March 31st, 2015 [ No comments ]

Setting sail once more at the Yard

by Derek Smith


It’s my favourite time of year - the time when I can set sail once more and relaunch Royal William Yard’s ferry service.

After a long winter break, I was able to get back on the water on Saturday and start taking passengers from the Yard around to Plymouth’s Barbican.  It’s a wonderful job to do; our journey takes us out onto the water, where we can see beautiful sights like Devil’s Point and Devenport, before pulling in to the Barbican just half an hour away.

Each year, more and more people use the service, especially now there’s so much going on at the Yard itself; as the days warm up the restaurants on the front are bustling with visitors all of whom like to start or end their journey on the water.


We’ll now be running until the autumn and our service leaves the Yard every hour on the hour from 10am Monday through to Sunday. We then leave the Barbican on the half hour every hour for return journeys. Click here for more information - I hope to see you soon.


Filed under: Mills Bakery, Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash

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I was delighted to see that Property Week had shortlisted Fort Dunlop as one of the best buildings to be developed in the UK in the past 20 years. I’m so proud to keep seeing it getting recognition, it’s already won 18 awards including the prestigious BCO Test of Time Award.


Fort Dunlop was a great success story for us and one of the best examples of what we do. We transformed it from a disused tyre factory - one that stood in a very prominent position overlooking the M6 motorway in Birmingham - and instead created a fantastic commercial hub. It featured 345,000 sq ft of office and leisure space and from the day we opened the doors in December 2006 we kept it more than 90% let. We bought it as a wreck, developed it filled it and sold it in 2014 to Tristan Capital - a top institutional fund.


We were able to do that because the space was so well designed by shedkm it even featured a huge green roof which we and tenants used for many an event.

Find out more about the building and its history here.

Filed under: Fort Dunlop, Urban Splash

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Stairway to Devon

We’ve collected over 365 awards in 21 years of Urban Splash, includingr 15 new awards in 2014.

Our Stairway to Devon at Royal William Yard connecting the South West Coast Path was a favourite in ‘14. We saw it commended in The Civic Trust Awards, collect AJ’s Small Projects Sustainability Prize and the Judges’ Special Award at the Abercrombie Awards - celebrating the scheme that has contributed most to the city since the awards began. The staircase was also recognised as Best Smaller Development Project. As a RIBA South West Award winner, it was also shortlisted for the prestigious RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize.

Saxton in Leeds was also voted the country’s ‘Most Innovative Redevelopment’ by readers of First Time Buyer Magazine.

With four awards from the RIBA, we’ve now received more than 50 accolades from the architectural body. This Pinterest board is a collection of them…


We celebrated a new working partnership at Park Hill.

Working on a joint venture basis with Places for People, we started work on the next phase at Park Hill, creating 182 new homes in the second phase of the scheme.

Work is moving along nicely and we plan to launch the next phase of new homes for sale early this year.

Our favourite brutalist building was also featured in Dezeen as a celebration of classic brutalist architecture from around the world.

Spring saw another new Pear-ing with a great partner. We were delighted to announce another new joint venture relationship with The Pears Group. Included in the deal were a number of buildings from our commercial portfolio.


We’re proud of our people, and proud that they want to stay with us. We had a great few sunny days in summer hosting our “lifers” trip at Maison Bulle in the south of France. This trip marked over 10 years of hard work at Urban Splash for a number of colleagues who have supported us across a host of different roles.

By working together as a team over the last 21 years, we have been able to create something quite special! More later on new opportunities to become part of our team…


Co-founder of Urban Splash Jonathan Falkingham MBE was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University. Receiving the honour for his contribution to entrepreneurship and regeneration in Merseyside - including great schemes like Concert Square, Ropewalks and the Matchworks in Liverpool.


We were honoured to welcome HRH The Prince of Wales to Royal William Yard in July to celebrate 10 years of Urban Splash’s involvement in the scheme. HRH was impressed at the transformation, saying it had been “fascinating to see it come back into use and to see so many people enjoying it.”


A wealth of deals came to fruition in 2014. We reached a grand total of 156,000 sq ft of regional deals for the North West commercial portfolio alone. We announced Liverpool’s largest letting of the year with 65,000 sq ft of space at Matchworks going to Amey, as part of an amazing 140,000 sq ft of deals completed by us in the city.


