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Hodder drafted in to help Gary Neville's Manchester towers win planning

Stephen Hodder has been recruited to help Make win planning permission for a controversial Manchester skyscraper scheme backed by footballers-turned-developers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs

It is understood the Manchester-based former RIBA president has been asked to carry out a review of the proposed designs for the St Michael’s development close to the city’s town hall featuring two towers of 31 and 21 storeys.

The AJ believes some alterations to the contentious high-rise plans, which would see a number of historic buildings demolished, have already been made and that further tweaks are in the pipeline.

Former Manchester United defender Neville first announced there would be changes to the headline-grabbing scheme at the MIPIM property fair last month and later told the council not to consider the current planning application so the designs could be further refined.

Speaking at the time, a ‘frustrated’ Neville said: ‘Manchester deserves a world-class development like St Michael’s.

‘We believe that in a city that aspires to be global, the best of old and best of new can live together. However, we are going to make further refinements – it has to be perfect for Manchester.’

The 201-bedroom hotel, 159-apartment and office scheme has regularly been in the press, mainly due to concerns over the future of the 1950s-built Manchester Reform Synagogue in Jackson’s Row and the nearby Neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station (1937). Both are due to be torn down to make way for the new development and in January were named on The Twentieth Century Society’s top 10 list of buildings most at risk.

The proposed demolition of the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub in the former St Peter’s Fields, the only building remaining from the time of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, has also provoked local opposition.

Two major public consultations, minor design alterations and a change in colour of the towers from black to bronze appears to have done little to appease objectors to the plans.

A petition against the scheme, claiming the ‘huge dark towers’ are in the wrong place, has received more than 4,500 signatures.

Historic England is also unconvinced by the designs, saying it was deeply concerned about the proposal, which ‘would aggressively push itself into the existing streets, dominating its surroundings and dwarfing the nationally important civic buildings which define this part of the city’.

The developers and Make Architects declined to comment.

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