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FCBS Manchester decision delayed for third time

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Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ proposed 22-storey housing block opposite Manchester’s Arndale Centre remains in limbo after the project’s backer asked councillors to delay a decision on the scheme for a third time

Developer CEG requested deferral of consideration of the practice’s 20-36 High Street proposals, which were due to be heard by Manchester City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee last week (19 September).

A decision on the on the 361-home conversion of 1970s offices was initially expected back in June, but councillors postponed a decision so they could make a site visit.

Then in July the developer asked for another delay so it could finalise an arrangement for potential payments towards offsite affordable housing. 

CEG has now offered £1 million towards this, with provision for further payments if the market value of the homes increases.

Yet Piccadilly councillor Sam Wheeler objected to the FCBS scheme, saying it did not conform with policy on affordable housing for local people, adding that ’no Mancunian [would be] spending £450,000 to overlook the Arndale’.

Fellow councillor Adele Douglas called for ’a refreshed proposal’, while Historic England raised heritage concerns about the loss of 20-22 High Street under the plans, describing the front elevation of the 1915 former warehouse as ‘very fine’. The First World War-era building features hand-carved keystone faces, Art Nouveau stained glass windows and an Art Deco tiled entrance vestibule.

’The loss of 20-22 High Street would cause a minor adverse impact on the character and appearance of the Smithfield Conservation Area,’ said planners. ‘However, it would allow the site to be redeveloped comprehensively, which would have an overall beneficial impact to the character of the conservation area and the setting of the Grade II-listed Rylands Building.’

No date has been set for a fourth hearing.

CEG, FCBS and the council have been contacted for comment.

All homes in the development are planned to be sold on the open market. Total construction cost is estimated at £96.2 million.

The ground floor and a double-height mezzanine of the proposed block would offer space for independent cafés, restaurants and shops. The scheme would also reopen Stationer’s Court as a public green space connecting the High Street and the Northern Quarter.

It would replace two office buildings on the site, the larger of the pair designed by local practice Leach Rhodes Walker.

Speaking when the plans were submitted last year, FCBS partner Alex Whitbread said: ’Our design will create a grand mansion block at the corner of High Street and Church Street where the Northern Quarter and the city-centre retail quarter meet.

’The architecture refers to the city’s past, drawing on the adjacent Debenhams and historic office buildings such as Sunlight House to create a new building which is distinctly and proudly Mancunian. The use of light ivory-white glazed ceramic tiles will also create a building that is light in colour and reflective in character.’ 

David Hodgson, head of strategic development north at the developer, said in July: ‘The regeneration of this constrained brownfield site is very challenging, due to significant abnormal costs – it is adjacent to the tram line and extensive costs are demanded to protect the trams’ switchgear.

’The development also needs to fund the relocation of corporate occupiers, which currently detract from creating an active and inviting street frontage.

‘While those expensive constraints make affordable housing difficult, we have listened carefully to ward councillor concerns and are aiming to further bolster the re-evaluation methodology that will provide affordable housing contributions through the reduction of any development costs.’

FCB Studios High Street Manchester proposals - existing site

FCB Studios High Street Manchester proposals - existing site

FCB Studios High Street Manchester proposals - existing site

Project data

Location 20-36 High Street
Type of project Mixed-use (predominantly residential)
Client CEG
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Landscape architect Re-form
Planning consultant Deloitte
Structural engineer WSP
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
Quantity surveyor RPS
Transport planner Mott MacDonald
Fire engineering Design Fire Consultants
Gross internal floor area 32,800m²

FCB Studios High Street Manchester proposals - Stationer's Court 01

FCB Studios High Street Manchester proposals - Stationer’s Court 01

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