St Michaels Dec

Hodder slams ‘superficial’ objections from St Michael’s campaigner

Charlie Schouten

Architect Stephen Hodder has hit back at heritage campaigner Save over a report outlining its objections to Manchester’s St Michael’s proposals, criticising the “extraordinary” conclusions and “a lack of dialogue” from the organisation.

Save issued the letter earlier this month, and argued a series of public benefits put forward by the developers have been “exaggerated” and “not backed up by evidence”.

The campaigners argued the development’s proposed 40-storey tower would “totally dominate the whole of central Manchester in an extremely detrimental manner,” and that it would “diminish the role” of heritage assets including the Town Hall.

“In our view, the very significant degree of harm caused by the proposal far outweighs any potential public benefits from the scheme,” said the group.

The report was commissioned by Save and written by Alec Forshaw, planning consultant and former head of heritage at the London Borough of Islington.

“Given that the proposed new buildings are completely alien in terms of their scale and materials within the context of the Peter Street/Deansgate Conservation Area, Save considers that the development is not of the highest architectural quality,” said Forshaw’s report.

Forshaw also added the provision of Grade A office space “is not in itself a public benefit” and also added the scheme’s housing proposals were “not a public benefit” as “there is no provision of social housing in the scheme”.

However, speaking to Place North West, St Michael’s architect Stephen Hodder criticised the group for “a lack of dialogue” with the developers and said it was “quite extraordinary” that Save had chosen to object on public benefit grounds.

“There are pages and pages of public benefits set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment, and I’m not sure if [Save] has digested the planning application fully,” he said.

“We have never denied the impact of the scheme on Albert Square, but it’s remarkable that Save has come to their conclusion when other parties haven’t.”

Public benefits highlighted by the project team, made up of Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Brendan Flood, Manchester City Council, Beijing Construction Engineering Group and Singaporean investor Rowsley, alongside planner Zerum and Hodder + Partners, include:

  • An estimated construction value of £135m and the creation of 500 construction jobs
  • The provision of Manchester’s first purpose-built five-star hotel
  • A contribution of £32.7m over ten years to public sector finances through business rates
  • Strengthening of pedestrian routes between Albert Square, Deansgate, and Spinningfields
  • Replacement of the current Manchester Reform Synagogue which is “not fit for purpose”

Alongside Save, other objections to the scheme have been received from the Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society, and Manchester Civic Society, while Historic England said it would be “unable to support” the application on heritage grounds.

However, Hodder said the Historic England response to the proposals was “far more appropriate” than Save’s, coming after five separate consultations.

“I would argue Historic England are far more qualified and far more measured in their response to the proposals, as they recognise the benefits by restoring active frontages, the retention of the pub, and of the police station,” he said.

Manchester City Council’s planning committee will discuss the proposals on 8 March, with the scheme listed as “minded to approve” by planning officers, subject to a response by the Secretary of State.

In concluding their report, officers said the judgment was finely balanced, “as the impacts on the historic environment are high, as are the public benefits”.

Hodder added the city’s planning department “did not take the decision [to recommend the scheme for approval] lightly” given the high profile of the scheme and its history, but said there had been extensive discussions with the Council over the course of the project’s development.

“We have spent a huge amount of time in dialogue with Historic England and Manchester City Council and the proposed scheme is the result of constructive contributions from all parties.”

Henrietta Billings, director of Save, said: “Given that councillors on the planning committee will be weighing up these claimed ‘public’ benefits over the massive and irreversible heritage impact of this scheme, it is hugely important that these assertions are scrutinised closely.

“This is a fantastically sensitive part of Manchester – and the existing buildings on the site could be adapted and sensitively extended to accommodate a range of modern, attractive uses – without a 40 storey tower crashing into the historic core of the city.”

Overall, the proposals include a 216-bedroom five-star hotel, 147,690 sq ft of offices and 189 apartments, conferencing facilities, a synagogue, restaurants and a public square.

