Historic England wades in on St Michael’s debate
Historic England has confirmed its opposition to the two towers proposed by the St Michael’s Partnership for Bootle Street in Manchester city centre, calling the scheme “aggressive” and saying it would cause “substantial harm”.
The Government heritage agency has sent its objection letter to Manchester City Council, responding to the planning application for the scheme which was submitted last month.
The application seeks permission for a 201-bedroom five-star hotel, 159 apartments, 138,000 sq ft of offices and 49,000 sq ft of retail and leisure across 15 units, including two new sky bars and restaurants. There are also three areas of public realm, and a new building for the Manchester Reform Synagogue.
Manchester City Council is development partner in the St Michael’s scheme, alongside former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, and developer Brendan Flood. Make is the architect.
Momentum against the project has grown over the past year. A petition against the demolition of the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub on the site has grown to almost 5,000 signatures, while a petition against the planning application has reached 3,400 signatures. The Twentieth Century Society’s application to get the Art Deco synagogue listed was rejected earlier this week. Objectors are pressing for the project to be called in by communities secretary Sajid Javid.
The application is likely to go to planning committee in April or May.
Extracts from Historic England’s objection to Manchester City Council below:
“In our opinion, the development misses the opportunity to enhance this part of the conservation area, instead creating an inwardly-focussed development with little interaction with the surrounding streets. The form of the proposal responds aggressively to its context, in particular the relationship of the towers to the enormously valued group of Town Hall and Library and the spaces in which they sit.
“We remain of the opinion that the development would cause substantial harm to the significance of a number of heritage assets, including the nationally valued Town Hall and civic buildings; the harm is neither necessary nor justified in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.
“The brief for the proposed regeneration of the site is ambitious considering the relatively small size of the plot and includes a number of different uses. The proposed scheme involves total demolition of all buildings on the site causing substantial harm to the significance of the conservation area. This harm must be fully justified if we are to lose these buildings.
“Where the existing buildings have a human scale which encloses the surrounding streets and relates well to the surrounding built form, the proposed development offers aggressive, largely blank facades and a form of development that looks inwards to the new open spaces. By turning its back to the public street, the development misses the opportunity to bring the life and vitality to the streets that is so needed.
“The appropriate dominance of the Town Hall, as the core of Manchester’s civic identity and pride, would be negatively affected in both our long distance and more localised appreciation of the building, particularly from Albert Square as again illustrated by the kinetic views. The towers would also negatively impact on our appreciation of the Albert Memorial. Our appreciation of the beautiful Central Library would be harmed by the two towers looming behind it when experiencing it from the south.”