We said goodbye to one our favourite schemes, selling Fold Dunlop to Tristan Episo Fund. Having transformed the redundant tyre factory in Birmingham and kept it at more than 97% let, the development is one of our greatest successes.

October saw the start of a new year for US. Having released our accounts, announcing our turnover has passed £100 million for the first time ever and that we’ve returned to profit and have now restructured all our historic debt.


Our partnership with Places for People goes from strength to strength as another exciting new masterplan is underway. Former shipyard Smith’s Dock is to be given a new lease of life, as planning permission is granted on the first phase of new homes. The Riverside regeneration project in North Shields will bring over 800 new homes to the area when completed.


In New Islington news, we’ve recently appointed architects sixtwo to transform Stubbs Mill. We’ll be announcing our plans for 30,000 sq ft of flexible commercial space this year… it’s going to make the most amazing workspace in Manchester!


We saw the year out with the early bird launch of hoUSe! A new build terraced family house in the city; and because its our hoUSe, we’ve made it extra special! I’m as excited about this project as I was about the first one 20 years ago when we decided to built loft apartments in the city centre.

New Islington became home to our new family housing concept hoUSe. You can design your own home overlooking the Marina, with loads of space, high ceilings, big windows and between 1,000 - 1,500 sq ft of space.

Here’s a short animation explaining our hoUSe concept, and my blog about this big idea.

So what does 2015 have in store for us?

hoUSe finds its next home with views aplenty as our first 34 new homes are set to arrive in Smith’s Dock, North Shields this year.

A ‘Hub of Creative Excellence’ at Royal William Yard. Applications are still open for the new artists studios at Ocean Studios in Factory Cooperage. When it’s finished later this year, it will offer space for 100 artists, a gallery and workshop facilities.

We’re recruiting - would you like to join US or know someone else who might?

We’re on the look out for the people to fill a number of new roles, in sales and lettings, residential management, development and more. If you’d like to join our team, take a look at the latest vacancies on our website and learn more on what its like to work for us

Over the last 21 years Urban Splash has developed 60 schemes worth in excess of £1 billion, helped create 1000’s of homes, jobs, and transformed over 5 million sq ft of commercial space. We have created one of the few property brands to have survived the last recession, forming fantastic joint ventures and building up an 800-unit PRS portfolio, with a pipeline of a further 2,000 units.

I’m often asked which has been my favourite redevelopment scheme, and I always say “the next one”.

Here’s hoping for a good year!

Filed under: Concert Square, Fort Dunlop, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Matchworks, Park Hill, Royal William Yard, Saxton, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe

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Grand Designs on our hoUSe

November 27th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

Grand Designs Magazine

Great to see our very own grand idea hoUSe featured in this months Grand Designs Magazine;  our tailor made solution to a daunting self build project.

‘The revolutionary developer has teamed up with award-winning architect shedkm to launch its bespoke house-building service called hoUSe. You choose the size, number of rooms, number of storeys and the layout for your terraced house and it takes care of the rest.’

Want to live in our hoUSe? Here’s one we made earlier…


Filed under: Affordable homes, Manchester, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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‘’Beside the lake, beneath the trees…”

November 27th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE


…Why not move to Lakeshore?

“We want to live close to the water and new developments are enabling us to live out this romantic dream,” says Carol Lewis,
The Times, Bricks & Mortar

Lakeshore featured in a showcase of the best lakeside developments in the South West recently.

‘There can be few things more calming than sitting on the shore of a tranquil lake. We seem to know innately that still waters have a deeply soothing effect, with people drawn by water to live, work & play. While our attraction to fresh water was once practical, today it is also aesthetic - with developments of new homes built around lakes able to command a premium.’

We still have homes available for sale & rent in our transformed Grade II Listed former Imperial Tobacco Factory to suit any budget

Check out November’s home of the month 140 Lakeshore available from just £97,500 through Shared Ownership


Filed under: Affordable homes, Bristol, Lakeshore, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Ducie House in Manchester is one of the great Urban Splash commercial success stories. Located on Ducie Street just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Train Station, we took over the building in 1993 and for the past 21 years have welcomed some of the coolest start-ups from around the city into the scheme.

