PLANNING | Refusal for Speakers House, Pollard Street approved

General Projects’ 325,000 sq ft office complex in New Islington and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ Whitworth Street hotel were among schemes approved by Manchester City Council this week, but others were refused or deferred until January. 


Pollard Street office complex

General Projects Canal View Image October 2020

Hawkins\Brown designed the scheme

Developer – General Projects

Architect – Hawkins\Brown

Planner – Deloitte Real Estate

The London-based developer, which specialises in “creative modern marketplaces”, envisages a hub that would bring together more than 100 small-and-medium-sized businesses with larger, blue-chip companies.

The 325,000 sq ft scheme on Pollard Street would be the developer’s first in Manchester. Under the proposals, General Projects would construct five buildings containing a mix of office space ranging from micro-units to grade A ‘innovation’ offices.

The buildings would be located alongside the Ashton Canal and designed by architect Hawkins\Brown and landscape architect Planit-IE, with inspiration taken from Manchester’s heritage cotton and textile mills.

The scheme would also see the redevelopment of five acres of green space close to the New Islington Metrolink station. The area, known informally as New Islington Green, is used by dog walkers and local residents.

Ahead of yesterday’s planning committee meeting, more than 500 objections to the application had been submitted, many of which raised concerns about the loss of green space. The developer’s proposals include a £5m investment to deliver more than two acres of public space to counter the concerns.

The scheme is part of a refreshed masterplan for the area of East Manchester known as Eastlands, considered by the city council last year. At the time, General Projects’ proposed office hub was to span 200,000 sq ft, instead of 325,000 sq ft, and it was to be known as MXM.

Jacob Loftus, founder and chief executive of General Projects, said: “We are thrilled to have received planning consent, and look forward to starting to deliver an incredible, inclusive and sustainable place for business to thrive in East Manchester.

“Our desire to engage with and work collaboratively with the local community does not end here. We recognise that some of our immediate neighbours opposed our proposals and sincerely hope we can move forward positively, working together to co-create the public realm that I want to be the most socially impactful property development in the UK.

“We’re absolutely committed to working with the community to refine our plans and share our ideas.”

Katie Wray, assistant director at planning consultant Deloitte Real Estate, added: “The Deloitte planning team have greatly enjoyed the challenge of working on Pollard Street, a scheme set to deliver new employment opportunities and a high-quality public realm to New Islington. Approval of the scheme marks another significant step in the next phase of regeneration for Ancoats and New Islington, and indeed East Manchester.”

Manchester-based Civic Engineers is the civil, structural and transport engineer for the project.

24 Whitworth Street West hotel

Whitworth Street West Deansgate Locks 01

The hotel would be located opposite Deansgate Locks

Developer Aberdeen Standard Investments

Architect – Glenn Howells Architects

Planner – JLL

After being deferred in October because of councillors’ concerns over design quality, the redevelopment of 2-4 Whitworth Street West into a 152-bedroom hotel was approved by the city council. 

Aberdeen Standard had submitted additional imagery to support the application ahead of yesterday’s planning committee meeting, following a request from Manchester’s chief planning officer Dave Roscoe in October.

The scheme is to see the demolition of former warehouses opposite Deansgate Locks and the construction of an eight-storey hotel building designed by Glenn Howells Architects. The developer aims to be on site next summer now consent has been secured.

Stuart Howard, senior development manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said: “We are pleased our development plans for 2-4 Whitworth Street West have been approved. The new hotel combined with the retail and leisure spaces will bring a new vibrancy to this important street in the city.”

Sandeep Shambi, partner at Glenn Howells, added: “Our design takes inspiration from buildings of Manchester’s past in terms of their scale, proportions and use of traditional materials, which we are using in a contemporary way to create a well-crafted masonry building that responds confidently to the emerging scale of the wider area.

“We have worked closely with the local authority to ensure the proposals are appropriate to the setting and provide a much-needed animated use and frontage that complements Deansgate Locks.”

