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RIBA president Hodder warns of HS2 planning blight in Manchester

RIBA president Stephen Hodder has warned that uncertainty surrounding phase two of High Speed 2 (HS2) could blight Manchester city centre and leave it peppered with ‘unrealised opportunities’

Under early proposals to extend the rail link northwards from Birmingham, Manchester Piccadilly Station and a swathe of land around it would be transformed in line with a Bennetts Associates masterplan.

The link’s route into Manchester could see the demolition of numerous buildings, including Triangle Architects’ office on Fairfield Street to the east of the station and Corstorphine + Wright Architects’ practice on Paradise Walk a few hundred metres away.

HS2 also threatens Hodder + Partners £35 million revamp of Richard’s Seifert’s 1965 Gateway House (pictured below). The curved building next to the station has been earmarked for a ‘new shared concourse and air rights development’.

The RIBA president said: ‘I am concerned about the indecision and apparent lack of agreed development frameworks around HS2 hubs and stations.

‘Until these are agreed and programmes determined, there is the potential for owners and developers of adjoining land and buildings to experience difficulty in securing planning permission and, more significantly, funding.

‘This needs to be addressed so that we are not left with unrealised opportunities at what are invariably important gateways to our cities,’ added Hodder.

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David Ward, director of Triangle Architects agreed: ‘We all have vested interest for a number of different reasons.

‘[But] in our view we are blighted in our building. Will the timescale be so protracted that we will be stuck in an asset we cannot realise?’ asked Ward.

‘We would like certainty one way or the other,’ he added. ‘And if it is to go ahead we would prefer the proposal did so at the same time as the London to Birmingham development.’

Leader of Manchester City Council Richard Leese, who has been championing the new rail link and the regeneration of the area around Piccadilly, said: ‘Our Strategic Regeneration Framework for the Piccadilly area is focused on establishing early momentum. However, it is important that national politicians are unwavering in their support and that the delivery timescale is accelerated as much as possible. That’s something we can make a strong case for.’

Gordon Tero of Manchester-based Stride Treglown said that while ‘a quicker process would be better for everyone’, he was unaware of any schemes apart from Hodder’s that could be directly affected by HS2.

‘Most of the towers that have not been built in Manchester died a death because of the lack of economic viability, not because of HS2,’ said Tero

Readers' comments (1)

  • Master plans cannot consider the individual small scale effects, it seems. The first phase of HS2 will be devastating enough - crunching through settled and historic parts of London, and then destroying ancient proteceted woodlands, fine listed buildings and hamlets along it's Chilterns path - to say nothing of destroying the aquifer. The blighting effect of HS2 on the architects and other building businesses based in the Chilterns has already happened: beautiful old buildings blighted or to be demolished, and a swathe of land miles wide is now a no-go zone for any building work. The effect will last for decades, before, during and after the construction period, with no benefit to locals. It will blight all in it's path, Stephen. I hope its worth it, but I doubt it just to shave off a few minutes. I suggest you advise the government to fly down those few passenegers who can afford the increased train ticket price - and save our precious towns and landscape. Have a look at the Dutch experience - a financial and social disaster - better to put those billions into needier causes like the ageing population's needs.
    Jane Duncan, Little Chalfont

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