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Green light for new Manchester Arena

Oak View Group’s plans to develop a state-of-the-art arena in East Manchester have been given the green light by Manchester City Council.

The arena, which will have a maximum capacity of 23,500, making it the UK’s largest, will bring £350 million of private investment to the city.

Following final confirmation from national planning authorities, OVG plans to begin work as early as November, bringing 3,350 jobs during a three-year construction phase.

The arena will create a further 1,000 jobs when the it opens, which is projected to happen in 2023. OVG has committed to pay all employees at least the Manchester Living Wage and will prioritise hiring local people.

Manchester has historically been a world-leader for entertainment, with an iconic reputation for music, sport and culture, but in recent years it has missed out on some of the world’s greatest events and is losing market share to other UK cities as they surged ahead with ambitious plans for new arenas.

OVG has demonstrated that demand is there in the regional catchment to put Manchester back at the forefront of live entertainment.

As part of the planning application, OVG commissioned independent research that indicated the arena will drive up to £1.5 billion extra activity in the city’s economy. Further research showed that Manchester’s live entertainment market has the potential for an extra 2.05 million visitors by 2035.

Manchester city centre is predicted to receive £95 million of the total audience spend of £165 million by visitors to the two arenas.

Restaurants and bars in the city centre will experience an uplift of £25 million from the operation of two arenas, with retail outlets capturing a £28 million increase.

Hotels and overnight accommodation in the city centre will benefit from £35 million extra spending. All of this represents a doubling of the expenditure by arena audiences for city centre businesses, OVG says.

Proposals for the new venue at a site on the Etihad Campus were submitted in March following in-depth consultation with the local community. The final plans were shaped by community feedback and since then the project has received support from a wide cross-section of local stakeholders including local companies, MPs, ward councillors and a range of city centre businesses.

Tim Leiweke, OVG’s co-founder and Chief Executive, said:

We’re delighted that Manchester City Council has given our proposals the go-ahead, and we can’t wait to get started, bringing a £350 million private investment, creating thousands of jobs, and delivering one of the world’s best arenas to this amazing city.

I want to say a huge thank you to the community for taking the time to listen to what we had to say and providing feedback that ensured this arena is of Manchester, for Manchester and by Manchester.

Councillor Pat Karney, City Centre Spokesperson, said:

Today’s decision is about confidence in our city, Greater Manchester and the North West. It is about new employment and training opportunities for thousands across East Manchester and beyond at a time when they are badly needed. The city centre, our communities and the wider city will be strengthened by our newest neighbour – Oak View Group Manchester. This is the next chapter in East Manchester’s regeneration.

The new arena will be a best-in-class sustainable venue, with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low carbon technologies integral to the design. During operation, the venue will benefit from the excellent existing transport links to the Etihad Campus. OVG has committed to investing in improving walking and cycling routes, as well as funding an expanded Controlled Parking Zone to minimise disruption for local residents.

Construction of the venue is anticipated to begin in November, with events projected to commence in 2023.

ASM Global, operators of Manchester Arena reacted to the decision with dismay. The company said in a statement:

We are, of course, wholly disappointed in today’s decision, which we feel completely negates the concerns of both ourselves and many key city centre stakeholders. These concerns are backed by compelling evidence that shows there is simply no market for a second major arena in Manchester.

 This decision will have a significantly adverse impact for our existing arena, and the wider city centre businesses and attractions it supports. Clear evidence has been presented on multiple occasions that demonstrates the application for an Eastlands Arena relies on flawed research, impossible market projections, is in defiance of national and local policy, and does not align with the adopted Core Strategy to support sustainable growth in the city. Why then has it been so readily approved?

 Fundamental questions remain as to whether this is truly the right choice for Manchester, particularly in the current climate. Despite the initial plans for the area, starting with the 2017 Eastlands Regeneration Framework, emphasising any proposals should complement the city centre offer, we firmly believe, and are supported in analysis from the likes of Charles River Associates, Oxford Economics and Grant Thornton, that this second arena will instead pull visitors, footfall and spend away from the city centre. It also places plans to redevelop and transform Manchester Arena – currently submitted for approval and supported by over 7,000 in Greater Manchester – in jeopardy. There is simply no business case to support a significant investment if the market is halved.

 We are considering our position, and will review all options to ensure the future of Manchester Arena, and our city centre economy, is secured, despite the pressures posed by the approval of this application.