Design & Development

Co-op Live licence application met with opposition

Featured image credit: Co-op Live

Co-op Live’s application for a licence that would allow operating hours to extend until the early hours of the morning has drawn strong opposition from local councillors, who claim the move is not in the “spirit of the relationship” that has been developed between both sides.

Co-op Live, a Populous project, is a joint venture between Oak View Group (OVG) and City Football Group (CFG) and will be the UK’s largest live entertainment arena when it opens in Manchester in April.

Located adjacent to Etihad Stadium, the home of Premier League football club Manchester City, the Manchester Evening News (MEN) has now reported that a new licence application seeks permission to keep the venue open until 4:30am (GMT) for ‘Co-op Live Events’ and until 5am for ‘Non-Co-op Live Events’.

Additionally, the licence application is said to seek permission to sell alcohol until 4am for ‘Co-op Live Events’, but on unrestricted hours for the latter category. If granted, the licence would also allocate 12 opportunities for the arena to stay open for 24 hours on ‘Co-op Live events’, described as ‘essentially large-scale events in the auditorium bowl’.

‘Non-Co-op Live Events’ are defined as ‘activities in non-bowl areas of the premises and/or for smaller scale events in the bowl’. Co-op Live sits within the Ancoats and Beswick ward of Manchester, but is close to the border with the Clayton & Openshaw ward, and Miles Platting & Newton Heath. This means that nine councillors have been engaged in talks over the project.

Of these nine, the MEN reports that the seven Labour councillors have submitted a joint objection, with the two Liberal Democrat representatives said to be considering their position. Irene Robinson, a Labour Ancoats & Beswick councillor, said: “The licence application we received is not suitable for residents – especially those living on the Grey Mare Lane estate. I’ve made this clear to Co-op Live that it’s not in the spirit of the relationship we have built up with them.

“I, along with my Clayton and Openshaw (and) Miles Platting and Newton Heath councillors, met in person with them and are confident they understand what we need. We’ll be meeting in the coming weeks to get a resolution which will benefit residents and keep in (mind) the nature of the relationship with community and councillors. I’m committed to making sure what is next works for our residents.”

Alan Good, a Liberal Democrat councillor in the ward, added: “We already know match days and Etihad (Stadium) concerts can be disruptive to nearby residents and we demanded a meeting with the arena operators to understand what their plans are.

“We stressed the importance of being a good neighbour to the operators, especially when it comes to the noise associated with late night finishes, not only in Beswick but along the walking route back to the city centre. The operators have listened to our feedback and we will continue to have an open dialogue to make sure they live up to their good neighbour commitments.”

The desire for late opening hours is believed to stem from a need for operational flexibility when it comes to staging events like boxing, which would require a later start to accommodate the US television audience. However, councillors are also said to be concerned over transport arrangements for fans at such late hours.

In response, Gary Roden, executive director and general manager of Co-op Live, said: “Co-op Live continues to fully engage with local councillors and residents, and to listen to feedback raised.

“We are committed to being a good neighbour, implementing comprehensive schemes to minimise impact from noise and parking, and to work collaboratively to maximise the venue’s benefit to Manchester and beyond.

“We were delighted to welcome councillors and residents to the site last week, to show them how the construction is progressing, and we will continue to work closely with all stakeholders throughout the licence application process.”

The first seats at the 23,500-capacity venue were installed in October, while it welcomed the first guests to its main bowl in July as it held a ‘topping out’ ceremony attended by partners, venue stakeholders and premium guests, marking the final stage of roof construction.

In June, it was disclosed that the opening date had been pushed back to April 2024, having previously been expected to be ready by the end of this year. Co-op Live is being built at a cost of £365m (€425.8m/$459.2m) and is scheduled to host over 120 shows annually.

Redcar set for new arena

In other UK venue news, the English town of Redcar appears poised to receive a new arena.

Following months of what it describes as “detailed negotiations”, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council has agreed an option to lease the former Coatham Bowl site to Coatham Arena Limited (CAL) for the development of a 5,000-capacity multi-purpose indoor arena.

The new arena is intended to occupy the seafront site once home to the renowned Coatham Bowl which operated for 40 years before it was demolished in 2014. The plans outline that Coatham Arena will provide “state-of-the-art accommodation” for elite entertainment, sporting, conference, exhibition and social events all-year-round, with the building also featuring a “permanent and unique visitor attraction”.

The £70m project is to be privately funded with the Council receiving an annual rent, business rates and other income.

CAL Chairman, Frankie Wales, said: “Our agreement with the Council provides the foundation for the granting of a 125-year lease option on the land and is tremendous news for Redcar and the wider region.

“It is welcomed by our many supporters, local businesses and the events industry and allows us to now move forward with a detailed planning application in the expectation it will open by 2028.”

Council Leader, Councillor Alec Brown, added: “Our administration promised to support this project and we now have seen it through to a successful agreement on terms for leasing the land.

“The success of this project means securing hundreds of jobs and thousands of visitors to the area, providing a huge boost to our local economy which, research shows, is forecast to be worth over £42m a year.”

Plans for a new 5,000-capacity multi-purpose arena were previously scrapped back in February 2022 after the local council revealed that it “couldn’t wait any longer” to start regenerating the site on which the venue was proposed.