Press release: SAVE Britain’s Heritage calls for public inquiry into Manchester footballers’ tower

Elevation drawing by applicant showing scale of the proposal in context


09 March 2018

Press release: SAVE Britain’s Heritage calls for public inquiry into Manchester footballers’ tower

SAVE Britain’s Heritage along with other national and local heritage organisations is calling for an independent public inquiry into the highly controversial tower proposed for Manchester’s historic core. Despite widespread concerns and objections to the 40 storey tower, the proposals were given the green light yesterday by Manchester City Council.

Our request to the Secretary of State Sajid Javid to 'call-in' the proposals for a public inquiry follows a petition signed by over 5,000 people urging the government to take action. Given the massive and unprecedented impact this proposal will have on this highly sensitive part of the city, Manchester Civic Society and The Victorian Society are also calling for the Secretary of State to step in.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE, says: “Manchester could have a world class, contextual development including a 5* hotel on this site by working with the existing buildings and the surrounding historic streets, instead of crashing in with a 40 storey tower. Conservation Areas are meant to protect important streets and spaces from exactly this type of overscaled scheme. We need an independent public inquiry to fully assess its impact."

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, says “We are asking the Secretary of State to step up and hold a public inquiry. The checks and balances designed to protect this city and its history from harmful development are not working. The good name of Manchester as a planning authority and indeed the good name of Britain’s planning system is at stake.”

Margaret Collier, executive member for conservation and planning, Manchester Civic Society, says: "In Manchester, and beyond, many ordinary people are holding out the hope that the Secretary of State will use the powers given him by parliament and intervene here, so that the quality of this decision can be reviewed by an independent body.

In our view, the narrowness of the margin of Historic England’s determination of Harm sits uneasily with the opposing judgements of all the professional bodies who seek to guard our heritage from damage. The case has exposed a real issue on what constitutes a public benefit when deemed to offset damage to heritage assets.  This extends to how such a benefit is assessed. In addition, there is a perceived problem when a planning authority has an interest in the case it is deciding, as has happened here. As such, the issues raised by this approval need authoritative clarification at the highest level, before they create the need to review further pressures on heritage assets and those who seek to protect them."

Ahead of the committee meeting, SAVE issued a report rebutting many of the claimed ‘public benefits’ of the proposals such as luxury flats and a five star hotel which the developers claim will come with the scheme. This is crucially important as during the decision-making process, the planning authority must weigh up proposed harm to conservation against public benefits that will be brought as a result of the development.

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. The proposals are backed by former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Manchester City Council also has a land interest in the scheme.

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.

Note to editors:

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

2. The full plans can be seen on Manchester City Council’s planning website, by searching for planning application reference 114664/FO/2016

3. Make Architects designed proposals submitted 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.

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