ING, one of Europe´s biggest financial institutions, has thrown its weight behind Manchester´s bid to become a world heritage site with a ÃÂ£65m plan to preserve and regenerate four derelict cotton mills in Ancoats, once the centre of the world´s cotton industry.
ING Real Estate, which was heavily involved in the regeneration of Liverpool´s Albert Dock and London´s West India Quay, has begun a three-year project to transform the spinning mills in one of Manchester´s most run-down areas.
The mills, known as the Royal Mills complex, will be converted into a mixture of apartments and offices, and help to rebuild a local community whose population has fallen from 9,000 to 400 since the collapse of Manchester´s cotton industry.
Ancoats claims to be the world´s first industrial suburb and its 'dark satanic mills' provided much of the raw material for Engels´ revolutionary views in his 1844 book 'Conditions of the Working Class in England'. Today, Ancoats is an industrial eyesore.
Ancoats, with two other parts of Manchester´s industrial base, is one of a number of sites in England that have been short-listed to join the likes of Blenheim Palace, Hadrian´s Wall and Bath as Unesco World Heritage sites.
However, competition for the award is increasingly tough. There is already an over-preponderance of world heritage sites in developed countries, and Liverpool, Manchester´s arch-rival, has already been picked to be the UK´s sole nomination to Unesco for World Heritage Site status in 2003.