‘Some people just don’t like tall buildings’ – Leese defends St Michael’s

Council leader Cllr Sir Richard Leese has dismissed as “silly” some of the arguments against the controversial St Michael’s towers proposed close to Albert Square by a development consortium including footballers, Far East investors and Manchester City Council.

In his latest blog post on the city council’s website, Leese wrote: “Of course some elements of design are very subjective in nature, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. We’ve seen that in the debate over Tadao Ando’s pavilion [concrete wall] in Piccadilly Gardens and now in the debate over the designs for the St Michaels scheme on Bootle Street/Lloyd Street.”

Leese continued: “People will like it or they won’t but I’ve heard some pretty silly arguments, not least that the development would somehow overshadow the Town Hall. The only really good views of the Town Hall are from Albert Square or along Brazennose Street and when you’re looking at the Town Hall from these locations you wouldn’t be able to see the new development, and if you’re looking at the proposed development you can’t see the Town Hall. Think some people just don’t like tall buildings.”

Pre-planning consultation close last week for the proposal. A planning application is due to be submitted in the coming weeks.

St Michael’s is funded by a £150m consortium deal with Singaporean-based Rowsley and Beijing Construction Engineering Group. The development consortium is made up of Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, developer Brendan Flood and Manchester City Council.

The proposal is for two residential towers, one of 21 storeys and another of 31 storeys, to be built on the site between Jackson’s Row and Bootle Street currently occupied by Manchester Reform Synagogue, the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and former police station, which would be demolished to make way for development.

The design is by Make Architects. Zerum is development manager.

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Great move there, throwing in Tadao Ando’s ‘Berlin Wall’ in Picadilly Gardens: can’t think of anyone who likes that thing.

This is almost in a similar league of badness.

By Weinstein

You’re playing with fire, Leese. Listen to the people. The scheme needs a redesign.

By Revolution

Is not the height..Is the black….

By Schwyz

SRL seems to totally contradict Brazennose House Scheme Report to Planning 27 October 2011;

“The Panel believed that building heights in this conservation area should not
exceed that of Lincoln House and felt that agreeing to an increase in building
heights in this part of the city would be a huge step to take, and would set a
dangerous precedent.”


By name

The problem is that nobody likes the concrete wall, which MCC sanctioned to ruin the only decent public garden we have in Manchester. If we are having towers can we at least have some which are actually tall and not the height of the Arndale horror. Why are there barriers around Piccadilly landfill now around that public sewer, disguised as a fountain?Perhaps if MCC spent a bit more on the appearance of our public spaces, which may include keeping the streets clean for more than half an hour, than they do on pointless cycle lanes, the place might not look like the tip it is.

By Elephant

Tall buildings yes; inelegant tall buildings no. These are too like tombstones and not enough like spires.

By Tony Heyes

He’s got a point. I’m all for preserving views and historic skylines, but this doesn’t effect any of the good views, and let’s face it Manchester’s skyline is already dominated by tall buildings.

By Anonymous

It’s nonsense to suggest no one likes the wall. I like the wall and actually think it’s the best part of the redesigned gardens. It’s the lawns, fountain, bus stops and poorly designed office block that are the real culprits. Too many people think concrete = council estate / poor people.

By Reason

There have been thousands of objections to these plans, please don’t dismiss them so easily. Listen to what the electorate are telling you.

By anonymous

They look like two fingers up to citizens of Manchester if you ask me

By Pat

I like the wall on the Gardens and would like it more if it allowed local artists to display their skills, there are so many lovely murals down Ardwick Road that show off the local talent why not have them central. These towers are just so meh, every city has something similar can’t we have something unique. Why not embrace the past and have a period skyscraper paying homage to the buildings around it.

By Rainbow

I like the scheme! It looks cool and certainly provides an impression on people which is what we should be striving for. If we want to be the Second City we need tall, striking buildings. Simple.

By The Old Faithful

Oh goodness, “Second City” nonsense being wheeled out again. The place doesn’t even have any Michelin-starred restaurants! Birmingham has bloody five.

Its a meaningless title anyway.

By zebith

Surprised at this comment from RSL. Many objectors don’t have an issue with tall buildings at all, nor the ambition to have tall buildings. In fact in this case the design of the tall buildings themselves isn’t necessarily bad (apart from how they meet the ground plane, which is almost as bad as the Shard in London) – it’s just that they are in the wrong place and replace too much valuable existing urban fabric. So Richard, instead of lashing out at well-founded concerns – and let’s face it, it’s great that so many of the public have such passionate opinions about urbanism in Manchester – why not accept that they have a valid point and put in train the one thing many of us (and your officers) have been desperate for ie. a proper Tall Buildings Policy, rather than the fudgy nothingness currently in policy. That way you’ll safeguard against having hoolies like this, and we’ll all end up with a city that doesn’t increasingly look like its been thrown together by ‘lowest common denominator’ design principles.

By MancLass

Call me old fashioned, but is it appropriate for the Council Leader to be openly backing a commercial bid ahead of a Planning decision? By the way, this gives a great idea of the impact these bulks would have, quite apart from the damage to urban links, further privatisation of public realm and destruction of historic fabric that he seems to have skirted over.


