Press release: SAVE backs Steve Speakman's legal challenge against 40-storey tower in Manchester's historic centre

SAVE backs Steve Speakman's legal challenge against 40-storey tower in Manchester's historic centre

The proposed 40-storey tower seen from Albert Square (image: planning application documentation)

2 August 2018

SAVE Britain's Heritage welcomes the bid by Steve Speakman, chairman of Manchester Civic Society, to challenge the highly controversial planning permission for a 40-storey tower in Manchester city centre. 

Steve Speakman is acting on legal advice from Harrison Grant Solicitors and Richard Harwood QC who served judicial review papers on Manchester City Council yesterday. The case raises important issues including the correct legal approach to assessing whether a development will cause substantial harm to heritage assets under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). 

The grounds for a challenge are likely to go before a judge in September who will consider whether to grant permission for a judicial review of the council's decision. If permission to proceed is granted, the judicial review is likely to be heard within the next six months. The action comes after £6,000 was successfully raised through crowdfunding from supporters across the country to bring the legal proceedings to this stage.
Known as ‘St Michael’s’, the 40-storey hotel/residential tower and a bulky 10-storey office block are proposed within the Deansgate/Peter Street Conservation Area – distinctive for its 3-6 storey 19th century former warehouses and office chambers. SAVE, the Victorian Society, Twentieth Century Society and Manchester Civic Society all objected strongly to the plans – along with over 5,000 people who signed a petition against the proposals.

Under the plans, a historic synagogue would be demolished and a substantial 1930s police station would be part demolished. The Sir Ralph Abercromby, a well-known 19th century pub would remain on site, but its setting would be severely compromised.The proposals are being promoted by former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Manchester City Council also has a land interest in the scheme.

SAVE believes the proposals 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. It would also set a dangerous precedent for other Conservation Areas and historic townscapes across England.

Within just 250 m of the application site there are some 72 listed buildings and nine Conservation Areas, highlighting the sensitivity of this location. The proposed tower would loom over and dominate many of them, notably the Grade I listed Town Hall and Albert Memorial.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE said: “The 40-storey tower in this historic setting is one of the most contentious proposals we have seen at SAVE. This is not just because it would overshadow and dominate one of the finest town halls in England, nor because it would wreck a Conservation Area. But this proposal, if built, would send out a message that Conservation Area protection has failed. This is a national, not a local issue - all of our conservation areas are at risk from this proposal. We support Steve Speakman in the stand he is taking to make his concerns those of many others heard."
Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE said: "In our view, Manchester City Council lamentably failed to take into account the strong and widespread objections to these proposals and decided the issue on public benefits claimed by the developer, most of which were not public benefits at all."

Press release: SAVE backs Steve Speakman's legal challenge against 40-storey tower in Manchester's historic centreThe 1930s police station on the site of the St Michael's development (image: Eveleigh Photography)

Note to editors:

1. For more information please contact SAVE on 020 7253 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 two tower proposals submitted earlier last year which were 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, the Victorian Society, Twentieth Century Society, Manchester Civic Society have all objected to the current scheme. Historic England stated that they are 'unable to support the application...due to the cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings'.

5. The above mentioned heritage organisations asked for the scheme to be called in for a public inquiry, but the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, declined (without giving reasons) in June 2018.

6. 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.