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Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom, BBC Two review - winners and losers as Manchester becomes Manc-hattan | reviews, news & interviews

Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom, BBC Two review - winners and losers as Manchester becomes Manc-hattan

Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom, BBC Two review - winners and losers as Manchester becomes Manc-hattan

Developers and investors are driving the locals out of town

Christina Hughes, victim of soaring property prices

“Manctopia” sounds like a blissed-out buzzword from the golden years of New Order and Happy Mondays, but in this four-part series (BBC Two) it’s used to describe the explosive redevelopment of Manchester.

“Manctopia” sounds like a blissed-out buzzword from the golden years of New Order and Happy Mondays, but in this four-part series (BBC Two) it’s used to describe the explosive redevelopment of Manchester. One of the fastest growing cities in Europe, it has been experiencing a sci-fi-like eruption of skyscrapers and upscale residential properties, and with London prices at astronomical levels, Manchester has been delighting property investors with its lucrative returns. Salford's burgeoning MediaCityUK, now the second home of the BBC, has been a further signifier of the city’s rising prestige.

But evidently the series was made before the coronavirus upended the planet, so watching it felt like straying into a nostalgic counterfactual universe where face-masks and quarantines never existed. Will there still be a Manctopia boom when the virus eventually abates? Were the BBC only showing it at this not-very-appropriate moment because they’re running short of material? (pictured below, Manchester's new skyline).

Still, the stories of individual Mancunians affected by the city’s progress were real enough. Christina Hughes had been living with her two children in a three-bedroom house in Salford, but as property values soared and landlords raised their rents, she was served with an eviction notice. She soon found herself enmeshed in the tortuous tendrils of Salford Home Search, where applicants have to bid for available properties online while their suitability is assessed by a complicated points system.

At least she was better off than Richard and Michael, whose personal problems had forced them into Salford’s Narrowgate Shelter for rough sleepers. “You don’t get any better at a place like this, you get institutionalised,” Richard reflected, so it was fortunate that he was able to move into a one-bedroom flat, albeit temporarily.

At the other end of the scale was estate agent Jennie Platt. She was spending most of her time trying to find a city-centre apartment for her client Helen, a fashion stylist who reckoned she needed two rooms exclusively for her clothes, shoes and handbags. However, nothing palatial enough had yet been built.

Perhaps property developer Tim Heatley might oblige, since he’s in the middle of creating the “Piccadilly East” development, a grandiose project to beatify a former red-light district. Seemingly, Tim is that bizarre anomaly, a tycoon with a conscience, organising charity concerts to help the homeless and keen that his dwellings should nurture a sense of community. So as not to look too flash, he restricts himself to driving a humble Mercedes hatchback.

As this series shows, the Mancunian miracle is likely to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the wider population. But with the pandemic tearing up all the old rules, all bets are off for the foreseeable future.

Manchester has been delighting property investors with its lucrative returns

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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