Co Op Funeralcare
The site outlined in yellow. Image from Savills.

Community bid ensures Chorlton site sale stays alive

Charlie Schouten

While Churchill Retirement Living is primed to redevelop the Co-operative Funeral Care site, the Chorlton Community Land Trust has launched a bid to bring forward a community-led development, potentially enlisting the support of the Bee Gees fan club to back the scheme.

Owner The Co-operative Group instructed Savills to sell the prominent building, formerly the Picture House and Gaumont cinema, on Manchester Road earlier this year with Churchill chosen as the preferred bidder to redevelop the plot into apartments for the over-55’s.

Under the initial plans, the site would be cleared to make way for residential development; Southway Housing Trust is also understood to have put forward a bid.

However, a community-led group has now attempted to have the building listed as Asset of Community Value, at the same time working with developer Generation and architect Hawkins\Brown on proposals to potentially redevelop the site into a food market and events space.

The Chorlton Community Land Trust has already met with other local groups, councillors, and stakeholders, as well as the Co-op, to put forward a vision for the plot, which along with a food market could include other community uses including a gym and a medical centre.

The Trust is also in discussions with the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which owns Chorlton Precinct, to knit together the precinct with the funeral care site to create a civic meeting and market space.

The existing cinema would be retained under the Trust’s proposals; this would be the focus for an arts and culture venue, pop-up food hall, or the home of a local brewery or distillery during the evening.

A deal for the site with Churchill has not yet been finalised with the Co-op stating in July that the plot “has not been sold”; pre-application meetings with Manchester City Council to sound out the potential for a residential scheme have already taken place.

The asking price is understood to be £3m on a freehold basis; the sale is not due to complete until the building’s current occupants, the Co-op Funeralcare, relocate.

The listing as an Asset of Community Value also acknowledges the site’s history, with the former cinema having played host to the Bee Gees’ first-ever public performance.

The application for the listing is due to be decided later this week, but if successful, the community trust will have six months to draw up plans for the site and will launch a funding bid to potentially purchase the plot; this will also include an appeal to the Bee Gees fan club, and the lunch of a community share scheme.

A full community-led bid for the site is due to be presented to the Co-op this week. The Trust said the retention of the Picture House and a community-led redevelopment of the site would “promote Chorlton as a destination for retail, leisure, and cultural activities” as well as enabling “a co-ordinated approach to the regeneration of multiple sites”.

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All for the community proposal. Excellent idea.

By Michael McGinn

Where will the Co op go

By Dave scholes

Sadly it’s the first I’ve heard this morning, nevertheless this one-off fantastic opportunity presents itself and must not be missed.

It is a prime spot just like the Bee Gees former house but what a great venue for Chorton to use. It is in exactly the right spot … failure to secure is not an option!!! This is a one off opportunity…. just think… a proper venue for Chorton. The outdoor markets do well soo let’s get underway!
Count me in ….where do I sign!

By Tony Zajac

This proposal is not “hippy nonsense,” as another reader commented, but rather a matter of historical interest. While I understand the need for housing for seniors (as I myself am one), nothing can replace destroyed historical sites, of which this is one if Manchester cares about her most famous brothers, their history, and their legacy.

By A Simpson