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Judge rejects legal challenge to Hodder’s Manchester tower

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A High Court judge has rejected a proposed legal challenge to Hodder + Partners’ controversial 39-storey tower in Manchester’s city centre 

The court has turned down the bid for a judicial review by the chairman of Manchester Civic Society Steve Speakman over the council’s decision to approve the £200 million skyscraper project.

Speakman had launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund a legal challenge to Jackson’s Row Developments’ scheme, which is backed by ex-footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.

The grounds for the challenge included that the council had not applied the right tests for assessing harm to the conservation area, had not properly dealt with its own planning policies and that minutes had ‘misrepresented’ what took place at a planning meeting.

The challenge was backed by heritage campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which said it thought there were ‘strong legal grounds’ for challenging the planning permission.

However, the judge denied Speakman permission to proceed and ordered him to pay £5,000 in costs.

The challenge was seen as a last attempt to halt the development after the government refused to hold a public inquiry into the proposals in June. 

Earlier this year, city councillors followed planning officer recommendations and voted to approve the £200 million project, which includes a 216-room five-star hotel, 189 ‘high-end’ flats as well as office and leisure space.

SAVE recently unveiled a speculative alternative scheme for the Jackson’s Row site, designed by Ian Chalk Architects, aiming to spark interest in a ‘conservation-led approach’.

Marcus Binney, the group’s executive president, said: ‘It is outrageous that such a major scheme, facing major opposition both locally and nationally, should be waved through without a proper discussion. The decision-making process has been skewed by government lethargy and council greed.’

SAVE’s director Henrietta Billings added: ‘The St Michael’s permission has implications not only for Manchester but for so-called protected townscapes across the country.

‘From Bristol and Norwich to London and Edinburgh, there is growing alarm about the impact of massive over-scaled development on our historic townscapes and the way these decisions are being made.’

The scheme, with its lozenge-shaped 134.5m-tall centrepiece skyscraper, had been significantly redesigned by Hodder following the departure of previous architect Make, which had submitted an unpopular two-tower proposal.

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