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Contractor appointed for new apartment block

The growth in Manchester's apartment market has been extraordinary in recent years. With the city having the highest growth rate in England outside London in the decade up to the 2011 census, the need for more housing has been obvious. With that has come a strong focus on the building of apartments in the central Manchester area.

Not all the new building has been of this kind, of course, with new housing being built in suburban areas too, and even a small amount of council house-building. Apartment blocks have also been appearing around Metrolink stations as the tram system has expanded. 

Nonetheless, the greatest focus has been on building in and around the city centre. The trend dates back to the 1990s, starting from a situation where there were extremely few residential dwellings in the heart of the city and just a few hundred residents, through to the current situation where tens of thousands live in the centre and further projected increases have led to the City Centre ward being virtually split in two in the latest boundary changes. 

All this has brought plenty of work for the construction industry, insulation fitters and plumbers, who have been installing thousands of shower units and providing waterproofing for cellars and basements where necessary, as well as in underground car parks for some of the new residential blocks.

The latest project has just taken a step forward with the appointment of Graham Construction to deliver the £28 million Weaver's Quay private rental scheme (PRS) project in Ancoats, just east of the city centre. This 201-unit block is the sixth and final development in the first phase of the Manchester Life scheme, with work set to start just as the first block is completed next month. The Manchester Life development will eventually bring 1,000 homes to the area. 

Discussing the project, Graham Construction's regional director Gary Hughes said: "This contract demonstrates Graham’s expertise in delivering high-quality large-scale residential projects.

"We've established a strong reputation in the sector and bringing forward this second project with Manchester Life is a testament to that. Manchester’s private rental sector is thriving, and Ancoats is one of the city’s key development areas."

The transformation of Ancoats has been part of a wider trend in which the building of new homes has spread well beyond the city centre into neighbouring districts. Once an area known as 'Little Italy' until the First World War (when Italians were interned due to their country initially allying with the central powers), the area was at the heart of Manchester's industrial might in its heyday. Decline left its mills and canalside wharves derelict, but its proximity to the city centre has prompted massive redevelopment in recent years. 

While much of this work has seen old mills and warehouses being given a new lease of life as apartment blocks, offices or leisure facilities, there have also been many developments from scratch on brownfield land. Indeed, the Weaver's Quay project is one of them. 

A large part of Ancoats has been rechristened New Islington, a name that grated with some for its apparently Londonesque moniker - although the area actually had a New Islington Hall in the 19th century. The district has seen a large number of new apartment blocks and towers being built either side of the Ashton and Rochdale Canals that run through it. In addition, individual houses and even some self-built properties have emerged, while the area has its own station on the Metrolink line through the east of the city to Ashton.

The Weaver's Quay project is, therefore, part of an ongoing expansion of Ancoats. There are likely to be many more as the city's population continues to soar.