This month, we’ve reached our highest ever occupancy after existing tenants Codethink, Destination Space, Addicus and Makeurmove all confirmed they’ve extended or expanded their leases at the development. They’re just four of the businesses that embody what this scheme’s about.


For years we’ve enjoyed having businesses like these at the building; back in the 90s there were lots of bands and artists based there - some of the most famous tenants included 808 State and Simply Red.

Ducie, which was converted by renowned architect Ian Simpson - one of his first schemes - has since seen hundreds of companies start up there since. Developers Ask, ANS SoftwareBrazen PR, Ear to the Ground - they all had their origins there.

It’s the same today, we’re full of interesting, creative companies and it’s always a joy to hear what they’re doing.

If you want to hear more about the remaining units we have at the building just drop me a line. We’re really flexible and the scheme’s great for start-ups so come and have a chat about how we can make it work for you.


Filed under: Ducie House, Manchester, Urban Splash

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Urban Splash hoUSe: our big idea.

October 13th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

I have long been frustrated with mediocrity of the UK’s new build housing, but also see that mediocrity and monotony as an opportunity - especially as apparently the majority of the population don’t even consider new build when moving house. These sorts of views depress me…


New build housing tends to be uninspiring, pastiche in design and often, a very poor copy of traditional houses with low ceilings, small windows, little character and tiny rooms you can’t alter! Above all they are usually small; so small most house builders don’t even tell you the true sq ft! I often wonder why other consumer laws don’t appear to apply in property - when you buy a tin of beans the law requires the makers to tell you the exact contents by weight - but then you spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a house and no one has to tell you exactly the size of what you are buying..!

We have been thinking for years now about how we can break the mould, inject some new ideas and disrupt the house building industry - just as we did when we helped create the city centre living boom and loft apartment trend in the 1990’s.


So we’re about to introduce to the market hoUSe, our housing scheme that’s drawn inspiration from the great English Victorian and Georgian terrace streets of the past.


The reason for developing this kind of house was that we noticed many of our customers who had bought and enjoyed Urban Splash flats, would ultimately get older, richer (have babies!) and therefore end up moving to Victorian and Georgian houses in the suburbs. Once in there, most of them then strip out the internal walls and put in contemporary bathrooms and kitchens.  So it’s long begged me to ask why there are no new build equivalents? And why is there nothing in the City Centre?

We wanted to make houses with great space standards; high ceilings, big windows and we wanted to give customers the ability to alter and change the layouts both initially when they buy so they can specify the exact house they want - or if they are on a budget the option to buy a “base model” now and over time improve and adapt.

So here is our idea…


First, we ask customers to decide what they want. Do they want a 1,000 sq ft home over two storeys, or a 1,500 sq ft home over three storeys.


Then, customers can decide if they’re a loft liver - where their living room will be on the top floor with an exposed pitched roof - or if they prefer garden living; homes that come with a more conventional living room on the ground floor with a relationship to the garden.


We then ask customers to pick from a whole series of floorplans for each floor


They’ll then choose the add-ons such as; size and type of kitchen, floor finishes - be they timber or carpet… Or extras such as utility rooms and home offices.


So what does it look like when it comes together? Here is one we built earlier (as they say on Blue Peter)

house_tb_blog10Proper double aspect open plan living

house_tb_blog111Windows you can stand in

house_tb_blog12Windows you can sit in

house_tb_blog13Ceilings so high you can’t touch them on your tip toes

house_tb_blog14So well insulated it needs only these tiny recessed heaters

house_tb_blog15A kitchen top the whole family can eat at

Eventually, we want to build hoUSes all over the country, but the first site for now is in New Islington near Manchester city centre, a few hundred meters from Piccadilly and the Northern Quarter (which Urban Splash helped develop). The homes are right next to the Cotton Field Park, the New Islington Metrolink stop, Marina and the New Islington Free School (sponsored by Urban Splash, Manchester City Council and The Manchester Grammar School).


The hoUSes don’t just look good, they are practical and each has a small garden and car parking space, loads of storage, electric PV on the roof as well as solar thermal water heating.