By Ian McHugh

Birmingham has 5 Michelin star restaurants. Manchester has an airport, from which the out can fly directly to Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai. Enjoy your food, Second city.

By Elephant

Great point MancLass. Problem of current tall buildings policy void is anarchy in land price, so only viable solution becomes tall buildings everywhere in vicinity. The current commercial impetus is a great opportunity to shape our future city but if we don’t get a grip on tall buildings they will be springing up randomly. Important time for Manchester people to have this debate and the Council to have some vision. Pity the Planners having to work on a ‘case by case’ basis… Take control Manchester!

By Ian McHugh

Read the last paragraph “The proposal is for two residential towers, one of 21 storeys and another of 31 storeys, to be built on the site between Jackson’s Row and Bootle Street currently occupied by Manchester Reform Synagogue, the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and former police station, which would be demolished to make way for development.” – This is the real issue here…

By manc_arch

Isn’t the patron Saint of the Police St. Michael? Tad ironic the station will be demolished to make way….

By Anonymous

i like what Gary and MAKE presented. In fact, I would prefer the buildings to be taller, say 61 Storey and 51 Storey. Sitting on a roof top bar situated on the 61 Storey sipping some nice cocktails will be real cool.
The views will be stunningly impressive. Thanks Gary !

By VanBasten

These towers are poorly positioned! They can be as high as you’d like if they responded to the street and surrounding buildings and didn’t feature a forced staircase to nowhere. The current design offers no natural surveillance. Many of the detractors to this scheme are educated people in the built environment, not idiots. Please don’t treat us like idiots!

By Rubbish

logical and a good dose of common sense in these comments from Sir Richard Leese.

By sensiball

That’s another ridiculous show of favouritism for one of the “chosen few” from Sir Richard. His dismissal of expert opinion sounds like something from the mouth of Nigel Farage. Perhaps it’s time for him to retire too, and let us have a leadership who are pro-development, but in a balanced form that respects and develops the character of the city.

By Gene Walker

Still defending that wall the man is an arrogant joke! The size of the towers isn’t the issue it’s what they are being built on and the fact they’re black!

By Stephen

To regard soneones view as silly is patronising and shows a lack of understanding of the people of Manchester. The views that will be ruined will be those enjoyed by the thousands of resident’s who live in apartment around the city. You silly man.

By Andrew Robinson

Leese’s arrogance is simply unbelievable. And prejudicial to a fair planning hearing. It should be called in for government scrutiny. Manchester is a rotten borough !

By Chris S

Proposed development totally inappropriate!

By Vivien Walsh

We need to retain our feature buildings and not replace them with these featureless, boring designs.

By Philippa Reece

Your contempt for the views of the people will be your undoing here, Leese. This scheme hasn’t been shown in the best light by its renders. It currently appears to be a dark, blocky, depressing design. The outrcry here is unprecedented.

By Listen Up Leese

surpirised a listed building application hasnt gone in on the abercromby due to its links to Peterloo.

Disregarding peoples views is hardly ‘our manchester’.

By Citizen M

RSL and the Council are backing this simply because of who is behind it. If the same scheme had been promoted by a London based developer (who hadn’t been a footballer) it would have (correctly) been suggested a re-think was in order. Very crass and parochial supporting of local celebs is not the basis for making a great city….

By Developer

Dear Mr Leese I’d kindly like to ask you to resign – I believe it’s time for a change in leadership! Your approval for this ridiculous obstruction across our beautiful city is unacceptable and your past decisions prove your inability to lead effectively. The fact you refer to your residents as silly is proposterous – talk about a spoilt child not getting his own way. I feel Manchester requires and quite honestly deserves new leadership!

By Andy

There is an urgent reason to place 31 storeys in Manhattan, New York City. This density and rectangular block footprint is now inappropriate to 21st century Manchester which offers no grid for this type of city silhouette. If you want client density stick them inside an office in Wellington Street, Stockport where 3 complete blocks are still “To Let” after 3 years.

By David Chandler

Do you ever get the feeling that all politicians who have been ensconed in their positions for so long take the general public for granted and when they are questioned or held to account react in such a way..as to say “who do you think you are”. They need to be more sensitive to our views and opinions and not only at election time.

By Man on bicycle

I think they look cool, glad someone is willing to invest in our city.

By Matt

Astonishing arrogance from Leese. Maybe it’s time he moved on?

This is clearly not an appropriate location for tall, hulking towers. If this goes ahead he’ll face a backlash like he won’t believe.

By Gavin Moore

I actually think if they’d provided high quality renders showing how these will look from key street-level viewpoints such as Albert Square and St Peter’a square they’d have less of a backlash.

It’s the attempt to use unrepresentative high level views (seems to be a common tactic these day) which displays a lack of faith in the architecture and makes trust between public and developer harder to establish.

By Balance

Really inappropriate for that location… Manchester will be pepper potted with stuff in the wrong place! The comment on Manchester’s ‘grid’ should be considered seriously. I’m not comparing Manchester with Paris, but that city is built on a much more monumental grid yet they felt that tall buildings should be located separately and Montparnasse for example stands well away in a separate district. The Town Hall civic area if Manchester is its best bit, don’t spoil it.

By Alfie