SAVE welcomes inspector’s decision to throw out controversial Manchester city centre demolition plans
Characterful Victorian warehouses should be retained and reused at heart of new scheme – a key theme of our recent report on threatened heritage in Greater Manchester
16th November 2023
SAVE welcomes the decision by a planning inspector to support Manchester City Council’s refusal of a massive development of towers up to 19 storeys in a conservation area.
The scheme, at Shudehill in the city’s famous Northern Quarter, would have seen four historic warehouses bulldozed and one partly demolished, including one that is grade II listed.
Manchester City Council rejected the high-rise proposals earlier this year but the developer appealed and the case was the focus of a major public inquiry at the end of October. SAVE Britain’s Heritage spoke at the inquiry in support of the council’s position, arguing that retaining the character of this historic and atmospheric quarter is key to successful regeneration.
The inspector, David Nicholson, issued his decision just two weeks after the inquiry closed, rejecting the appeals on the grounds of poor design and unacceptable harm to listed and unlisted buildings, as well as to the Shudehill Conservation Area.
The failure to meaningfully consider retention of the site’s existing historic buildings was also cited as a major flaw of the scheme. Nicholson’s report stated that he found serious flaws in the design approach of the scheme, and that the architect, “might have looked to embrace the surviving heritage rather than simply consider it a depressing constraint to redevelopment.” By choosing to demolish the existing warehouses which make up most of the site, he concludes that the scheme represented “a missed opportunity”.
Subject to particular criticism was the approach to the scale and massing of the new development. Nicholson found that the proposals would cause “considerable harm” both to the character and to the appearance of the area, due to the siting, scale, size, height, massing, architectural detailing, street scene and skyline when experienced from the nearby streets. He concluded that: “Cumulatively, the heritage and public benefits would not come close to outweighing the combination of harms to heritage assets.”
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “This is great news for Manchester and an opportunity for the developer to re-think their whole approach to this site and to work with the historic warehouses rather than discarding them. It is clear from the clarity of the inspector’s report that this was a straightforward decision, and that a massive tower and slab scheme isn’t the right approach for this location in the Northern Quarter.”
Ben Dewfield-Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “As SAVE told the public inquiry, these Victorian warehouses are an important reminder of the character and historic development of the area, once bustling with a rich mix of businesses and activity at the heart of Manchester’s fabric industry. We welcome the inspector’s decision and salute the city council for acting so decisively in defending this case.”
SAVE first raised concerns about the scheme by developer Interland Holdings Ltd and Buttress Architects back in April 2019. The plans included a new high-rise tower block of up to 19 storeys and the proposed demolition of four fine unlisted Victorian warehouses between Shudehill and Dantzic Street, and the partial demolition of the grade II-listed 29 Shudehill.
We also objected to the radically larger scale and overwhelming massing of the new tower block of 175 flats proposed, all within the supposedly protected Shudehill Conservation Area.
The Shudehill Conservation Area, designated in 1987, is an area of low- to mid-rise warehouse and commercial buildings set close together on sharply angled streets creating interesting views slicing through the blocks. The smaller scale and greater number of narrow-fronted buildings along Shudehill provide a welcome counterpoint to the larger 20th- and 21st-century buildings to the north and west.
SAVE’s recent report Boom not Bust - How Greater Manchester can build the future without destroying its past emphasises the opportunity the city’s surviving Victorian warehouses offer for redevelopment. From successful conversions to sensitive adaptations and extensions, these buildings can be converted to a range of different uses – with fascinating 18th- and 19th-century social history to trade on. The Shudehill buildings have all of these ingredients and the inspector’s decision is a welcome opportunity to send the current plans back to the drawing board.
See here for further details on the campaign and the buildings on the site.
Notes to Editors:
1. More information about SAVE's recent report, Boom not Bust – How Greater Manchester can build the future without destroying its past. Or buy a copy.
2. Find the planning inspector’s full decision report attached as a pdf below.
3. For more information contact Elizabeth Hopkirk, communications and editorial manager, email@example.com / 020 7253 3500.
4. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.