Press release: Brave challenge by Manchester Civic Society rejected by High Court Judge

Press release: Brave challenge by Manchester Civic Society rejected by High Court Judge

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

21 September 2018

The legal challenge to a proposed 40-storey tower overwhelming Manchester’s civic centre has been rejected by a High Court judge.
SAVE considered that the chairman of Manchester Civic Society Steve Speakman had strong legal grounds for challenging the City Council’s planning permission.
The challenge was the last chance to reverse the decision after Government ministers refused to hold a public inquiry into the strongly contested proposals.  
The judge denied Steve Speakman permission to proceed and ordered him to pay £5,000 in costs. Steve Speakman is now raising funds to cover these costs – please donate here.

The legal team acting for Mr Speakman, Richard Harwood QC and solicitor Susan Ring, submitted the challenge to the High Court on the following grounds:
1. That the Council had not applied the correct tests for assessing substantial harm to the conservation area;
2. That the Council had not properly dealt with its own planning policies;
3. That following an Environmental Impact Assessment the Council had failed to give reasons for their decision as required;
4. That the Minutes of the planning committee meeting completely misrepresented what happened at the planning meeting;
5. That not a single Councillor spoke in favour of the proposal.
Known as ‘St Michael’s’, the development has drawn widespread criticism for the looming and overbearing impact that the 40-storey tower would have on the conservation area and Manchester town hall and the Albert Memorial. The plans were granted consent by Manchester City Council on 20 June 2018.

The proposals are being promoted by Jackson’s Row Developments Limited led by former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Manchester City Council also has a land interest in the scheme.
SAVE commissioned an alternative scheme from Ian Chalk Architects showing how a more carefully scaled proposal could bring the 1930s police station and surrounding streets back to life and transformed with a conservation led approach. See the alternative design concept here.
Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE, said: “It is outrageous that such a major scheme facing major opposition both locally and nationally should be waved through without a proper discussion. The decision making process has been skewed by Government lethargy and Council greed.”
Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE, said: “The St Michael’s permission has implications not only for Manchester but for so-called protected townscapes across the country. From Bristol and Norwich to London and Edinburgh - there is growing alarm about the impact of massive over-scaled development on our historic townscapes and the way these decisions are being made."


Note to editors
1. For more information please contact SAVE on 020 7253 3500 or
2. The consented proposals were developed by Hodder and Partners. The full plans can be seen on Manchester City Council’s planning website, by searching for planning application reference 114664/FO/2016
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.