Manchester City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to refuse plans to demolish three grade two-listed buildings that would have unlocked the Northern Quarter site for a residential scheme known as Warp & Weft.
The former weaver’s cottages were spot-listed in 2018 to block the redevelopment of the site after the developer, Real Estate Investment Partnership, won consent to bring forward a five-storey apartment block containing 20 units in 2017.
Approval of the demolition would have enabled REIP to progress its proposals, but the refusal has cast doubt over the future of the scheme.
Despite objections from conservation body Historic England, residents and councillors, council officers had recommended consent be granted for the demolition of the cottages at 42-46 Thomas Street “with a heavy heart”, according to the council’s head of planning, David Roscoe.
Roscoe said this week that the application had received 40 objections in the 24 hours leading up to the committee, including one from Amsterdam.
REIP maintains that restoring the listed buildings – rather than demolishing them – would not be viable.
Roscoe added that advice the council given to the council had suggested that a 20-storey tower would be required for a scheme on the site to achieve viability at the same time as the listed cottages being restored, because of the costs involved. Yet plans for a building of this size were unlikely to be supported, he said.
Piccadilly Ward councillors Sam Wheeler and Jon-Connor Lyons both opposed the scheme ahead of the committee meeting and said the objection from Historic England was one of the strongest they had seen.
Wheeler argued that the exceptional level of harm the demolition would cause “was not tolerable” and urged the committee to refuse the scheme.
The city council originally approved REIP’s proposals, designed by Jon Matthews Architects, in August 2017, saying 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 – the application that was knocked back yesterday.
REIP declined to comment.