The government has refused to call in contentious plans by Hodder + Partners for a 39-storey tower in Manchester city centre backed by former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs
Housing secretary James Brokenshire said he would not be ordering a public inquiry into the St Michael’s skyscraper scheme, which was given the go-ahead in March despite objections from heritage bodies (see AJ 09.03.18).
SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which had raised concerns about the impact of Hodder’s high-rise scheme on the surrounding area, said it was shocked by Brokenshire decision to back Manchester City Council’s planning approval.
SAVE director Henrietta Billings said: ‘We’re surprised and concerned this important and highly controversial case has not been called in for public inquiry by the secretary of state when it clearly meets the criteria.
‘[Brokenshire] did not give any reasons for his decision. This is a 39-storey tower in a conservation area, next to Manchester Town Hall – one of the finest Victorian buildings in Britain.’
We see close parallels between the Paddington Cube and St Michael’s, Manchester
She added: ‘SAVE will be in the Court of Appeal on 19 July on the issue of call-ins and the requirement – in the interests of transparency and open government – to give reasons on these matters. We see close parallels between the Paddington Cube and St Michael’s, Manchester.’
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.
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.
Among Hodder’s changes were the retention of the historic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and the frontage of the Neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station. Both had been scheduled to be demolished under the Make plans and, in January 2017, the police station was included in the Twentieth Century Society’s top 10 list of buildings most at risk.
However, the 1950s-built Manchester Reform Synagogue in Jackson’s Row remains earmarked for demolition, with a new synagogue to be built within the podium of the proposed tower block.
Hodder’s revisions also include a 2m height reduction and the repositioning of the tower to the western edge of the plot, making it less obtrusive when viewed from St Ann’s Square. Hodder also dropped a Spanish Steps-like valley that ran through the centre of the original design up to a high-level plaza.
Responding to Brokenshire’s decision and speaking on behalf of the St Michael’s Partnership, ex-Manchester United defender Gary Neville said he was ‘delighted’ that the ‘revised plans for St Michael’s [had not been called in] and that the vision for this landmark mixed-use scheme will be realised’.
He added: ‘It’s been more than a decade since the idea to regenerate a strategic city-centre location was first considered – and our whole team is very pleased that we can focus on delivering this project for Manchester, bringing new high-quality development that will enhance the city’s position both nationally and internationally.’
I applaud the evident passion, ambition and vision of all those behind St Michael’s
Stephen Hodder commented: ‘This development will regenerate a pivotal city block adjacent to the city’s civic core, and I applaud the evident passion, ambition and vision of all those behind St Michael’s. And that’s why I’m delighted that this significant project has been given the go-ahead.’