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Developer floats idea of building on the water
Mon 15th Dec 08 - 7:57

Published in this week's Crain's Manchester Business is an article on Floating Concepts.

Developer floats idea of building on the water

Floating Concepts in talks to lease 4.5 acres of Salford Quays water

A company that wants to put office developments on Greater Manchester's waterways is hoping to push the boat out in Salford Quays.

Floating Concepts Ltd, based in Manchester, is negotiating for a 150-year lease on 4.5 acres of water near Dock 6 on South Bay, Clippers Quay, near the Copthorne Hotel.

The privately-owned company is 18 months into an 11-year distribution deal with Danish firm Waterliving, which builds and sells modular houseboats for residential and business purposes.

David Beard, chief executive, plans to move from his current base in City Gate on Castlefield to his floating 1,100 sq ft home office on Salford Quays when it arrives from Denmark in January.

Beard, who has a majority shareholding in Floating Concepts, also plans to submit a planning application next year for a mixed-use scheme and is currently working through potential designs with architects.

“It's difficult to buy a batch of water,” he said. “There's no real national design policy for water, so it's a challenge for planners and architects.

“There's a lot of water space in the UK, but it needs something more imaginative than a barge,” he said. “Salford Quays is an obvious choice for a development and it could fit in with what is going on at Media City.”

The stretch of water under negotiation is owned by Altrincham-based property developer Urban Waterside.

The structures are built on floating concrete foundations and held in place by steel supports and lateral piles. Beard said they could hold offices, shops, exhibition spaces, or even a hotel. “Some have been used as floating dive centres or even floating car parks,” he said.

Beard said costs are similar to a land-based commercial development, although infrastructure costs would be higher. “There will be access works to pay for, but not mass excavation,” he said.

Planning application

“But we want to work with the local authority — we would give them the head lease and give the under lease to occupiers. We would manage the scheme. We would want to control the development but the principles are the same as on land.

“We're working up a planning application and will have more of an idea of what it might look like in the next six months. But we want to float some of the car parking out to the middle of the dock and use a deck on top as visitor space, with some A3 use.

“There are 12 different models ready to go that we can churn out as needed, really.”

Paul Patton, managing director of Impact Media, which is based in Ancoats near the Rochdale Canal, said the concept of floating offices could catch on, especially in the creative and media sectors.

“It sounds quirky. I can see why it would appeal to media companies,” he said. “It's all about putting people in a creative environment.

“It's an innovative idea and Manchester needs diverse working environments. Nobody is making new land, so it makes sense to capitalise on water in good locations.

“For me, the idea of working on or next to water would be appealing and it would be really good in summer — you could go for a dip with your colleagues.”




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