As we recalled yesterday, the Manchester City Centre bombing was the largest explosion on the UK mainland since WWII. Reports of possible secondary devices continued for some time after the explosion and Police initially established a cordon at the Inner Ring Road; by Saturday evening the cordoned area had been reduced to an area of approximately ½ mile by ⅓ mile around the bomb site. It is estimated that £5m worth of trade was lost on the first day alone. The cordon operation also trapped several hundred cars in car parks in the Arndale Centre and on Cateaton Street. In one of the lighter moments of the whole incident, a dog was discovered, safe and well, in a trapped car after four days.
By the Monday morning, about 70% of buildings had been handed back to their owners and the remaining cordoned area was divided into 6 zones. Looting was a potential problem so Police strictly controlled access each zone using a system of passes. From Monday onwards, sections of the cordoned area were gradually released back to building owners until, by Thursday, only the most severely damaged areas were still under Police control. However, returning to normal was still a long slow process. Some of the key milestones were as follows:
- 29th June – The first section of The Arndale Centre reopens
- 29th July – Half the shops in The Arndale Centre open
- 30th August – ‘The Coliseum’ opens in Church Street, providing space for 35 displaced businesses
- 20th September – ‘The Emporium’ opens in Oldham Street, providing space for 50 displaced businesses
- Jan 1997 – 600 businesses successfully relocated
- March 1997 – Only 50% of insurance claims settled, many traders still not back in their premises
- June 1998 – The Royal Exchange Arcade reopens after two years
Despite this, businesses in Manchester bounced back remarkably well. In the final two blog posts this week we will look at the business recovery from two different perspectives. Tomorrow we will consider how the Arndale Centre set about restoring operations; and on Friday we will look at the plight of the hundreds of small businesses caught up in the incident.