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Manchester Council hits back at proposed arena criticism

Manchester City Council has responded to a report on the proposed new 20,000-capacity out-of-town venue which claims Manchester cannot sustain two large-scale arenas.

The independent study from accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton UK concluded that the second venue near the Etihad Campus would have a “devastating impact” on businesses close to the existing Manchester Arena and could put 2,200 jobs at risk.

The latest Eastlands Regeneration Framework blueprint, published in March and out for consultation until tomorrow (Wednesday), formally confirms plans for a new indoor arena, with investors said to be already drawing up a “detailed business case”.

The council said the framework is a “high level overview setting out an overall vision for the area, not the specific set of proposals which some are choosing to see it as.”

Rob Turner, director at Grant Thornton UK, which reviewed nine large-scale arenas in the UK, said Manchester Arena, the 21,000-capacity arena in the centre of Manchester, makes a “significant contribution” to the area and helps to “stimulate the local economy.”

He added: “Our analysis shows that a new out-of-town arena would put this at risk and have a knock-on effect to the success of the city centre as visitors are pulled away and spending levels decrease.”

The report also found that most UK arenas only had one or two other such venues within a 60-minute drive, while Manchester already has three.

The council said in response that it sees a “range of possible destination uses” on the Etihad Campus in East Manchester.

It continued, in a statement reported by ITV: “An arena, alongside other development options, is being explored as part of the overall vision for the area because Eastlands has been identified as a potentially viable location for such a use. The framework is a high level overview setting out an overall vision for the area, not the specific set of proposals which some are choosing to see it as.

“Like all of our strategic plans, it’s about looking at ways we can grow the success of the city – attracting visitors, jobs and investment which otherwise wouldn’t be here, not boosting one area at the expense of another.

“Supporting and growing Manchester’s thriving visitor economy is a key objective for the city. Recent events such as the World Cup cricket games at Old Trafford and the Metallica concert at the Etihad demonstrate how such events contribute significantly to the city centre.

“Should a decision be taken to pursue an arena, then this will be determined through the normal planning process following further consultation with residents and other interested parties.”

Earlier this month, John Sharkey, executive vice president of European operations at SMG, which runs the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, said that the city can’t sustain another arena of this size.

Sharkey said it would “only be a matter of time” before the competition of two 20,000-seat arenas in the city forces the Manchester Arena under.

The executive also claims that the council unofficially agreed the plan behind closed doors in the belief that “they know best for Manchester.”

Image: Matthew Hartly