BBC poised to create 'media city' in Salford

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The city of Salford has beaten Manchester, its neighbour and old foe, to pole position in the race to house BBC Sport, Children's BBC and Radio Five Live when they are relocated north.

The BBC indicated yesterday that the vast quayside space offered by Salford, Manchester's perennial poor relation, places it ahead. The announcement was greeted with delight and glee in Salford which, with the real prospect of Granada cashing in its prime central Manchester location and moving in alongside the BBC, may soon find itself home to the most important broadcasting hub outside London.

The result caps a remarkable transformation for the so-called "dirty old town", centred on the once derelict quays which are now home to the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry centre. A 200-acre quayside site creates the possibility of a "media city" built around the BBC, including independent production companies whose investment in the site would reduce the BBC's own relocation costs.

Salford has stolen pole position for the BBC base from under Manchester's nose with an audacious late bid which, in the words of one analyst, has come from "ground zero" inside six months. Manchester, where the BBC's outdated Oxford Road location will be vacated by 2010, had proposed a "media city" of its own in nearby Whitworth Street. But the physical space available was more limited. Successful "media city" models overseas have tended to be of the size Salford is proposing.

A statement said the BBC would conduct exclusive discussions with the Salford bid team over a limited time period.