Downing 5
Downing's scheme was designed by SimpsonHaugh

Manchester rails against co-living schemes

Dan Whelan

The city council decided to refuse two city centre co-living schemes yesterday, Downing’s huge First Street cluster and the second of Vita’s Water Street towers, but the schemes are likely to return to committee next month. 

Downing’s project, designed by SimpsonHaugh architects, comprises a 45-storey tower and three smaller blocks and would deliver more than 2,000 bedspaces. Vita’s project, a 32-storey tower designed by Denton Corker Marshall and located within developer Allied London’s St John’s district, would deliver 1,600 bedspaces. 

Deloitte Real Estate is the planning consultant for both projects. 

Both schemes failed to win approval at last month’s committee – Downing’s was deferred pending a site visit while Vita’s was minded to refuse – and were once again unsuccessful when they returned this week, as councillors raised concerns about the concept of co-living and the height of the developments and said they were “minded to refuse” the schemes unless further tweaks were made.

The developers are likely to put the schemes forward for consideration at the next committee meeting. 

Manchester City Council’s head of planning Dave Roscoe attempted to outline the benefits of the projects, especially at the First Street site, which he said was key to unlocking future development in the area and an opportunity to redevelop a site that had lain empty for many years.

In July, Vita won consent for a 36-storey co-living block, the first development of its kind the in the city centre, but this second, smaller block was refused. 

In an internal report published in December, Manchester City Council raised concerns about co-living and stated that the development of such schemes should be “limited” until the concept is fully tested in the market.

“It is suggested that co-living should only be supported in a very limited number of places, in restricted amounts, within the city centre and under specific circumstances,” the report by the council’s former strategic director of growth and development, Eddie Smith, said.

Union Living Towers

The two co-living towers occupy a site on Water Street Vita bought from Allied London 12 months ago

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We all prefer derelict waste ground in our city centres to vibrant development.
Bradford, Wolverhampton, Hartlepool, go Manchester!!!

By RealityCheck

Good. Glossy on the outside, slum living on the inside.

First they came for our kitchens, and I did not speak out
As I already had an open plan lounge/kitchen…

By Mike

Committee have been feisty since returning from lockdown! These were all sailing through pre-pandemic.

By Anon

two articles on MCC showing some minerals, so good to see!

That first street proposal is horrendous, first time I’ve seen that render, it’s literally developers cramming as much as they physically can to make as much as they physically can.

By Thumbs Up

What happened? They said no to the dream team of Deloitte/ SimpsonHaugh.

By Doris

Great work MCC – finally realising they don’t have to accept everthing put forward.

By NQ Resident

I can see a successful appeal coming which will be expensive for the council.

By Anonymous

The author may wish to rewatch the committee or check with Deloitte and adjust this article. These schemes weren’t refused, they were deferred again. The committee again failed to understand there is currently no policy basis for refusal as the Director of Planning stepped in to advise twice during proceedings. Dave Roscoe actually successfully presented both schemes and couldn’t have done any more to try to make things simple for the committee to understand. Let’s watch this come back every month until they understand and these are approved, which they will be.

By McrPropFactCheck

Excellent news, co-living spaces have no business being in Manchester, leave that to Liverpool & Birmingham.

By New Wave

RealityCheck “vibrant development”

Where do you even start with that.

By CityCentre

What’s co-living?


By Liver lad

Wow – genuinely surprised by this decision – but also really pleased. The committee needs to stand up to our obscure and somewhat nefarious planning department. Co-living is just an excuse to ignore space standards and maximise the bottom line

By Mancunian

@LL Co-living is like student accommodation for adults. You get your own bedroom and an en-suite, but you share your lounge and kitchen with other residents.

It lets developers fit more rentable/saleable “living units” into a building but it’s not clear whether the concept will be successful.

It would be terrible if we built thousands of these things and then in thirty years’ time have to tear them all down again because they’re difficult to adapt back into more normal homes.

By W

Goodbye to an awful concept.

By Tannoy

How can you refuse a concept when you have a exec report endorsing it?? Agree with Dave Roscoe that at least in defined buildings run by experienced managers it has the greatest chance of success in comparison to the tiny ones which are basically just HMOs. If you don’t like it then don’t live in it.

By Anonymous

Which young professionals really want to co-live with strangers for the long term? It is not sustainable. With mates after uni is one thing, with complete unknowns whilst trying to work from home is quite another.

By Anonymous

Co-living sounds like another short cut for developers to provide tiny housing units at an even smaller cost. Effectively HMOs in the sky.
Nothing wrong with a smaller return and provision of good/better quality housing. C’mon committee, bang the table for City residents.

By ChesneyT

Pure gross

By Anonymous

My fear is that these will eventually be approved – I really hope that won’t be the case. In my opinion, and its only my opinion, co-living scheme’s are little more than modern future slums in the sky.

Something needs to be built on this site, and if it is going to be residential, let’s have something of real quality.

By Manc Man

Does Mr Roscoe agree with everything developers put to him?

By Roscompliant

Deloitte don’t lose stuff in MCR. I demand a recount. Cosy club.

By Trev

Is MCC finally waking up? I hope so as so much damage has been done in Manchester recently with this awful, uninspiring ‘architecture’

By Anonymous

Correct decision, unlike the rat infested, boarded up ruins in the NQ, Thomas St?,,, so it remains rat infested collage of broken glass and disintegrating bricks (if they are of any value take them away in a truck to a Reclamation yard). The warp & weft looked good, what is the real problem there? Nothing is getting built, negative result to the immediate area.

By Robert Fuller

Slum living for a lost generation. Good riddance.

By Observer

Deansgate Square is no different. It was raided by police yet again this weekend.

By Dan

We need larger apartments designed to be homes! Decent floor to ceiling heights and multiple storage options for practical living… we have enough of these soulless, small, white box & low quality apartments hidden behind repetitive facades. There is no hope for anyone to “grow” in to these spaces let alone become a family one day, so the city centre community remains transient and disconnected. The prime reason Manchester fails as a city.

By Resident QS

@ Resident QS

“Decent floor to ceiling heights and multiple storage options for practical living” you of all people should know that would eat into developer profits, we can’t be having that.

As others have said, it’s a nasty concept to try to sidestep the Manchester Emerging Space Standards. I absolutely wouldn’t consider “co-living” to be a home, more like living in each others pockets. Did I miss when living in stacked HMOs became “goals”?.

What is it the Residential Quality Guidance says? “Comply or Justify”. Dave Roscoe’s woeful attempt to justify the spaces; “People are living like this exactly that same way in the city centre in serviced apartments, shared accommodation and hotels. To suggest otherwise is just wrong.” They might well be, but the intent of the guidance is surely to steer away from this in new developments? Are we to believe people are choosing to live that way in shared accommodation or is it rather the lack of affordable housing?

If the concept should fail, they will certainly not be simple to retrofit into more traditional apartments.

By Bored Engineer