Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Beth Abbit

The Mancunian Way: Made of stone

Keep up to date with all the big stories from across Greater Manchester in the daily Mancunian Way newsletter. You can receive the newsletter direct to your inbox every weekday by signing up right here.

Here is today's Mancunian Way:


It’s the largest investment in a national cultural project since the opening of Tate Modern - but the Factory International project is not without its problems. It’s well over budget and Manchester Council may need to take out a loan to finance it further.

Meanwhile, workers renovating Manchester town hall may also need more cash to finish the job. It's been a pricey endeavour already and it’s getting more expensive as inflation and an increase in material costs is exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. If that wasn't enough, the council might have to reopen a Yorkshire quarry to source the distinctive Spinkwell sandstone which has been ordered for use by heritage chiefs.

We’ll be discussing both projects in today’s newsletter.

Over budget

(Manchester City Council)

It’s been described as a ‘once-in-a-century’ opportunity - the chance to repair, restore and safeguard the Grade-I listed Victorian neo-gothic Manchester Town Hall. The £325m restoration project has been underway for two years with specialist work to the historic building recognised by Historic England, the Victorian Society and the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme.

But councillors have now been told the worst case scenario would be a £17m overspend to complete the project - which is set to end in June 2024, but is likely to overrun. The rising cost of materials paired with ‘discoveries’ as work progresses mean the budget is under ‘significant pressure’.

Among the issues faced is a lack of the specific stone needed to make repairs. The Cumbrian quarry which supplies the materials has run dry, so the council is in talks about reopening a quarry in Bradford - but it would take 15 weeks to extract.

No further funding is being requested at this stage and almost £4m worth of savings have already been identified. But Labour councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for finance at Manchester Council, says it's important to be ‘clear-sighted on the budget pressures’.

(Manchester City Council)

Meanwhile, down the road, off Quay Street, construction workers are dealing with similar problems at the new Factory International arts centre.

The all-singing-all-dancing new building is due to open for the Manchester International Festival next June, with an official opening event directed by Danny Boyle in the autumn. But it’s also going well over budget thanks to rising construction costs, inflation and workforce shortages.

Most of the funding for this project comes from the government and Arts Council England but an extra £25.2m is needed to finish it, taking the total spend to £210.8m - almost double what was budgeted for before work started.

A look behind the scenes at Factory International (Pawel Paniczko)

Local democracy reporter Joseph Timan reports that Manchester Council - which has so far stumped up £55.4m for the scheme - is now considering borrowing cash to finance it further. Of the £25.2m required, £10m will be funded from the council's capital budget, with the remaining £15.2m to be borrowed and underwritten by the town hall.

The local authority will also underwrite Manchester International Festival’s increased costs for the fit out of the building which is 'critical for the venue to operate', but has inevitably been driven by up to £7.8m due to soaring inflation.

The Factory arts centre in Manchester, under construction (Pawel Paniczko)

Located in the rapidly developing new St John's neighbourhood near the site of the former Granada Studios, Factory is anticipated to attract up to 1.15m visitors a year and will be the permanent home of Manchester International Festival.

Local leaders hope the site will strengthen Manchester’s role as a centre for culture, creativity and innovation and boost the economy with up to 1,500 jobs and an estimated £1.1bn over a decade.

Frustration as moors search continues

Officers from Greater Manchester Police continue a search on Saddleworth Moor (PA)

Keith Bennett’s brother has expressed frustration that information passed to police from an amateur sleuth hasn’t resulted in the discovery of the child’s remains. Keith, 12, was one of five victims of killers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. He vanished on June 16th 1964 and his body has never been found.

As crime reporter John Scheerhout writes, the latest excavation began when author Edward Russell showed police pictures of what was described as part of a jaw bone, after working with a team of experts to try to find Keith's remains. Police have dug 3ft down in the immediate area identified by Mr Russell and then several metres beyond that.

