Manchester City Council has recommended allowing developer Real Estate Investment Partnerships to demolish a series of grade two-listed buildings on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter and bring forward a mixed-use scheme.
The former weaver’s cottages in the Northern Quarter were listed in 2018. Despite objections from conservation body Historic England, residents and councillors, officers have recommended that consent be granted for the demolition of the cottages at 42-46 Thomas Street, to enable REIP to bring forward a five-storey apartment block containing 20 units at the site.
As well as residential, the development known as Warp & Weft also features plans for a restaurant and retail units across 9,000 sq ft on the ground floor.
The city council approved the plans in August 2017, saying that the project “represents sustainable development and will bring significant social, economic and environmental benefits” to the area.
A year later, Historic England granted the cottages grade two-listed status following an application from an anonymous individual.
Then, in February this year, REIP lodged a listed building application for the demolition of the listed terrace which, if approved, would allow it to start the wider project.
Because of the listed status, if the demolition is approved, the matter will be referred to the Housing Minister who will decide whether or not to call in the decision.
A letter of objection from local residents group the Northern Quarter Forum said: “The buildings have been granted grade two-listed status and to give permission for them to be demolished would make a mockery of Heritage England.”
The letter added that the developer should adopt a more “innovative and radical approach” to the development, which should include the renovation of the listed structures.
REIP maintains that the only viable option is to go ahead with the scheme as approved in 2017 and that restoring and refurbishing the listed portion of the site would make the project unviable.
The 2017 consent was due to expire this month but has been extended until April 2021 under legislation introduced as a result of delays in the planning process caused by Covid-19.
The redevelopment of another grade two-listed building, 7 Kelvin Street, was also woven into the original plans. It is currently being held up by scaffolding but will be restored and converted into a two-bedroom townhouse if the project gets the go-ahead.
The development site also includes 48-50 Thomas Street, but the unlisted buildings that occupied this part of the site were classified as unsafe and demolished in 2017 as part of the same development.
REIP is already in talks with main contractors and hopes to start on site before Christmas subject to approval.
Thomas Street, including the area directly in front of the development site, has been pedestrianised, as part of Manchester’s drive to make the city more suitable for active travel such as walking and cycling, support city centre restaurants, and allow people to social distance more easily.
A spokesperson for REIP said the company “does not foresee [the pedestrianisation of Thomas Street] being much of an obstacle” in terms of progressing development.
Piccadilly ward councillors Jon-Connor Lyons and Sam Wheeler have also objected to the demolition of the Thomas Street buildings.
Lyons said the council has “a duty to protect listed buildings, not to protect the profits of developers”, while Wheeler said that “if the developer does not feel the project is economical, [it is] free to sell the site to another entity.”
The professional team for the project comprises Jon Matthews Architects, Renaissance, WSP, WECE and SLHA.