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Manchester City Council to debate sale of Space Studios today

Space Studios' Stage 6, courtesy Space Studios

Manchester City Council is due to consider the sale of West Gorton’s Space Studios complex to a private sector buyer, via a 250-year lease, at 2pm today.

Now is an “opportune time” to sell Space Studios, according to a report to Manchester City Council’s executive which adds that the sale would “displace the financial risk associated with operation, secure the commercial and operational input of a large-scale credible operator, and ensure the future viability of the studio.”

The report adds that, from April 1, 2023, the rateable value for Space Studios will jump from £645,000 to £1.6m, possibly making the time even more opportune, and that a private sector owner-operator would bring the “commercial acumen that will help the studios attract even more productions to Manchester,” as well as presumably providing a healthy influx of cash.

Manchester City Council has owned Space Studios since 2014 when development began, with Manchester Creative Digital Assets operating the facility on the council’s behalf, alongside The Sharp Project production hub in Newton Heath.

The Space complex currently consists of six high-spec stages plus purpose-built support facilities covering 85,000 sq ft. There is one stage of 30,000sq ft, four stages of 11,500sq ft and a sixth of 9,000sq ft, as well as a 10,000sq ft partly covered construction/prop shop next to the loading area. There is support space directly adjacent to each stage, including a full suite of dressing/make-up rooms, shower facilities and an onsite laundry. The site covers a total area of around 200,000sq ft.

Plans to expand the complex across two further phases are also in the pipeline, and it is thought the sale could speed up the delivery of future phases. The next phase of Space Studios would see two new sound stages and support facilities added, an additional 70,000sq ft in total.

Planning permission was granted for the expansion in March 2022, while Manchester City Council last year acquired a nearby plot of land known as The Yard which could facilitate further expansion in the future.

Two reports on the potential disposal of Space Studios will be discussed in today’s meeting – one in Part A, which will be heard in public and can be watched live at 2pm, and one containing commercially sensitive detail to be heard in Part B in private. A decision on the sale is expected today.

Well-known properties to have shot at Space to date include the BBC’s global smash hit Peaky Blinders, Netflix’s historical drama The Crown, Disney’s fortchcoming sequel to The Full Monty and ITVX’s flagship Helena Bonham Carter vehicle Nolly, as well as ads for household names including Foot Asylum and Johnny Walker.

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The Crown is among Space Studios’ hig-profile recent guests

In a less well-known pop culture claim to fame, the studio (Stage 6 to be precise) played host to a successful Guinness World Record attempt in 2021 when the Royal Society of Chemistry and Professor Saiful Islam set a new record for the highest voltage generated by a fruit battery.

The team used 2,923 lemons to generate 2,307.8 volts, which smashed the previous world record of 1,521 volts and launched a battery-powered go-kart race run by Hulme-based non-profit Blair Project. The feat was designed to highlight the importance of energy storage and the need for new innovations for a zero-carbon world against the backdrop of the COP26 Climate Change Summit.

The Royal Society of Chemistry and Professor Saiful Islam broke records at Space

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