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Student flats project set to start with phase 1 deal signing

The construction of student accommodation has been a major growth area for the construction sector, and not just builders dealing in cranes, bricks and mortar. Each new student block means work for insulation fitters as well as those providing waterproofing for showers and basements.

All that will be the case again at Manchester University's Owen Park Campus, but on a spectacular scale. Rather than a few dozen or even a few hundred student rooms being built as in other projects, the redevelopment of the site will see no less than 3,000 rooms being created. Some older existing rooms will make way for this, notably the 200 ft high Owen's Park Tower, which dates from the 1960s and is a major landmark in the Fallowfield area of the city.

In some ways, the project is almost too big; it certainly got that way when original bids for the project came in well over tender and the whole process had to be restarted. Now, however, the university has been able to announce that Carillon has become the preferred bidder for the first phase of the project, in which it will design and build blocks holding 1,122 rooms, along with a new energy centre and community hubs.

Most of the blocks will be four storeys in height, with ten rooms and a kitchen on each floor. The first phase is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019, in time for the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

Following this will be the second and third phases of the ten-year project, which will do much to transform the district, long-established as a major student area in the city.

Commenting on the contract deal, Carillion chief executive Richard Howson said: "Being selected for this project reflects our reputation for delivering to high standards of quality and health and safety and our ability to design and deliver sustainable solutions for our customers.  

"We look forward to working with the university to deliver phase one of the Fallowfield Student Residences project to support its objective of providing an excellent student experience."

Close to Owen's Park, more insulation work will soon be taking place as a result of the divestment of another part of the Fallowfield university scene, the former Hollins Faculty formerly owned by Manchester Metropolitan University. Like the Owen's Park Tower, this is a 1960s building, with its distinctive design earning it the nickname 'The Toast Rack'. Unlike the tower, however, it will not be demolished. Instead, it is being converted into 210 luxury apartments, with work now underway.

The Owen's Park project may not be the only major Manchester construction project that Carillon is involved in over the next couple of years. The firm's subsidiary Ask Real Estate has submitted a planning application to build a 750, 000 sq ft city centre scheme, which will include a 40-storey, 452 ft high residential tower containing 375 apartments and a 14-storey office block.

If permission is granted for the £300 million scheme, the residential building will be located next to the Beetham Tower, currently the tallest in the city, on a podium over the Manchester Central goods yard, which will need to remain in operation throughout the construction work.

The scheme would also involve removing a bridge to allow more natural light to filter down to Great Bridgewater Street for the benefit of pedestrians below.