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Neville puts Make’s Manchester towers on hold

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Manchester City Council has confirmed that Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have asked for the scheme to be put on hold

Speaking at the MIPIM property fair yesterday (15 March), footballer-turned-developer Neville announced that he had asked the council not to consider the proposed St Michael’s development, so that it could be further refined.

The scheme comprises two towers of 31 and 21 storeys, designed by Make Architects, on a site near Manchester Town Hall.

’Manchester deserves a world-class development, like St Michael’s,’ said Neville, director of Jackson’s Row Developments – the banner used by Neville, Giggs and business partner Brendan Flood.

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

Manchester City Council has told the AJ that the planning application has not been officially pulled from its planning portal; however it will not determine the application until further notice from Jackson’s Row Developments. 

Catherine Dewar, north west planning director for Historic England, said: ’We were deeply concerned about the proposals submitted to Manchester City Council last month, which could cause real harm to Manchester. This site has potential and the right scheme here could really bring this area to life.

’But the development proposed 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,’ she added.

’It is our view that Manchester deserves better and we hope that changes to the proposals will result in an improved scheme for the city and those who live here.’

Earlier this week, speaking exclusively to the AJ at MIPIM, Neville said he was ’frustrated’ by opposition to the development.

‘We are looking again at the façade design, the top of the buildings and where they meet the street. There will be no stone left unturned and when we [started off we] knew full well the scheme would change and adapt. We will continue to make changes,’ he said.

‘We are failing to get our message across [over] what we are trying to achieve. The reaction has been out of proportion. There has been a perfect storm and no doubt there has been [more noise in the media] because of us as individuals and the site.’

Plans for the controversial scheme were first revealed last summer.

The proposals were submitted to Manchester City Council planners following two major public consultations with local residents, businesses and city stakeholders, which resulted in changing the colour of the towers from black to bronze. A petition against the scheme, claiming the ‘huge dark towers’ are in ‘the wrong place’, has received more than 4,000 signatures.

Neville added: ‘We feel frustrated, but I don’t think it is nimbyism. The other day I received a tweet about the Bootle Street and South Mill Street junction and I thought: that’s right. We welcome feedback and are humble enough to look at things. The listening has to continue.

‘You can’t please everybody, but we [believe in] the site, and the fundamentals [in terms of height and scale] won’t change. We would never criticise any other development or architect; developing is a big risk and we welcome everybody’s efforts. But the last six to eight months have felt a bit lonely.’ 

The hotel, apartment and office scheme has been in the headlines recently 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 anger.

Explaining the change in colour of the towers, Make Architects principal Ken Shuttleworth said: ‘In response to the consultation process, the design of the building façade has evolved, including lightening the colour to a softer bronzed aluminium that will change the towers’ appearance in different lights and times of the day and responds to the material tones already in the conservation area.’

As well as a 201-bed five-star hotel, 159 flats and office space, the proposals feature three new public spaces designed with landscape architect Planit-IE: an entrance square, a 15m-high ‘Spanish Steps-style’ stairway, and an upper-level covered outdoor garden.

Shuttleworth added: ‘We have also improved connectivity and accessibility between the lower and upper squares, which has created more active frontage onto St Michael’s Square.’

Make Architects declined to comment

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