Watkin Jones Fallowfield
Tim Groom Architects designed the project. Credit: via planning documents

Watkin Jones appeals Fallowfield refusal 

Dan Whelan

Manchester City Council rejected the developer’s plans for a 425-home student accommodation scheme on the former USDAW trade union site in September. 

Now, Watkin Jones has lodged an appeal against the council’s decision to refuse the Wilmslow Road project. 

A spokesperson for Watkin Jones said: “Manchester remains a popular destination for students, who play an important role in the local economy.

“There is a growing need to provide good homes in sustainable locations for people during their studies, which also takes pressure off local housing, so we were disappointed with the committee’s decision. We remain committed to engaging positively with the city council and local community throughout our appeal.”

Speaking at the time, Iain Smith, planning director at Watkin Jones Group, said the scheme would provide students in Fallowfield with an alternative to houses of multiple occupation.

Manchester City Council has voiced its desire to see HMOs in Fallowfield and other student areas freed up for families in order to boost council tax receipts by up to £17m. 

Students are exempt from paying council tax, meaning that the council is losing out on contributions as a result of students choosing to live in private rented accommodation. 

This strategy did not help Watkin Jones though, as the council is keen to see student housing in the city centre, rather than the suburbs.  

The scheme  

The proposal, designed by Tim Groom Architects, includes demolishing the majority of the buildings on the site and constructing a pair of residential blocks. An internal landscaped courtyard, as well as communal facilities such as a cinema room, multimedia or gaming room, lounge areas and meeting rooms, also feature in the plans.  

Oakley Villa, the oldest building on the site and part of the trade union’s complex, would be retained and extended.  

The villa is earmarked to house the development’s communal facilities.  

The flats would be managed by Watkin Jones’ management arm, Fresh.  

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which currently occupies the site and has done for more than 100 years, has decided to relocate due to high maintenance and running costs, an unsuitable building layout and outdated facilities, according to Watkin Jones. 

Turley is the planner on the scheme. Layer.studio is the landscape architect. 

Reasons for refusal 

The city council refused the scheme for the following reasons. 

  • The proposed development would introduce up to 425 students into an area already experiencing high levels of student accommodation and occupation. It is considered that this provision would give rise to unacceptable impacts 
  • The proposal would not give rise to a positive regeneration impact or address the requirement for housing in the area  
  • The applicant has not demonstrated a formal agreement is in place with a university, or another provider of higher education. 

Your Comments

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On this occasion, I agree with the council. Build high rises around city centre where students can access Uni and City Centre easily. Update and upgrade (actually revert) the Fallowfield area back to family homes.

By Another Manc

Families do not want to live in Fallowfield

By Dan

Wouldn’t this development free up more family homes in the area though? Students hopefully are more likely to live in this development (as long as the prices are attractive) and therefore not provide the demand for HMO’s which were previously family houses.

If there is less demand then the landlords of these HMO’s should feel the need to turn them back into family housing.

By Chris

Just to add – it is stated that the Council is keen to see student accommodation in the centre, however the price of accommodation in the centre is often prohibitively expensive, especially when compared to anything in Fallowfield. It seems students are less likely choose the centre, particularly when there are cheap HMO’s as an alternative.

This development appears to provide a good halfway ground.

By Chris

I detest MCC but they are right on this one.

By Observer

It’s important to note that not every student wants to live in the city centre right next to the university. Fallowfield (when I was at uni) was an oasis for students that was affordable and enabled them to separate work from home.

It’s a shame to see developments like this rejected. Keep Fallowfield an oasis for students, nice entertainment venues, sporting facilities and quality accommodation. Family homes can go to other parts of Greater Manchester, of which Fallowfield only makes up a small portion.

Give students the best experience they can, make them want to stay after and provide Manchester with the highly skilled workforce it needs to attract high-paying companies!

By MC

Families do want to live in Fallowfield

By Richard