Keith's brother Alan Bennett today posted to Facebook thanking the Cold Case and Forensic teams for their efforts, but suggested Mr Russell could return to the moors to help police find the precise location.

"Just to be clear about this. I'm not saying there is nothing there, what I will say is that I, and many others are confused, to say the very least,” he wrote.

Action in wake of allegations

Student nurses have been withdrawn from placements at a mental health unit at the centre of a police investigation.

Officers are looking into claims, made during a BBC Panorama programme, that patients at The Edenfield Centre in the grounds of the former Prestwich Hospital were allegedly abused. Neal Keeling reports that 20 staff members from the adult secure unit have been suspended after an undercover reporter was embedded in the unit from March to June.

Now the University of Salford has moved students to alternative placements. A University of Salford spokesperson said: “Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust provides placements for a number of universities and across professions. All of our students who were on placement or due to attend placement at the Edenfield Centre are now being moved to alternatives. The wellbeing of our students is our top priority, and we have been in touch with all affected students to offer support.”

Block the Block

Controversial plans for a 13-storey tower of student accommodation have been scaled down following objections from campaigners.

The block was set to be built on the site of the old Gamecock pub, in Hulme, but was rejected by the planning committee in May. Developer Curlew has now offered to remove three storeys from the proposed block, reducing the number of students it would accommodate to under 200.

Members of the community protest against the proposed building (Kenny Brown)

But protest group Block the Block are working with architects to come up with an alternative proposal for the site, which could include some form of housing. One member of the group suggested the ideal development would be social housing or an age-friendly scheme.

Curlew has offered to create a community hub in the ground floor of the student block, but campaigners say residents wouldn’t use such a facility.

Sign up to The Mancunian Way

Has a friend forwarded you this edition of The Mancunian Way? You can sign up to receive the latest email newsletter direct to your inbox every weekday by clicking on this link.

Weather etc

  • Wednesday: Heavy rain changing to partly cloudy by nighttime. 16C.
  • Road closures: A57 Eccles New Road Eastbound for roadworks from Gilda Brook Road to Stott Lane until October 8. A57 Snake Pass in both directions for roadworks between Ladybower Reservoir and Hurst Road until October 23.
  • Trivia question: Which popular BBC 2 series is still filmed at Granada Studios?

Manchester headlines

Costs: Rebekah Vardy will have to pay an estimated £1.5 million towards Coleen Rooney’s legal costs following their ‘Wagatha Christie’ High Court libel battle. Mrs Vardy, 40, lost her high-profile libel claim against Mrs Rooney, 36, in July when Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that Mrs Rooney’s viral social media post accusing Mrs Vardy of leaking her private information to the press was ‘substantially true’. A judge has ruled that Mrs Vardy should pay 90 percent of Mrs Rooney’s costs.

Rise: The number of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 has jumped 51 per cent in a week in Greater Manchester. A total of 207 patients tested positive for the virus in the week to September 26, up from 137 the week before. It’s the biggest jump in admissions since the peak of the last wave, which saw 784 people admitted in the week ending July 10.

Lowry: Salford’s mayor, Paul Dennett, wants a temporary export ban to prevent LS Lowry’s ‘Going to the Match’ artwork from leaving the country. The painting is due to go to auction later this month and is expected to fetch up to £8m. “We need to do all we can to save this critical and important LS Lowry painting for people to access free here in Salford,” the mayor said.

Worth a read

During Mahboobeh Rajabi’s first encounter with the morality police in her home country of Iran, she was dragged off the street by her head. She was just 14.

The teenager and her friend were stopped by the Guidance Police over concerns their hijabs were not being worn correctly.

Mahboobeh left Iran at the age of 21, fearing her job as an artist would see her persecuted by the government. Now living in Manchester, she has spoken to reporter Sophie Halle-Richards about the oppression of women and girls in her home country.

That's all for today

Thanks for joining me. If you have stories you would like us to look into, email

If you have enjoyed this newsletter today, why not tell a friend how to sign up?

The answer to today's trivia question is: Dragon's Den

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.