the line then linking to Manchester on the western section and Leeds on the eastern section by 2033, so it’s still very much up in the air as to when exactly HS2 will arrive in Manchester, if at all.

However, the will is definitely there from the city to bring HS2 to fruition, improving transport links drastically to Birmingham, London and other major parts of the North. One of the original reasons for the scheme was to bridge the gap between north and south, to bring jobs, prosperity, investment, homes and economic growth to cities other than London. The Northern Powerhouse agenda formed a key part of the Cameron-Osborne administration, with Manchester one of the focal points for this resurgence of the North, leading the challenge – along with Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield – against London’s dominance. 

Manchester has undergone significant regeneration works in recent years and is now seen by some as the UK’s Second City, a position typically held by Birmingham. It is home to two major universities, two of the country’s biggest football teams and one of the largest shopping centres in the UK in the form of the intu Trafford Centre. What’s more, it is renowned for science, engineering, technology, culture, music, architecture and transport links, with a long and proud industrial history best showcased by its integral role in the Industrial Revolution. 

In addition, nearby Salford has become one of the media capitals of the UK since the arrival of MediaCity UK in 2011, bringing with it jobs, investment and improved transport connections.

Manchester is, whichever way you paint it, a big, teeming, vibrant and cosmopolitan city which has the ability to compete with some of the biggest cities in the world. It has a thriving economy, will have its own Mayor (covering the whole of Greater Manchester) for the first time very shortly, and is often regarded as the beating heart of the so-called Northern Powerhouse. Where Manchester goes, others follow. 

This is why Manchester is set to form a key part of the HS2 route, connecting the northern regions and London on a greater scale than has ever been seen previously. Manchester is already famed for its wide-ranging transport links – trains, trams, buses and planes – and was the birthplace of the world’s first inter-city passenger railway and the world’s first-purpose built passenger and goods railway station. With the arrival of HS2, however, transport links would reach new heights, with a new station next to Manchester Piccadilly and a spur to ferry passengers to another new station at Manchester Airport.

Journey times from Manchester to London would be cut from 127 minutes (or over two hours) to just 67 minutes (or just over an hour) once HS2 is complete. This drastic reduction will mean commuting from Manchester to London will be faster than routes to the capital from Nottingham, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds. Two of the UK’s major cities will be better connected than at any other time in their history. 

All of this means, of course, that Manchester will also become a more appealing place to live. It’s already one of the most affordable cities in the UK – with prices for homes in the city centre generally cheaper than the outskirts, in what represents a role reversal of the situation in London. As such, first-time buyers, young professionals, commuters and families with young kids will be fighting more fiercely than ever for properties in the Manchester and Greater Manchester areas. 

Currently, Manchester has an overall average asking price of around £175,000, with flats by far the most popular type of property. This is perhaps a reflection of the city’s popularity among first-time buyers and young professionals, who are keen to live in smaller, more affordable abodes. 

Although Manchester is very affordable, prices have been rising in recent years. In the last decade prices have increased by 15% and in the last year alone prices have gone up by 8% on the year before. This isn’t purely down to HS2, but the prospect of it on the horizon definitely seems to be playing a role. 

While the city itself is very keen for the arrival of HS2, residents in neighbouring areas, particularly those who live in the countryside and would be most blighted by the construction of the line, are much less pleased. Parts of Greater Manchester will be greatly affected, with a number of buildings in Ardwick, a district of Manchester not far from the city centre, directly in the way of the proposed route. 

The government has previously confirmed that some 67 properties in Greater Manchester will need to be demolished to make way for the line, which includes residential properties in Hale Barns and a number of Cheshire villages. One of the Cheshire villages that is set to be on the western section of Phase Two is Rostherne, where prices have increased by 28% in the last year and are up by 14% on 2014. Significantly more expensive than Manchester and its suburbs, the average asking price is around £568,000, but will still have considerable appeal to wealthy buyers seeking a slice of Cheshire village life. Prices are set to continue increasing as HS2 gets closer.  

What’s more, plans are in place for a 7.9 mile, 45m deep tunnel to be dug from Wythenshawe to Ardwick as part of the HS2 project, which could cause issues for people with homes close to this. That said, house prices in Wythenshawe have been boosted by the prospect of HS2, rocketing by 11% in the last year and up by 20% on 2007 levels. Wythenshawe’s affordability (the average asking price is just over £160,000) and easy transport links to Manchester make it particularly popular among commuters and families. In addition, Ardwick has seen house prices rise by 16% in the last year and up by 9% in the last decade. 

Parts of the track are also set to be built above ground, but residents with homes beneath this part of the line will be unable to claim compensation unless they can prove that damage has occurred after construction.

While some homes are at risk, others come under HS2’s Safeguarding Zone, which allows owners of these properties – existing within 60m of the proposed route – to sell their homes to the government at full market value plus a 10% home loss fee. The government will also cover reasonable expenses, including stamp duty and removal costs

So, while Manchester itself is positively embracing the prospect of HS2 – despite its troubled, stuttering progress – there is bound to be plenty more opposition from local residents whose homes could be affected by the route.

Despite its troubles, the mere inkling of a major transport infrastructure project is enough to boost house prices. And Manchester is no different. It’s already a city that is in high demand; expect that demand to rise even higher if HS2 ever gets off the ground. 

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