Tall storeys: Mancunians head for Britain's highest living rooms

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Britain's highest residential building - a 157-metre (520ft) glass tower with 47 storeys - is to be built in Manchester. The skyscraper will hold more than 200 apartments and penthouses, and a five-star 285-bed Hilton hotel.

From the top floor people might, on a clear day, be able to see as far as Snowdonia, Blackpool (with its 158-metre tower), and Liverpool. The only reason the tower is not higher, according to its multimillionaire developer, Stephen Beetham, is that Manchester airport sets a 160-metre height limit on buildings in the city.

When finished, the tower will be 30 metres higher than Britain's tallest residential building, the Barbican in central London - although it will still be dwarfed by the 50-floor, 235m-high tower of Canary Wharf in London Docklands. Work will start on the £150m Beetham Tower in February, and will not be completed until 2006. Keen buyers have already reserved £60m of the residences within four weeks of them going on sale.

The Manchester development is part of an ambitious northern regeneration scheme being organised almost single-handed by Mr Beetham, 28, who made his name with a £60m tower project in Liverpool. Now under construction, that development - also named the Beetham Tower - will hold a four-star hotel and an office block housing the Passport Office when complete. Among those who have already bought apartments there are the Liverpool and England footballer Michael Owen.

Although the Manchester residents will need a head for heights, almost all of the apartments and four of the 16 penthouses have already been sold, at prices ranging from £100,000 to £3m for a top-floor penthouse overlooking the Deansgate area.

Work has also started on another Beetham project; a 120-metre, 29-storey development in Birmingham, which will house a Radisson hotel and 152 apartments.

Mr Beetham's skill at property development began modestly. He left school aged 16, and ran away from his parents to join his uncle in Liverpool. There he worked as a gardener and handyman. But after renovating a house in the Wavertree district of the city, he realised he had a talent for dealing in property.

Tony Burns, chairman of Manchester City Council's planning committee, said he was "delighted" the project had been approved.

Ian Simpson, of Ian Simpson Architects, which designed the development, said "This is an amazing project for our practice and for Manchester. I believe we have created what could be a spectacular addition to the Manchester skyline."