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Ian Simpson in bitter row over Manchester tower - images

Ian Simpson Architects is caught in a bitter dispute between local residents and developers over the design of one of its schemes in Manchester.

The project includes a 24-storey mixed-use glass tower, which is at the centre of the row because local residents believe the building would 'add nothing to the passionate and vibrant community'.

The scheme is being backed by West Properties and is on Brazil Street, in the heart of one of Manchester's conservation areas.

The residents' group has criticised West Properties' method of public consultation over the development, claiming the developers to be 'arrogant'.

Residents' group leader Chris Speck, said: 'They [West Properties] described it as an exhaustive and robust planning consultation, but they only consulted the Village Business Association and the Gay Pride organisers. The only contact they had with the local residents was a questionnaire, which was laughable.

'The questionnaire asked which we would prefer to see on the site - a 24-hour taxi rank, or good architecture, which is simply ridiculous. The consultation hasn't taken in the local community at all.'

According to Speck, the site to be developed is surrounded by Grade II-listed buildings, and is the first residential area to be redeveloped in the city centre.

He said: 'The people who live in this area have a love of buildings. We have nothing against redevelopment of the site, we just feel it needs to be sensitive to the surrounding area.'

Despite this, Ian Simpson is adamant that his scheme will be beneficial to the area, and believes it has the backing of the majority.

He said: 'We have spoken with more than 600 to 700 people, and it is only a small minority who are trying to create as big a fuss as they can.

'The problem is the site has been unused for 15 years and they're used to having nothing next to them. The only development there they would back is a park.

'The scheme will really reinvigorate the whole gay quarter, adding restaurants, cafes and an art gallery. And the tallest tower may have 24 levels but in traditional terms it is only 12 to 13 storeys high.'

If the planning application is successful, West Properties hopes to start on site next May.

by Richard Vaughan

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