Hot Spot: Salford

The thriving Salford Quays arts complex is just part of this city's dramatic, post-1990s revival, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

After an absence of six years, bananas reappeared in greengrocers' stalls in Salford in 1946. Postwar recovery might have been inevitable, but postwar prosperity was another matter entirely.

The town of Salford is just across the River Irwell from Manchester city centre, but the city of Salford, which includes the districts of Eccles, Worsley, Irlam, Cadishead, Swinton and Pendlebury, totals 37 square miles and extends a considerable distance westward.

Once prosperous and populous, by the mid-1970s the docks, steelworks and engineering companies were declining and unemployment was rising, hitting 14 per cent in 1980. Between 1920 and 1970, the population fell from more than 200,000 to 125,000.

But by the 1990s, the Lowry Centre was revivifying Salford Quays. This imposing arts' complex contains homes, shops, offices, restaurants, pubs and hotels. Opposite the Lowry on the Manchester Ship Canal in Trafford is the Daniel Libeskind-designed Imperial War Museum North. Soon, Salford Council was reporting news even more heartwarming than the reappearance of bananas: "More people now work in the Quays than in its heyday as a major seaport." Unemployment was 5.1 per cent in 1998, and the Lowry attracted more than a million visitors in its first year.

Salford had derelict brownfield sites to spare, and property developers have been erecting luxury housing, much of it waterside. Tom Bloxham's Urban Splash, which pioneered urban regeneration in Manchester, recently agreed to refurbish the interiors of a large swathe of Victorian terraces in Seedley and Langworthy.

The Lowry Centre has greatly intensified the association of the artist with the city, which was also the birthplace of actors Albert Finney, Ben Kingsley and Robert Powell, conductor Sir John Barbirolli, and physicist James Prescott Joule (1818-89).

"Salford is very mixed," says estate agent John Nutter of Briscombe Nutter. "We have Coronation Street-type terraces for £15,000, up to homes selling for more than £1m in Ellenbrook and Worsley." At the top of the market are the many attractive, starkly black-and-white, half-timbered homes typical of this part of the northwest.

Salford University, Hope Hospital and many new businesses contribute to a ready supply of renters, but Nutter counsels caution: "Buy-to-let has been strong, and in the last two years a significant number of private landlords acquired three or four investment properties. But any area can sustain only so much, and returns are probably diminishing slightly. We could reach saturation in the not-too-distant future."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

The M602, M60, M61 and M62 are within the city boundaries. Manchester's Metrolink tram now links Eccles and Salford Quays with the city centre. Manchester Airport is 20 minutes away.

Shopping

The city has four shopping centres (at Swinton, Walkden, Salford and Eccles), three outdoor markets, and an outlet mall at Salford Quays.

Manchester's Trafford Centre is minutes away.

Entertainment

The Lowry Centre has a multiplex cinema, a gallery displaying more than 300 works by Lowry, two theatres, a hands-on gallery for children, an open-air plaza, and bars and restaurants.

Museums

The Salford Museum and Art Gallery is in Peel Park. Ordsall Hall museum is in a Grade I-listed, 14th-century building with a 15th-century interior. The Viewpoint Photography Gallery is in the former Old Fire Station, and the Lancashire Mining Museum in Buile Hill Park is in a building designed by Charles Barry (architect, with Augustus Pugin, of the Houses of Parliament). There is also a Working Class Movement Library.

Sports

There are leisure centres at the University of Salford and in Swinton. Within Salford itself are four golf courses and two country parks.

Blue plaques

Salford boasts the world's first free public library; first artificially lit street; first horse-drawn bus service (in 1824, linking Pendleton and Manchester). Salford witnessed the birth of the Vegetarian Society in 1847, and its Fat Cattle Christmas Show was revived in 1910.

Prices

Estate agents Briscombe are selling a 3-bed, mid-mews terrace in Little Hulton for £64,000. In Boothstown a 2-bed, end terrace costs £75,950, whereas a 3-bed semi costs £162,995.

Properties

In Ellesmere Park, a 3-bed detached Victorian cottage in a conservation area, £250,000. In Worsley, a half-timbered, 4-bed detached with triple garage, £500,000, and a grade II, 3-bed Victorian timber cottage on a private road backing onto a boatyard, £325,000. The agents are Briscombe.

Quayside

Overlooking the Lowry Centre in the new Imperial Point tower, an eighth-floor, 2-bed (c. 968sq ft) costs £310,000, and a ninth-floor, 2-bed (c.816 sq ft) flat costs £235,000. Basement car-parking spaces rent at £600 per year. The agent is Lawrence Copeland.

Quayside new

Countryside's 246-unit NV on Salford Quays has 1-, 2-, 3-bed, duplex and triplex apartments, all with balconies. Current releases start from £171,950 (0161-873 9380). Countryside's 275-unit The Edge has studios, 1-bed, 2-bed, duplex and triplex flats, many with balconies, from £134,950 (Chesterton Residential, 0161-831 0930).

New

At Bellway's City Point 2, a massive apartment block near Salford's train station and Manchester's Dean Street, one-bedders cost from £104,950, and two-bedders from £132,950, rising to £232,000. Approximately 137 flats have been sold, 44 remain, and occupation of block B begins in October.

Estate Agents

Briscombe, Nutter & Staff, Worsley, 0161-793 0007; Lawrence Copeland, 0161-834 1010.

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