SAVE Britain’s Heritage has become the latest heritage group to voice its opposition to Hodder + Partners’ reworked design for the controversial St Michael’s tower scheme in Manchester, backed by former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs
Earlier this week, Historic England wrote to Manchester City Council saying it was unable to support the application because of the ‘cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings’ (see attached file below).
The Victorian Society has also sent a stinging letter to the local authority, objecting to the high-rise scheme’s ’absolute failure to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the [surrounding] conservation area (see attached file below).
Now SAVE has submitted major objections to the plans for the 134.5m-tall tower in the city centre.
SAVE director Henrietta Billings said: ‘Not only is this highly sensitive, historic location the wrong place for a 40-storey tower, but the bulky design of the lower elements also clash with and overwhelm the buildings the developers claim to be protecting.
‘Manchester City Council can and should use its powers to demand better – and refuse this alarming and destructive proposal.
SAVE executive president Marcus Binney compared the damage that the tower could do to Manchester’s skyline to the Montparnasse Tower built in Paris in 1973.
Tour Montparnasse in Paris
‘Not since then has a single tower proposal been so damaging to a great European townscape,’ he said. ‘The revival of Manchester’s near dormant historic core over the last 30 years into a vibrant city centre full of restored Victorian buildings and well-designed modern ones is an outstanding achievement.
‘It has depended not on flashy iconic buildings but first-class local architects who have maintained the muscular grit of the city centre responding to its red brick warehouses, mills and office chambers.
‘Manchester planners must not be allowed to destroy their own finest achievement.’
Hodder + Partners’ designs replaced a previous proposal by Ken Shuttleworth’s practice Make, which announced last summer it had resigned from the city-centre development after almost a decade working on it.
Last year, the scheme’s developer, the St Michael’s Partnership, said the new designs changed the configuration of the single 134.5m centrepiece skyscraper into a ‘unique lozenge shape’, with a floating canopy supported by a three-storey colonnade at the crown of the building.
Among the changes to the reworked scheme were the retention of the historic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and the frontage of the Neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station (1937). Both had been scheduled to be demolished to make way for the Make-designed development, 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.
Responding to SAVE’s letter, Hodder said: ‘Manchester is an ever-changing, developing city. But tall buildings will always provoke a discussion and I welcome that.
‘The parallels with the Montparnasse tower are superficial’
’However the language used by SAVE is very emotive and disappointing, The strength of the response is surprising and the parallels with the Montparnasse tower are superficial.’
He added: ‘Historic England’s seven-page response is far more qualified. We have had a lot of dialogue with them from the very first day and their response is very carefully worded and crafted. [Although they said they could not support the application] there are some very positive messages in there,’
‘I’m convinced the tower is the right scheme for the site. We have spent a lot of time looking at its shape and profile. we would not have submitted something for planning that we were not committed to.’
Public consultation closed on the proposals on 31 January. The development team hopes the scheme will go before the council’s planning committee on 8 March.
Evolution of the Hodder + Partners’ designs