Press release: Manchester tower proposal is most damaging since 1970s Montparnasse Tower in Paris

1 February 2018

Press release: Manchester tower proposal is most damaging since 1970s Montparnasse Tower in Paris

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has submitted major objections to new plans for a 40-storey tower in a central Manchester’s historic core. The planned tower, next to one of the finest Town Halls in England and the central library building, will have a devastating impact on the harmony and splendour of Manchester’s townscape.

Known as ‘St Michael’s’, the revised proposal is a 40-storey hotel/residential tower and a bulky 10-storey office block within the Deansgate/Peter Street Conservation Area – distinctive for its mainly 3-6 storey 19th century former warehouses and office chambers.

Under the new plans, a historic synagogue would be demolished and a substantial 1930s police station would be part demolished. The Sir Ralph Abercromby, a well-known nineteenth-century pub would remain on site, but its setting would be severely compromised.

SAVE believes the scheme would cause substantial harm to the significance of Manchester’s historic core by compromising the setting and important views of key listed buildings, as well as the setting of the conservation area in which it sits and other protected streets and spaces.

Within just 250m of the application site there are some 72 listed buildings and nine Conservation Areas, highlighting the sensitivity of this location. The proposed tower – which has increased by 9 storeys in the latest revised scheme - would loom over and dominate many of them, notably the Grade I listed Town Hall and Albert Memorial.

The applicant’s own Environmental Impact Assessment, when assessing the impact of the proposals, states that the “magnitude of change” on the Grade I listed Albert Memorial, Albert Square and Deansgate/Peter Street and St Ann’s Conservation areas will be “large adverse”, with likely “indirect, permanent, long term residual effects”.

In our view this is a Montparnasse Tower scenario - the infamous Paris planning battle of the 1970s, where a 58-storey tower was built in the south of the city, despite major criticism. Two years after its construction city planners banned buildings over 7-storeys in the centre of Paris.

The very successful revival of central Manchester has been based on strict planning controls and conservation principles. The big grid blocks largely have a uniformity of scale which gives the city centre a strong cohesive character. The historic character of the central core which makes Manchester so distinctive is at real risk from these proposals.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE, says: “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.”

Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE, says: “Not since the Montparnasse Tower was built in Paris in 1973 has a single tower proposal been so damaging to a great European townscape. 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.”

The full plans can be seen on Manchester City Council’s planning website, by searching for planning application reference 114664/FO/2016. Comments on the application should be sent to, quoting the application reference. The application is expected to go before the planning committee within the next two or three months.

The new plans, backed by former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville follow earlier proposals for two towers of 29 and 31 storeys, as well as the complete demolition of the pub, synagogue and police station. That scheme was withdrawn last year following national and local outcry at the level of heritage destruction proposed. More information on that scheme can be seen here.

Note to editors:

1. For more information please contact SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or

2. Make Architect designed proposals submitted earlier last year met with significant criticism and public opposition. The plans were subsequently withdrawn, and Hodder and Partners were appointed as new architects to redesign the scheme. The revised application was submitted in December 2017.

3. The Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society, and the Manchester Civic Society have all objected to the scheme. Historic England have stated that they are 'unable to support the application...due to the cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings'.

4. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

Press release issued by SAVE Britain’s Heritage
70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ
Registered Charity 269129
Tel. 020 7253 3500  Email