Fusion, Deansgate, P.planning Documents
Corstorphine & Wright designed the building. Credit: via planning documents.

Fusion’s 28-storey Manchester tower goes to inquiry

Dan Whelan

An eight-day public inquiry will be held as the developer aims to overturn the refusal of its plans for a 534-bed student development next to Renaker’s Deansgate Square. 

Manchester City Council rejected Fusion Students’ application for the 28-storey purpose-built student accommodation in June. 

The council said the developer “failed to demonstrate an unmet demand for student accommodation”. 

Need for PBSA

However, both Manchester and Fusion agree that there is evidence that demonstrates there are around 20,000 students studying in the city that require accommodation but are unable to secure one. 

This figure could rise by 8,500 by 2030, Fusion argues. 

“It is therefore likely that more students will be forced to live in unsuitable HMO accommodation or privately rented apartments in central areas, depriving the city council of council tax revenue,” according to a statement of case for the appeal prepared by Cushman & Wakefield. 

Manchester’s strategy

Last October, Manchester City Council said it was hoping to recoup up to £17m in council tax revenue by expanding the offer of purpose-built student accommodation in the city centre and attracting students out of private rented sector housing in areas such as Fallowfield.  

The provision of additional PBSA in the city centre could “support the freeing up of mainstream housing currently occupied by students”, Manchester City Council said in a report to its executive committee last autumn. 

Despite this strategy, the city council refused Fusion’s plans.

In pre-application discussions, Manchester planning officers had advised that the location of the development was not suitable for a student development and did not align with the city’s core strategy.

Fusion aims to prove during the Planning Inspectorate’s inquiry that the location of the development is appropriate for “safe and convenient access by a range of modes to, from and for university campuses”. 

Planning precedent

Marlborough Street, GMS Parking

Another city centre student scheme was approved earlier this year. Credit: via planning documents

Fusion cites the recent approval of GMS Parking’s 55-storey student tower as a precedent for permitting the delivery of student accommodation in the city centre. 

The contentious Great Marlborough Street scheme was supported by a needs assessment prepared by Deloitte that backed up Fusion’s argument that 20,000 students do not have access to PBSA. 

The scale of development

Manchester City Council also said Fusion’s towers would be “intrusive and over dominant”  by virtue of its scale, height, position on the site, and its use of “poor quality cladding materials”. 

On this point, Fusion argues that a tall building on the site would be “wholly appropriate and entirely in-keeping” with the existing and emerging heights of nearby and consented buildings, which include Deansgate Square, more than 60 storeys at its highest point. 

A date for the inquiry has not yet been set.

Your Comments

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The council don’t have a leg to stand on. Every reason about their refusal is incorrect. It’s Speaker’s House all over again, which incidentally has appealed.

By Andrew

I actually love the look of this building and think it will only add to the diverse set of residence already in the area. Get it built!

By Stu

A huge block of student accommodation hard up against a block of apartments is just re-creating the problems of HMOs in Fallowfield but in the city centre. Extra noise, disturbance, litter, a churn of residents every summer, it completely undermines the residential strategy. If city living is to succeed it needs to be well planned and sustainable, avoiding conflicting uses. Plus the proposal is completely overbearing on Deansgate Quay in a way that Deansgate Square is not. I’m sure the council understand their own policies quite well, the reasons for refusal sound quite logical to me.

By Anon

This is close to First Street vita student accomodation…

By Meeseeks

It sits between two developments that had no issue with their applications and one sits in castlefield so more contentious. Lots of the flats will be filled with overseas students without it necessarily being defined for students

By Tomo

I don’t think the precedent they use is valid, the site is much closer to the universities than Fusion’s proposal. The council want PBSA but close to and around the Oxford Road corridor, which this site is not.

By Bradford

I wish they’d start building these student blocks at the top end of Hyde Road. The distance to the uni campus is about the same but in much greater need of extra life, vitality and regeneration.

By Anon 2

If the council planning department wants to try and pretend they have a use they could start by rejecting objectively ugly-looking buildings and enforcing more affordable housing.

Instead they go for cheap shots at decent proposals like this, Speaker’s House, and 20-36 High Street.

By Anonymous

Rather belatedly MCC seem to realise that turning your town centre into a student area, which hollows out for a good proportion of the year, is perhaps not the best route towards a sustainable mixed-use city centre.

By Sceptic

This scheme should never have been refused in the first place, Manchester above any other city in the UK is forging the way ahead with innovative and striking architecture. PBSA is absolutely part of that.

By Neil

I have to disagree with Stu, its student resi you can guarantee they can’t afford the proposals. I think C+W have been very ambition about what they can afford.

By Loo Dealer

Great design and great location for visitors to the city outside of term time wanting cheaper accommodation than hotels. MCC should approve.

By AJ

Poor design and cladding like so many contemporaray buildings in Manchester and completely out of keeping with the other buildings in the area. The council’s decision is the right one.

By John

One developer paid Deloitte to do a report and the other didn’t! Mmm.?

By G

Be great to see something built here, just unconvinced about using Corten steel as a cladding. Be incredible if they used masonary or brick instead and took this unique opportunity to create Manchester’s own Flat Iron building. Unlikely for a student building, but maybe a quality residential or office building could work …

By MrP

I agree with Sceptic. Great building, wrong demographic.

By Elephant