I am as excited by hoUSe as I was by our first lofts over 20 years ago. At prices less per sq foot than city centre flats, lower maintenance costs than old Victorian houses or blocks of flats, and available with Help To Buy, I am hoping these will be a great success and be a big part of Urban Splash’s future – and maybe yours too..? If you want to know more, register now or get in touch with our agents Julie Twist Properties.

Filed under: Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Park Hill: it’s a real quality building!

October 7th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

Great to see our much loved brutalist icon in Dezeen recently.

They have revisited our very own streets in the sky to kick off a series of building studies looking back at classic Brutalist buildings from around the world. Where better place to start than Park Hill in Sheffield.

From ambitious architecture of the 60’s by Ivor Smith and Jack Lynn, to its current day transformation – here’s the story of a beautiful brutalist that’s close to our hearts.

Park Hill as it was

Park Hill from above

The streets in the sky

The original Park Hill

Park Hill community

Streets in the sky





Park Hill is like Marmite

Park Hill today

The renovated streets

Park Hill commercial space

Dominating the Sheffield skyline like a castle on a hill, it’s been a privilege (if quite a challenging one) to be able to work with this Brutalist masterpiece & bring it back to life.

Filed under: Park Hill, Sheffield, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash

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Transformation: A review

September 22nd, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Jonathan Falkingham MBE


Thank you to architect Dennis Rodwell for this review of the Urban Splash book “Transformation” which featured in a recent edition of Context magazine - the official publication of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

If you haven’t already got your copy you can order it now via Amazon


“Location, location, location” – we all know these are the three most important things in property… The difference with Urban Splash is that we try to create the next location.’

Transformation is the lavishly illustrated story of perhaps the foremost heritage rescue, development and design phenomenon of our times, told through the camera lens and words of its co-founders,Tom Bloxham and Jonathan Falkingham, and Nick Johnson (formerly deputy chief executive).

Founded in 1993 at a time when historic warehouses and mills in northern industrial cities were valued neither in economic nor heritage terms, industrial projects were insufficient – Bradford’s Lister Mills, Birmingham’s Fort Dunlop, Bristol’s former Imperial Tobacco headquarters, Plymouth’s Royal William Yard – and art deco icons such as Liverpool’s Bryant and May’s Matchworks and Morecambe’s Midland Hotel, Urban Splash has also successfully challenged negative perceptions of northern terraced housing and 1960s concrete blocks.

The plan-form inversion of the two-up, two-down houses in Salford’s Chimney Pot Park was both practical (for natural light to the upper floor living rooms) and symbolic (turning perceptions upside down). The 318 houses proved a sell-out; as one would expect, the authors are not fans of the housing market renewal (Pathfinder) strategy.

Urban Splash has taken a special interest in post-war ‘socially inspired housing’: Transformation expresses incredulity that so much of it continues to be demolished without evaluating the options. The completed phase I of the Park Hill flats, Sheffield, described as ‘a brute of a building’ and Europe’s largest listed complex, short-listed for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize, is just one of several ‘transforming projects’ that have successfully confronted this negative perception.

Winners of over 300 awards for architecture, regeneration, marketing and enterprise, developers of projects in use categories that only appear to sidestep heavy engineering and power stations, Urban Splash is, as the text quotes, ‘widely regarded as the UK’s most innovative developer’. Shaken (but not critically) though Urban Splash was by the 2008 economic crash, Transformation looks back with pride over the first 20 years and forwards to new locations for the next 20 years of projects that will transform public appreciation of the manifold diversity of our historic environments.

Dennis Rodwell, consultant in cultural heritage and sustainable urban development.

Filed under: Transformation: Our Book, Urban Splash

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New “hotel” opens at Royal William Yard…

September 11th, 2014 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Nathan Cornish


As you can see from these pictures, the estate team at Royal William Yard had great fun this week constructing a brand new hotel at the scheme and welcoming its first residents…

The new “Bug Hotel” is now home to much of the scheme’s wildlife, and has been created using materials from the site.

It comes ahead of a “real” hotel at the Yard, which is being planned for the Melville building at the heart of the scheme. Watch this space for more details of that in the coming months.

In the meantime, check out the Bug version next time you’re in the area!

Filed under: Plymouth, Royal William Yard, Urban Splash

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