6 September 2018

When we first started out in Manchester and Liverpool over 25 years ago, urban living had largely lost its appeal – there were fewer than 200 people living in either of the city centres.

In areas like Park Hill in Sheffield, the Cardroom Estate in Manchester – now better known as New Islington – and Langworthy (now Chimney Pot Park) in Salford, by and large...

the people who could were voting with their feet and leaving. It was just a few hardcore tenants who remained, committed to fighting for their places and keeping their communities together.

Working with local councils, we helped curate a vision of re-urbanisation. The notion of urbanism wasn’t cool back then – the very word ‘urban’ had extremely negative connotations, hijacked by phrases like ‘urban decay’ and ‘urban blight’. We’re proud to have played our own small part in helping change that perception and making cities sexy again.

Over in Park Hill and New Islington, we promised all residents that they would be re-housed on similar terms, and we were able to work with Great Places Housing Group to make sure that happened. New Islington residents were even able to design their own homes.

We built Cotton Field Park, a boating marina and a new health centre in New Islington. We also worked in partnership with Manchester Grammar School to sponsor a new free school, which is now ranked outstanding by OFSTED, and we’ve brought many other developers in to work alongside us.

Our passion is building really beautiful and well-designed housing for everyone. That’s why we’re now developing modular housing – some of which can be found at New Islington. This allows us to bring down costs, meaning great homes are available to more people.

We’re also focused on creating vibrant, dynamic and diverse communities. I fundamentally believe that making great places to live is about mixing tenures, income levels and uses. The risk otherwise is that we create ghettos – either of very poor or very rich people – and that’s not what great places are about.

We’re hoping that as we expand our modular production and forge new partnerships with local authorities and housing associations, like our partnership with Places for People, we can continue to bring great homes and great communities to as many people as possible, at a price they can afford.

Tom Bloxham is speaking at a session on ‘Regeneration or gentrification?’ at the National Housing Summit on 19 September from 13.10 to 14.00.

We’ll also be discussing the role for housing associations in creating great places to live at our Great Places Commission drinks reception in the evening of 19 September. Please pre-register if you would like to attend my emailing events@housing.org.uk.

Tom Bloxham MBE

Tom Bloxham MBE is a British property developer and founder of urban renewal property development company Urban Splash

Following setting up a pub business, nightclub and radio station, Tom, along with Jonathan Falkingham, founded Urban Splash in 1993.

Urban Splash has developed over a billion pounds of regeneration projects across the country. As well as this, Tom chairs the Manchester International Festival and is a trustee of The Tate, Manchester United Foundation. His past roles include Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Chair of Arts Council NW, Chair of Centre of Cities Think Tank and Trustee of Big Issue in the North. Tom was awarded an MBE for services to architecture and urban regeneration in 1999 at the age of 35.

Making city living sexy again