Watkin Jones Fallowfield
The development is deemed to not address housing need in Fallowfield. Credit: via planning documents

Watkin Jones faces refusal over Fallowfield student scheme  

Dan Whelan

The proposed 425-bedroom redevelopment of the former USDAW trade union site on Wilmslow Road “would not give rise to a positive regeneration impact”, according to Manchester City Council planning officers. 

Watkin Jones’ project has been recommended for refusal when the authority’s planning committee meets next week. 

The scheme 

In January, Watkin Jones Group lodged an application with Manchester City Council to redevelop the site of the USDAW trade union building on Wilmslow Road. 

The proposal includes demolishing the majority of the buildings on the site and constructing a pair of residential blocks designed by Tim Groom Architects. 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 developer said it hopes the project will free up properties in Manchester’s mainstream residential market, an objective outlined by Manchester City Council last year, and provide an alternative to houses of multiple occupation for students.  

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than 100 years, has decided to relocate due to high maintenance and running costs, an unsuitable building layout and outdated facilities, according to Watkin Jones.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 development is deemed to not address housing needs in Fallowfield and “would not closely integrate with existing neighbourhoods”, planning officers said. 

The developer has also not demonstrated that it has a formal agreement in place with a university nor that there is a need for additional student accommodation in Fallowfield, according to an officers’ report. 

Unacceptable scale, height and density are also cited as reasons to refuse the application. 

The proposals garnered 246 objections from stakeholders, including councillors Ali Ilyas, and Zahra Alijah. 

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Seems hypocritical when they consented that brick monstrosity.

By 1981