About the proposals

Manchester City Council (MCC) is working with Vital Energi to deliver a District Heating Network (CQHN) in the Civic Quarter. This will provide low carbon energy to a number of iconic buildings in the city centre.

A CQHN is a system of power generation that uses underground pipes to supply heat (via hot water) and electricity from a central gas powered Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Energy Centre to buildings connected to the network.

It is a highly efficient way of generating power. The units within the energy centre generate electricity, whilst the boilers capture usable heat that is produced in this process.

Manchester City Council is committed to playing its part in limiting the effects of climate change. This is set out in Manchester – A Certain Future, the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan. It aims to:

  • Reduce its carbon emissions (CO2) by 41% in 2020
  • Prepare for and actively adapt to a rapidly changing climate
  • Make a rapid transition to a low carbon community.

The initial group of buildings included in connection to the heat network are:

  • Town Hall Extension and Central Library
  • Manchester Central Convention Centre
  • The Midland Hotel
  • One St Peter’s Square
  • Manchester Art Gallery
  • The Bridgewater Hall
  • Heron House

Yes, there will be potential for additional buildings, such as the Town Hall, to connect to the proposed CQHN infrastructure at a later date.

The Council is working with Vital Energi, a specialist provider of district heat networks. Vital Energi is one of the country’s best known providers of sustainable and renewable energy schemes.

The project will be part funded by the Government’s national Heat Network Investment Project. Manchester Council is one of nine UK local authorities to receive this funding.

The Energy Centre

The site is adjacent to Manchester Central conference centre at the intersection of Great Bridgewater Street and Lower Mosely Street.

The CHP energy centre includes the following components:

  • 2x 12MW gas boilers;
  • 1x 2.7MW CHP engine;
  • Electricity switch rooms;
  • An enclosed transformer; and
  • An office and welfare area.

The heat and hot water will be generated at an Energy Centre near Manchester Central Exhibition Centre. The energy centre has been designed to contain two gas boilers and one CHP unit. The unit generates electricity and captures usable heat that is produced during this process.

The building has been designed by award-winning architects Tonkin Liu together with leading engineers Arup. The facade fronting Lower Mosley Street will be finished with white brick, chosen to symbolise the sustainable energy produced by the project. The top of the facade will be illuminated from within, the lighting will be sequenced and programmed to glow in tandem with the Tower of Light.

The Tower of Light

As part of the proposed energy centre, a 40m tall dispersion flue is required. This will comprise five flues within an architectural wrap named the Tower of Light.

The Tower of Light has been designed by award winning architects Tonkin Liu and has been designed to be both structural, and a sculptural landmark for the city.

The Tower of Light is symbolic of Manchester’s aspiration for low carbon energy generation. It is an ultra-lightweight, single surface, Shell Lace Structure; an innovative and pioneering technique developed over eight-years of design led research by Tonkin Liu and Arup.

During the day, polished steel reflectors move in a wave like motion in the wind to reflect sunlight into the tower’s chambers. During the night, LED lights directed at the polished reflectors create moving light.

The Energy Centre's boiler units are fuelled by natural gas. Whilst highly efficient, like all forms of carbon-based fuels, generating heat and electricity from natural gas produces Green Houses Gases and other emissions. An Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken and will be submitted alongside the planning application.


If approved works are expected to start in Spring 2018.

It is anticipated that construction of the heat network will take approximately 18 months.

The heat network will be constructed in a series of work zones, carefully planned to minimise road closures and disruptions. Work will take place on four zones at a time to ensure that the project continues to run on schedule. This will be set out within a Construction Environment Management Plan, which will be submitted alongside the planning application.

The pipes run parallel with the Metrolink line; therefore, there will be no requirement to close the line.

During the construction process, it may be necessary to close parts of some roads for short periods of time and / or to temporarily divert traffic. Details will be presented within a Construction Traffic Management Plan details of which will be agreed with the local Highways Authority.


We are keen to learn the views of local residents and businesses on the proposals. These views will be taken into account as part of the planning process.

A public exhibition took place on Tuesday 21 November at Committee Room 1, Manchester Town Hall. Information that was available to view can be accessed here.

The exhibition banners will be available to view on this website here.

Feedback can be provided via:

The pre-application consultation period came to a close on Tuesday 5 December.

Feedback will be summarised in a Statement of Community Engagement which will be submitted as part of a planning application.

Once the application has been submitted, Manchester City Council will formally consult on the plans.