Manchester’s Tower of Light in for planning

Turley has submitted the planning application for the combined heat and power energy centre, complete with its Tower of Light, that will power Manchester’s Civic Quarter Heat Network.

The buildings to be supplied by the £18m scheme are Manchester Central, the Town Hall Extension, Heron House, Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library, Midland Hotel, Bridgewater Hall and One St Peter’s Square. Of these, Manchester Central, the Town Hall Extension, the Midland and the Bridgewater Hall would also have an electrical connection.

The CHP centre will be located under the Metrolink arch at the junction of West Mosley Street and Great Bridgewater Street next to Manchester Central. It have a total thermal capacity of approximately 27MW, fuelled by natural gas. Turley is working on behalf of energy supplier Vital Energi. Manchester City Council is to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to run the business with Vital Energi.

The project is part-funded by the Government’s £320m Heat Network Investment Project and is intended to provide a number of key buildings with low-carbon, efficient and reliable energy.

Tower Of Light Render

An application is lodged for a £2.87m capital grant from the HNIP, which is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but the project must be committed by 31 March this year. The project is also entitled to a grant from the European Local Energy Assistance grant to help cover external technical, legal and financial services costs.

Engineer Arup has worked with Tonkin Liu on the design of the centre, along with its distinctive tower, which would include dispersion flues “encased within an architectural wrap,” an ultra-lightweight single surface shell-lace structure.

Vital Energi’s design and access statement concludes: “The proposed development will make a significant contribution to realising the Council’s stated aim of achieving ambitious renewable energy targets.

“It is of a scale and form which is considered to be in context with the surrounding industrial uses and has been sensitive to the existing site features and nearby sensitive users which have heavily influenced the building design and proposed layout.”

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Are there any surrounding industrial uses left for the chimney to be in context with? Sounds like a desperate statement seeking to make it acceptable in the middle of a city centre office district, next to two of the most important Grade II* Listed Buildings in the city.

Calling it a ‘Tower of Light’ helps though.

By Edge

To be commended for making an industrial use fairly attractive. The white wall at street level needs to be redesigned. Maybe ceramic tiles or ideally a green wall, otherwise it will be a magnet/blank canvass for flyposters or graffiti.

By MetropolisMark

Agree with MetropolisMark about the wall. A green wall would be significantly better, IMO.


I like the tower, it looks like an Olympic torch. It doesn’t seem overly progressive that it is gas though.
Also agree the base needs work, continue the green wall theme would be best.

By -

Agree with Edge – whilst there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the design of the chimney, this is utterly out of context. If this gets approval its another terrible design decision by MCC, who are overseeing the creation of an increasing dogs dinner of a city centre.

The street level design needs a significant re-think too. White walls Northern rainy cities = a bad idea. Agree with others re: the concept of a green wall: fitting for a Heat Network facility, but also a nice balance to the green Castlefield/Deansgate/GMEX Metrolink stop on the other side of the old Central Station site.

By MancLad

I think the chimney makes a positive contribution to the area and a modern juxtaposition to the Midland Hotel. To build a pastiche ‘mill chimney’ as seems to be being suggested in these comments would be inappropriate.

By Bradford

What a stunning addition this will be to the city skyline in an area undergoing considerable change and investment. Innovative and contemporary. The plans / reports on the councils website suggest that the final design of the wall is still being resolved.

By Jennifer

The design is beautiful. Love it. Also, the first CGI is deceiving as it’s encased in metal, not a white finish so can easily be cleaned. The scheme itself is a brilliant idea, which can be extended in the future out to the rest of the core city centre to power and heat other buildings too.

By Anonymous

That wall?!! They are asking for trouble, as sadly our great city of Manchester is a dirty dump and it will be covered within the first few days…

By Schwyz

Covered, covered in what? England may be a dump but graffiti is everywhere in this world.


Doubtless an attractive metal chimney but still a metal chimney, in the middle of some of the most important views of the Midland Hotel and Manchester Central. There are no ‘surrounding industrial uses’, some professionals truly have no shame to write such drivel.

By Sten

Manchester is very poor at gimmicky structures.The B of the Bang and that silly wall in Piccadilly Landfill are two examples of money down the drain.This could be yet another disaster waiting to happen.

By Elephant

Elephant doesn’t understand what this is.

By Always Sunny

I know why. I am not so sure I like where or how. However,I may change my mind if it is built.

By Elephant

Burning gas in the city centre with a massive shiny flue? If this is the best Manchester can do for a low carbon future, it’s in trouble

By Jonty

The design of the chimney is great the base looks dull but gas powered for goodness sake what on earth are the council thinking of? Stockport is way ahead of Manchester with hundreds of public housing dwellings heated by biomass district heating systems. Gas is backward thinking very very disappointing.

By Lenny1968

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