Editional Studio Picture House
Editional Studio's proposal for the former Picture House

Chorlton community keeps ‘appetite to fight’ despite Co-op rejection

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

A community bid to save the former Chorlton Picture House has failed after vendor Co-operative Funeralcare rejected a £2.2m offer to buy the site and convert it into a food market, alongside a GP surgery and homes.

Formerly the Picture House and Gaumont cinema on Manchester Road, the building has been occupied by Co-operative Funeralcare for several years, with the former cinema left inaccessible. The site is known for having hosted the Bee Gees’ first gig in the 1950s.

Churchill Retirement Living was chosen as the preferred bidder for the building last year, with proposals to clear the plot to make way for apartments for the over-55s.

However, after pressure from Chorlton Community Land Trust, in September the Co-operative gave the group an opportunity to put forward its own bid, which Chorlton CLT delivered in partnership with developer Generation.

Chorlton CLT raised £370,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, and put in a £2.2m offer to buy the site.

Chorlton Market Hawkins Brown

Hawkins\Brown’s design shows an extensive food hall within the refurbished building

Generation had worked with architect Hawkins\Brown on feasibility studies for an earlier proposal, which had been rejected in favour of the Churchill scheme. Chorlton CLT brought in local practice Editional Studio, to propose a refurbishment of the existing building to include a food market, alongside community uses such as a GP surgery and housing.

Chorlton CLT was notified at the end of last week that its bid had been rejected. Churchill’s bid is understood to have been around £2.6m.

Any deal with Churchill would be subject to planning consent for the retirement flats.

A spokesperson for Chorlton CLT said the group “had an appetite to keep on fighting”, and is considering its next steps at a public meeting on the 30 January. Options may include mounting an objection campaign against Churchill’s scheme, or proposing alternative sites or development options, such as retaining the Picture House building and developing apartments alongside.

Some campaigners are proposing to get the building listed, however a previous attempt to list the property as an Asset of Community Value was rejected, due to the site now being used for commercial purposes, and its historic elements largely inaccessible.

A Co-op Funeralcare spokesperson said: “Throughout this process we’ve looked to ensure an outcome which would benefit the community and a solution for the site which is deliverable and sustainable.

“At our last meeting with The Chorlton Land Trust we expressed a number of concerns in relation to their overall proposal which were not around the value of their bid.

“Contrary to their comments, however, we have not yet reached a final decision in relation to the site and we are continuing to look at options which ensuring the heritage of the site and its ultimate end use, benefit the local community.

“We have not entered into any contract with a preferred bidder and discussions around the future of the site are ongoing.”

The Co-op enlisted Savills to market the plot at the start of 2019; according to the Savills’ website, the building is now “under offer”.

The proposals for the site are on display at the Old Buildings, New Life exhibition at Editional Studios in Chorlton.

Picture House Model

Editional Studio’s scheme proposed using the cinema room on the first floor of the building, inserting a large skylight

Your Comments

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Imagine the congestion if this got the go ahead, never mind the price of a pint. What they need there is a car park.

By Dino

Whatever comes forward on the site the ground floor needs to be predominantly retail, especial on Manchester Road. A holistic view on the future of the shopping centre site to the south would also be beneficial to re-create an active streetscape.

By Bradford

Tell you what Dino – lets just put car parks everywhere. There will never be any problem parking, but there will be no reason to go and visit anywhere. At least the roads will be clear though.

By Anonymous

Co-op need to think very carefully about this. There are at least 5 small co-op stores in Chorlton, and if this historic building is converted into retirement apartments, there would no doubt be a backlash and diminished trade within those co-op stores. There would also be a multitude of strong objections to it being demolished and/or retirement apartments being built there.

By Anon

Dino, more parking would be required if the site was developed as apartments. If it was a food hall, most people would either walk or get a taxi, as drinking would be involved more often than not.

By Anon

Oldham, the town centre with 15 surface level car parks and nothing to see when you leave your car.

