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.
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.