New Islington Sustainable Community Scheme

The New Islington Millennium Community is a 12.5 ha development at Ancoats, East Manchester.


The development site included the former Cardroom Estate, which was built in the late 1970s. By the 1990s, the estate’s community was suffering the effects of massive depopulation, poor services and high levels of crime. Only half the 204 homes were occupied when the site was identified for development by English Partnerships as one of its ‘Millennium Community’ projects.

The goal of the project was to reinvent the previously neglected and rundown estate with cutting-edge architecture, new waterways and new housing. Sustainability was a key objective.

What we did

We transformed New Islington by delivering 100,000 tonnes of earthworks, treating 20,000 tonnes of contaminated material, diverting sewers, constructing several hundred metres of navigable canals, developing several plots for new housing, constructing a new water park, delivering hard and soft landscaping and installing lighting and street furniture.

The new infrastructure provides an innovative and unusual approach to public highways and the urban landscape. For example, we constructed Old Mill Street using small element paving in a Dutch style, with shared space accessible for both traffic and pedestrians. This area now includes street lighting features and extensive street furniture with cast iron markers.

The hard and soft landscaping included installing timber seating, trees, ornamental shrubs and planters. We also created a unique topiary dinosaur feature and ‘touching stones’ in the shape of birds and animals to attract interest.

Project successes

Creating such a welcoming and liveable environment at New Islington helped to spark huge redevelopment in the areas north and east of Manchester’s northern ring road. The area is now unrecognisable from the desolate post-industrial landscape it was before the project. Towering and striking apartment and office blocks dominate the skyline, and the area is now a vibrant place to live and work, with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants springing up everywhere.

The project team won the Construction Excellence National Award for Project Leadership, and the Northwest Regional Construction award in recognition of the way the different funders, partners, designers and contractors came together to make the vision a reality.