By Nick Jenkins

Retirement apartments here will help to vacate larger properties currently inhabited by older people and make them available for local families. In an area as expensive as Chorlton this is an important addition to the housing stock to ensure people don’t have to leave the area when they start a family. Similarly so that older people don’t have to leave the area to downsize!

I also enjoyed Editional Studio’s drawing illustrating people milling around on what is currently a road.

By CP

Not sure how Chorltons independent local businesses would feel about CLT proposals. We’ve helped build it up to what it is today and taken the risk to help create a unique area in Manchester. CLT now want to put a load of competitors under one roof in the name of the ‘community’? Cheers guys

By Yocal

if handled carefully and in consultation with local business it will surely draw more people in to Chorlton and everyone gains. More and more its the case that our high streets need something a bit different to encourage footfall.

By Anonymous

It is blatantly obvious that the Chorlton CLT bid is the right one for Chorlton. The retirement apartments look hideous.

By JackieS

Why not turn it back into a cinema. Something which chorlton now lacks. (Home comes to chorlton).

By Bob

@ CP…you’ll find considerably more people milling around when the monthly market is on – it’s busy. Not sure why a GGI representing a day when people are around so amusing.

By Allotmentlad

This would be a win win for everyone involved. A promising unused building could become a great centerpiece for Chorton. Co Op get a fair price and more importantly some good PR. Along with the precinct this area has huge potential.

By Anonymous

As a person who has lived in chorlton over half my life .I feel we need local shops affordable housing and less crap from newbies with a load of money n lots of pretentious ness…who do you log think you are !!!!!

By Yvonne dervin

Basically, the CLT proposal is more of what made Chorlton Chorlton over the years, albeit maybe in a more sanitised, curated form. What the locals want and their viewpoint basically orientates around what income scale they are on. Lower down the scale, people need affordable houses and job prospects etc, higher up the scale they want facilities and entertainment and leisure offerings. Everybody pretty much wants schools, surgeries and services. The way I see it, all schemes will be useful to some extent. This will wind its way through the arguments and we will get what we will get. The main point here is £2.6m vs £2.2m. Co-op CANNOT claim to be a community orientated company if all it takes is £400k to turn it’s head. I assume those who haev gone to the effort of forming the CLT and giving up their time obviously believe in what they are doing more than those who disagree with them BUT not enough to form their own group to put across their feelings. Because it takes nothing to post a whinge but forming trust and all that entails….they must really believe in their vision…Good luck to them and may what is actually best for Chortlon, either way, win.

By Anon

Basically, the CLT proposal is more of what made Chorlton Chorlton over the years, albeit maybe in a more sanitised, curated form. What the locals want and their viewpoint basically orientates around what income scale they are on. Lower down the scale, people need affordable houses and job prospects etc, higher up the scale they want facilities and entertainment and leisure offerings. Everybody pretty much wants schools, surgeries and services. The way I see it, all schemes will be useful to some extent. This will wind its way through the arguments and we will get what we will get. The main point here is £2.6m vs £2.2m. Co-op CANNOT claim to be a community orientated company if all it takes is £400k to turn it’s head. I assume those who haev gone to the effort of forming the CLT and giving up their time obviously believe in what they are doing more than those who disagree with them BUT not enough to form their own group to put across their feelings. Because it takes nothing to post a whinge but forming trust and all that entails….they must really believe in their vision…Good luck to them and may what is actually best for Chortlon, either way, win.

By Not Sarah

Local shops only succeed these days when there are enough attractions for people to come to town centres to spend money. High Streets are dying otherwise. And yes, Coop could have supported building affordable housing at the rear of their building rather than doing a deal with a private apartment builder at prices including service charges beyond the reach of most local people

By Anonymous

@Yvonne. What make you think these apartments are going to be affordable? The developer will make as much profit as they can. This scheme gives people local shops and amenities. Take that chip off your shoulder.

By Anonymous