St Michael’s declined to comment. Save’s report can be read in full here.

Your Comments

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Funny that the Archangel Michael didn’t want to comment.

By Ano

Looks just like Centre Point in London….

By Anonymous

Not quite sure what benefit “The provision of Manchester’s first purpose-built five-star hotel” really is? Funny how anything can be labelled a public benefit if you word it in a certain way but once you scrutinise it, you find it’s all a bit airy fairy. In my opinion, the real issue is also the design of the tower – if this location really is a prime opportunity for the city to re-establish itself as a “global city” and is therefore only going to reach it’s full potential by building a tower, why not design something more ambitious or iconic or memorable? Seems like the team are sitting on the fence with this design in order to avoid a backlash similar to the original scheme and hoping they will be left to slowly and quietly get on with building it without anyone noticing… Still amazes me that this design has even managed to get to this stage :(

By +

Slam them all he wants, they’re not entirely untrue.

By QuaysMan

“A lack of dialogue”? They don’t have to discuss it with you, they aren’t statutory consultees. The report was written by a heritage and design expert who doesn’t like your scheme, and is saying so. They are not alone in their distaste, as seen by Historic England’s lack of enthusiasm to support the scheme as well, and the several objections.


….or the former 1960’s former Pan-Am (now Met Life) building, New York

By ChesneyT

Take a look at the Mayfield plans for example. The site is an edge of centre site of redundant buildings – careful and detailed planning proposals for development of the whole site incorporating high and medium rise buildings.

Bootle Street site – important city centre site close to the historical Town Hall (Albert) Square – whack on the biggest building we can get away with and who cares about the surrounding area.

By ChesneyT

This proposal commits the dual crime of being bland and prominent

By Ano2

The creation of 500 construction jobs is nonsense.

By Doubtful

Oh dear. No-one’s going to come out of this with dignity in tact, are they?

By MancLad

‘Pages and pages of public benefits’ – most of which aren’t public benefits (or benefits at all).

In any case, how on earth is this being considered under the original planning application? The only things that are similar between the original scheme and this one are the blandness and dominance.

Given there is an increase in the number of apartments I do hope that the city council asked for the extra planning application fee.

Hopefully SAVE have the stomach for a JR on this one. Hopefully the above will be the first ground for challenge.

By Bungle

I am absolutely amazed that we are still even considering this blight on our city. Why would they want to build a 40 storey building next to our amazing town hall. It would totally over shadow it for all time. Common sense must prevail. Our Heritage is far to important. . Stop it now.

By Andrew Robinson

Agree with Ano2 – dominant and dull

By Bradford

Agree with By. This building is fine in my eyes but it does look like the Pan Am building or Centrepoint as others have said. This is costing a lot of money so why not a unique building which instantly says, ‘Manchester’ to visitors and potential visitors? When is somebody going to be bold in Manchester and build something interesting?

By Elephant

Aww is Stevie Weevey throwing his toys out of his pram as someone doesn’t like his pretty pictures….grow up! I’m also amazed at how a 5* hotel can ever be a public benefit?! Yeah, maybe for the select few that are on Neville’s salary. I really do hope this shame of a scheme is thrown out once and for all!

By Steve

Looks like centre point

By Tannoy

I must agree with SAVE. Stephen Hodder displays a degree of arrogance that has often brought architects into disrepute – the inability to admit that he has ‘got it wrong’. The scale of development proposed is grossly beyond what is needed in this very historic part of the city centre. Most of the benefits claimed by Mr Hodder do not justify the construction of a development which is totally out of character with the area which includes the incon Town Hall, Central LIbrary, Midland Hotel, and other excellent buildings. Mr. Hodder should have the grace to admit that the development he proposes may be right for Dubai, etc. but is wrong for Manchester.

By Roy G Chapman

Dull and dominant!!

By !

Wrong on so many fronts and if approved will become a blot on the landscape of Manchester!

By Dover