Monday, 23 November 2009

More merger and intrigue

Crain's Manchester Business Review reports that Redrow is buying Harrow Estates, a company which was a major landowner in Cadishead.

Keeping track of who owns what is a tricky business when it comes to landownership. Owners are often absent from the local area, they hide behind a veil of holding companies, and exchange land like you or I might exchange currency when going on holiday. Some landowners, however, can be quite stubborn, holding onto sites for years in anticipation of selling the plot for greater value - 'hope value' as they say. Property developers may also take decades piecing together tiny parcels of land to assemble bigger plots before they decide to redevelop.

In Cadishead, the piece of land in question has changed hands frequently over the last 5 years - indicating how major investment companies may treat land as a commodity, as opposed say to piece of landscape invested with meaning and identity.

The site is located in Cadishead, forming part of the Northbank Industrial Estate, accessed by Hayes Road. There once was a tar distillery on the site, and as far as I can work out the site was once occupied by Clariant, who off-loaded the site to Bridgemere Properties, a Cheshire property investment company, in 2004. At some point the site passed into the hands of Harrow Estates who this month sold the site to Redrow Homes.

Clariant is a global chemical giant based in Switzerland. Although only formed in 1995, the company has a much longer history as Sandoz, originally a German textiles dyeing company dating back to 1863. Since 1995 Clariant have expanded through a series of acquisitions. They used the Cadishead site to store hydrocarbon chemicals, leading to a contamination threat to the local water system. Efforts to clean up the site were compromised by the construction of the Irlam and Cadishead by-pass, leading to Salford City Council having to compensate new owners Bridgemere (£225k) because the road construction compromised the existing remediation of the site.

Harrow are a major property development company, in some way connected to Bridgemere, but their website gives little away. Once the Environment Agency had passed the site as clean, the land was sold to Redrow, one of Britain's biggest house builders, a Welsh company formed in 1974.

I guess this final move pretty much reflects what has happened more generally in the British economy. A site once used to store oil and tar for industry is now derelict and was once contaminated. At great cost it has been cleaned and brought back into effective use - the very essence of urban regeneration. Now the site is primed for residential use, allocated for several hundred new properties as part of the Salford Unitary Development Plan.

However, with the credit crunch it is now longer clear what will happen. The site remains derelict - a muddied barrier between Cadishead Park and the waterfront of the Ship Canal.


Redrow buys owner of key East Manchester site -
Crain's Manchester Business
: "Clariant"

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