ST MICHAEL’S DEVELOPMENT
Manchester Civic Society objects to this scheme
Manchester Civic Society is formally objecting to the planning application for the St Michael’s development in the heart of Manchester’s magnificent civic centre. We will not be alone – the major heritage bodies are also very critical of what is being envisaged.
Although this proposal is an improvement on the previous offering, it is still far from suitable for this special location. Clearly, what is being asked of this site is not feasible. Equally clearly, a planning application has to be judged on its own merits, not against a phantom former proposal. And its merits must be assessed according to national policy for heritage assets.
National planning policy (NPPF) states that, as heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification. ‘Substantial harm to or loss of a grade II listed building should be exceptional. Substantial harm to or loss of designated heritage assets of the highest significance, notably….. grade I and II* listed buildings……. should be wholly exceptional.’
This development, 40 storeys tall, is to be inserted into an area positively littered with listed buildings, over 70 of them, many rated as among the nation’s top 10%. St Ann’s Church and notably the Town Hall, only a few hundred metres away are affected. Both are designated Grade I, and thus within the top 2.5%, nationally.
This national protection given to heritage assets expressly includes protection from development affecting the setting of a heritage asset. The setting of Waterhouse’s masterpiece, our Town Hall, would be totally compromised by this dominating bedfellow.
Manchester Civic Society believes that to grant permission for this scheme here would be such a significant overturning of the NPPF heritage protections as to gravely challenge their future validity. This is a national issue.
Looking at the proposal itself, its height alone should rule this out as a suitable bedfellow for our Town Hall.
There are other issues. The scheme suffers from trying to do too many things at once and the site is too small and compromised to satisfactorily deliver all of them – offices, 5* hotel, boutique hotel, place of worship, city centre living and all of this topped off, literally, with two rooftop gardens.
You can see the plans in detail; they are published on Manchester City Council’s website. The planning application is 114664/FO/2016. The deadline for comments is 31 January2018.