Plans for 24 modular flats from the company behind Yo! Sushi were rejected yesterday, in a boisterous planning meeting in which one councillor called the design “stupid” and said it should “yo yo back to London where it belongs”.
The six-storey block by Glenn Howells Architects was proposed for a site in New Islington, as Yo! Company’s first foray into the residential sector. The pre-fabricated building is designed to maximise the use of space in apartments by incorporating pull-down beds, with concealed cupboards and dining spaces.
In an unusual move for a Manchester planning meeting, the committee went against officer recommendations which had been to approve the scheme. After a lengthy debate which focused on issues with design, affordability, and access, the committee refused the project by six votes to four.
Cllr Hugh Barratt was particularly vocal in his dislike of the scheme, and attacked the place-saving elements as “simply like the Japanese have decided to have. This is the 21st century, let’s have proper accommodation where people can enjoy a proper life.”
Later when he proposed that the scheme be refused, and criticised the impracticality of the pull-down beds: “We need bedrooms for people to actually sleep in. Imagine someone coming in after a few beers and wondering which pinch of the plug will make the bed come down.
“Where do they get these stupid ideas? If they want to ‘yo yo’ this building let it ‘yo yo’ back to London where it belongs.”
Another objection was due to the limited parking provision, with six spaces to be delivered on a nearby site which would stay in the ownership of Urban Splash. Cllr Mick Loughman described the scheme as “inappropriate for the location with no access and no parking” and drew attention to the apartments’ small size, which he said would represent “a jump away from compliance laws and then back again.”
According to planning documents, the Yo! flats are around 450 sq ft, which is above the Nationally Described Space Standards’ 430 sq ft minimum size for a one-bedroom flat for one person, but falls short of the 540 sq ft size for a one-bedroom flat for two people.
Cllr Basil Curley pointed out the unaffordability of the apartments, in particular criticising the council’s own approach to the scheme. He said the report accompanying the application had suggested the Yo! Homes were “designed for more sophisticated members of society, which is not acceptable language in a city council document, is not friendly and biased against people who aren’t wealthy.”
While he conceded the design was “interesting”, he said he could not condone the construction of homes which were not adaptable to the affordable housing market. The apartments were due to be put on the market with a starting price of £150,000.
A representative from the council’s planning department responded in detail to each of the councillors’ points, but remained supportive of the project, calling the Yo! Homes an “innovative and bespoke product” which fitted in with the idea of New Islington as “a different neighbourhood”.
The application is expected to be discussed again at the committee meeting in September.
Jack Spurrier, managing director at Yo! Homes, said: “A lot of issues raised were not to do with planning policy but were personal opinion, however we will be reviewing parts of the scheme and are hopeful that it will be approved at the next planning meeting on 22 September.”