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The Origins of MediaCityUK: A Northern innovation renaissance

We are loving our new base at MediaCityUK, so much so that we have decided to write a series of articles on it. Here is the first of a weekly series.

“Our vision is for MediaCityUK to become a leading international hub for the creative and digital sectors – and a vibrant destination to work, live and play,” MediaCityUK

How Manchester has changed in recent years. What was once tagged as ‘Cottonopolis” and “Warehouse City” for being the world’s largest marketplace for cotton goods during the Victorian era, has transpired into a ‘smart city’, a hub for digital innovation to rival the media clusters in the likes of Singapore and Dubai. At the core of this vibrant urban metropolis, brimming with creativity, innovation and sustainability, is Salford’s impressive new development known as MediaCityUK.


Complete with waterside cafes, bars, restaurants and designed to accommodate more than 6,000 people, a trendy cultural flavour is beginning to flourish in Salford’s newest landmark.

But how exactly did this multi-use development site situated on the banks of Manchester Ship Canal in Salford begin? This blog will explore the fascinating origins of a property development project that effectively progressed Manchester from the seemingly eternal clutches of its industrial past to the forefront of digital innovation, inspiration and impulse.

BBC Manchester influenced vision for MediaCityUK

Much of the history of this shared creative community is owed to the BBC, which played a fundamental role in the origins of MediaCityUK.

Being its home since 1976, Manchester’s Oxford Road became synonymous as being the location of the BBC’s regional headquarters in the North West. When therefore the BBC signalled its intention
to move its site, the city’s well-established broadcasting landscape was rocked.

In 2003 news circulated that the BBC was considering moving whole departments and platforms of production from London to Manchester. Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, unveiled plans to relocate 1,800 jobs to Manchester in 2004. The move was justified by lower overheads in Manchester compared to London.

One question however remained: Where was the New Broadcasting Headquarters in the North West going to be located?

MediCityUK the concept is born


In August 2005, four potential sites were shortlisted by the Corporation – Salford Quays, another site in Salford and two in Manchester. By January 2006 four had become two and it was at this stage that the MediaCityUK concept was truly born.

It was decided the location would be an undeveloped site at Salford Quays Docks. The area was undergoing significant investment and was steadily growing as a residential and commercial centre.

According to MediaCity Planning Guidance, the vision of the emerging site was to:

“Create a significant new media city capable of competing on a global scale with developments in Copenhagen and Singapore.”

The same year, Salford City Council approved planning for a multi-use development on the Manchester Docks site. The development would include retail, residential, studio and office space.

A year later the governing body of the BBC consented to moving five of its departments – Learning, Sport, Children’s, Radio Five Live and Future Media and Technology – from London to Manchester.

Since then this stunning canal-side development has never looked back.

A two-phrase development

Construction for MediaCityUK began in 2007. The 81 hectare site is being developed by Peel Media, a private real estate, media transport and infrastructure investment company. The vast and ambitious redevelopment project is being developed in two phrases. The first phrase, the 36-acre site, was completed in 2011.

The second-phrase development is on-going and there is potential to use up to 200 acres of land over the next decade.


Providing “tangible opportunities” for the local community

From the word go, Salford City Council have been involved with the development of MediaCityUK and its transport infrastructure. As Salford Council admits, from the very beginning it saw the project as being an opportunity to make a real difference to the community and create “tangible opportunities” for residents. Asides creating an accessible tourist, investor and employment destination, Salford City Council views MediaCityUK as a catalyst to “raise the profile of Salford, to raise aspirations and to create job opportunities for local residents.”

MediaCityUK might have transformed Salford Quays’ visionary vista but it is only really the latest reincarnation of a city that has, since the Industrial Revolution, been at the vanguard of innovation and progression.

Manchester propelled itself onto the global stage for being at the forefront of the Victorian era’s industrial boom but now there’s a new business revolution uprising in this northern city. Thanks to MediaCityUK in Salford, Manchester has the chance to shine on the worldwide stage of pioneering commerce once more. Although instead of cotton mills, warehouses and container ships, this time round it is state-of-the-art architecture, chic piazzas and the largest high definition studio in Europe.

It’s safe to say, with the arrival of MediaCityUK, there’s exciting times ahead for Manchester.

Stay poised for next week’s blog in our series of MediaCityUK articles where we will look at ITV’s presence in one of the UK’s biggest urban regeneration projects.

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