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02 Aug 2021

Blog: Peel L&P’s James Whittaker on Embassy Village

With plans for Embassy Village now approved by Manchester City Council, Peel L&P’s Executive Director James Whittaker reveals more about the project and how Peel L&P is helping to create a new community to help Manchester’s homeless.

What is Embassy Village?

It’s a partnership approach to tackling homelessness. It will create a housing-led community in Manchester for homeless and vulnerable men by building 40 modular homes under a series of railway arches in the St George’s island area of Manchester city centre. The village will be run by charity and housing provider Embassy and will provide wrap around support to help re-integrate people back into society.

How is Peel L&P involved in Embassy Village and why is it such an important project?

Rough sleeping tends to be concentrated in cities and there is a significant amount of homeless people in Greater Manchester, so we wanted to use our land holdings and experience to help create a project that offers a more permanent solution.

We initiated the idea of using our redundant arches in the St George’s island area to bring forward a permanent homeless village but in collaboration with the business community in pulling together a sustainable scheme properly managed to really make a difference. We started discussions with Embassy, a homeless charity, about this scheme. Embassy had previously operated the renowned Embassy Bus project and we considered them to be the ideal partner to manage and operate the homeless village community.

We agreed to provide the land rent free on a long-term lease and brought in partners, including fellow developer Capital & Centric, together with the amazing pro-bono support of the Manchester business community to bring the project to life.

Everyone worked incredibly hard to bring forward the vision into a formal planning proposal, considering the public’s feedback following a consultation. We’re proud of the collaborative effort to make it happen in such a short amount of time to support those most vulnerable within the, unfortunately increasing, homeless community across the city.

Embassy Village will help many people break the cycle of homelessness. It’s not a shelter; residents will be renting and Embassy’s wrap around support and training will help men to find employment and permanent housing.

Why this particular site?

We acquired the land under the arches from Network Rail more than 15 years ago with the aim to transform the space for a special project with wider social benefits.

The arches sit very close to our Manchester Waters development where we’re building a new sustainable mixed-use community around Pomona Island and Cornbrook Metrolink, creating thousands of new homes and hundreds of jobs.

Some 11 acres of open space and canal side cycle routes and footpaths with also improve connectivity to Manchester city centre and MediaCityUK at Salford Quays, all of which will be a great benefit to Embassy Village and its residents. The proximity to the city centre is also a good base for Embassy Village to reach out to people who need their support.

The arches also lend themselves well to a modular style of home and over the past 10 years or so we’ve really seen modern method of constructions in homebuilding come to the fore. We’re building 347 modular homes at our Wirral Waters development as part of a joint venture with Urban Splash and it’s these advancements in technology and partnerships that help you to realise what’s possible for other projects. Our experience teamed with the fantastic business community in Manchester has enabled us to transform our vision into a reality, which will greatly enhance the provision of housing and support for Manchester’s homeless community.

Have you ever supported a homelessness project before and what would happen to Peel L&P’s support once Embassy Village was built?

As a regeneration business, we’re responsible for some of the most transformational projects across the UK and we’re keen to create long-lasting benefits to communities, the environment and the economy in everything we do.

We support many charities each year, however we’ve never directly worked on a homelessness project before and it is something we’ve always wanted to do, to create better outcomes for society.

Our commitment to Embassy Village is long-term. As well as providing the land for the village to be built, we will continue to work with Embassy to ensure the lease is well-managed and that the land remains in use for the greater good of the community in many years to come.

We’ll also be closely considering how our many business areas and employees can add further value to the project, whether it be through charity days, or training and employment opportunities for Embassy Village residents.

More about Embassy Village.