St Michaels New Facade January 2017
Make's proposals, revealed in 2016

Hodder brought in to advise on St Michael’s

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Stephen Hodder of Hodder + Partners has been drafted in by Manchester City Council to conduct an independent review into the plans for St Michael’s, the controversial proposal for a 21-storey and 31-storey tower on Bootle Street.

St Michael’s director Gary Neville announced at MIPIM that he had asked the council “not to determine” the application for the £200m project that had been submitted in February, to allow for changes.

Designed by Make Architects, the St Michael’s scheme has been unpopular since conception; from the decision to demolish the historic properties on the plot, to the size of the towers which loom over nearby civic buildings, the choice of cladding material, and the scheme’s blank facades at street level.

Following the submission of the application, the council was understood to have received more than 1,400 letters of objection. Historic England declared its opposition, and described the scheme as “aggressive” and set to cause “substantial harm”.

St Michael’s includes a mix of offices, flats aimed at a “high end” market, a five-star hotel, and public realm. Planit-IE is landscape architect. Zerum is development adviser.

Manchester City Council is development partner, and until recently had been persistently supportive of the project. In October, council leader Cllr Richard Leese dismissed arguments against the scheme as “silly” and said “some people just don’t like tall buildings”. In the same month, former chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein insisted to Place North West that the designs were “appropriate” for the location. However, by March his position had shifted, and he said “the jury’s still out” on whether the buildings were of “sufficient quality”.

Hodder has been behind several large-scale residential projects in the city over the last couple of decades, including Student Castle, and recently a series of schemes for prolific developer Renaker. He was the chairman of the committee that produced the Manchester Residential Quality Guidance, and is a former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

All parties have been contacted for comment.

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Stephen Hodder? I really would have hoped the council would have brought in an independent consultant to review the highly contentious project rather than one with strong ties and allegiances to the council.

By Bradford

The view visuals displayed in the Planning Application are very tactical… the side-by-side nature of these two wide blocks and southern position looking from St Anne’s Square would block out a lot of the Square’s daylight. This wasn’t shown. The viewpoints chosen along Deansgate, from St Peter’s Square and Cross Street were also very smart. Not good enough for our conservation area.

The pre-app objections weren’t factored into the submitted proposals. The only lip-service was a colour change. This was a grave error, as well as the “some people don’t like tall buildings” comment. People weren’t being NIMBYs or heritage warriors. Skyscraper proposals are flying up across Manchester, many integrate with the cityscape brilliantly. Whether the historic buildings are retained or not, this design wasn’t good enough for such a central site. It’s sparked an outrage.

An approval would have made a mockery of the engagement element of the planning system and would have been a bitter legacy for Bernstein. The comments on the application and the political movement to lobby councillors have put the rabbits in front of the headlights. Only when faced with the potential for the application to be refused, have they revised the application.

This is a lesson for developers, allow flexibility after pre-application consultation to refine your designs and gain approval more quickly. Ram-rod things through arrogantly and your project risks being derailed.

By An Arndale for the 21st Century

1. Whatever happened to Design Review Panels anyway?
2. Where is Manchester’s Tall Buildings Policy? If you ask developers to operate in a policy vacuum, of course they will try and maximise floorspace which then wastes everybody’s time having to debate ‘policy’ on a ‘case by case’s basis.
3. Where is Street Policy? Should developments be allowed to create new ‘public realm” (which is actually private) by sacrificing surrounding streets (which are actually public) to be mere servicing conduits?

By Ian McHugh

What are Hodder’s terms of reference here? Will he, for example, evaluate the impact on the conservation area or will that be outside his scope? Surely it is for the planning officer to make an independent assessment.

This smacks of a PR stunt to give the inevitable approval a sheen of objectivity.

By Anon

It is important that another “Ramada Hotel” isn’t created. The general public will not climb a ramp/stairs to sit and have a coffee. Gary Neville states he will only allow independent occupiers in the “public” areas of the scheme. As with the elevated Ramada shops at the North end of Deansgate, no-one will be bothered to climb however many stairs to sit in a concrete yard for a coffee/pizza etc. It can’t be right to build in future urban neglect.

By ChesneyT

When you look at the visualisations and see what will happen to the surrounding streets, it’s actually shocking. The only defendants of this proposal seem to have a vested interest.

By Street Interaction

Just look at these images. https://urbanitymcr.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/sht-skyscrapers-why-nevilles-towers-must-be-refused-first-look-at-before-and-after-images/ Southmill Street is especially poor. This isn’t Dubai. We have a lot of historic architecture here which needs to be fully considered. This turns its back on the surrounding streets

By Street Interaction

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