Great Ducie Street apartments

Maryland Hodder Great Ducie

The proposed buildings, shown here on the left, are close to the junction of Great Ducie Street and Trinity Way

Developer – Maryland Securities

Architect – Hodder + Partners

Planner – Deloitte Real Estate

Maryland received approval to create 129 apartments across two blocks on a site bound by Great Ducie Street and Mirabel Street, close the AO Arena. Breslyn Street divides the site in two, and a disused railway viaduct sits on the southern border.

Plans for the scheme were first lodged in March 2019 and propose a 10-storey block fronting Mirabel Street and a 14-story building fronting Great Ducie Street. 

The apartments are to be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom properties and the development will also feature 3,500 sq ft of commercial space across two units and a 2,500 sq ft roof terrace.

The project team also includes Curtins; Paul Butler Associates; Clancy Consulting on M&E; Civic Engineering; AA Projects, and JGA Fire.


Speakers House

39 Deansgate

The Deansgate scheme is designed by architect Sheppard Robson

Developer – Kames Property Income Fund, part of Aegon Asset Management

Architect – Sheppard Robson

Planner – CBRE

Kames wants to demolish the 1963-built Speakers House and replace it with a 17-storey office complex that would provide 135,000 sq ft of workspace.

However, the application for the £40m scheme was deferred in November pending a site visit from members of the council’s planning committee. Cllr William Jeavons had warned of a potential negative impact from the development on the St Ann’s Conservation Square Area and grade two-listed Barton Arcade on Deansgate. At yesterday’s meeting, the application was refused.

Speakers House underwent a superficial refurbishment in 2013, but has been described by Manchester’s planning officers as “in a poor state…lacking new infrastructure such as superfast broadband”, with inefficient floorplates and low floor-to-ceiling heights.

Current tenants include Greggs, Spar and The Flight Centre, as well as developers Investar Property Group and City Living. Kames’ planning consultant CBRE has said previously it is in the process of “undertaking a relocation strategy” for existing tenants, in the event that the demolition and redevelopment goes ahead. 

The project team also includes Stephen Levrant Heritage Architecture, Planit-IE, GIA, Renaissance, EDPI, BWB Consulting and Curtins.


One City Road offices

One City Road Concept

Jon Matthews Architects designed the development

Developer – Marshall CDP

Architect – Jon Matthews Architects

Planner – Deloitte Real Estate

The developer’s application for a 370,000 sq ft office scheme off City Road and Medlock Street, within Manchester’s First Street regeneration zone, was also deferred until January.  

In its application lodged with the city council in October, Marshall CDP proposes the construction of two office buildings of 11 and 14 storeys on the one-acre gateway site, which it owns. 

A central atrium would occupy the area between the two blocks, linking Medlock Street to a garden on Shortcroft Street. The site currently houses a 1980s office building that would be demolished under Marshall’s proposals. 

The project team also includes Booth King Partnership as the structural engineer, Planit-IE as the landscape architect, and Curtins as transport consultant. 

The One City Road site was one of three added to the First Street development framework in July. Together, the three sites provide scope for more than 1m sq ft of commercial space, including an office tower at Little Peter Street.

Your Comments

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Best schemes deferred/refused, worst schemes approved. What is going on with Manchester’s planning committee?

By Anonymous

Given that councillors live in the city, can they not do site visits in their own time instead of wasting other people’s time and money just so they can have a day out?

By Anonymous

Baffling that the Speakers House development has been knocked back yet utter rubbish like the 2-4 Whitworth approved, it’s an absolute shocker of a building.

By Jon P

So the best two schemes are deferred – laughable considering some of the rubbish that gets approved in Manchester. I am not buying this St Anne’s conservation area argument either, my guess would be it’s the residents in No1 Deansgate that are complaining, to which they have no right to. Don’t buy in the city centre if you don’t want development around you. I am sure if No1 was a block of council flats and not multimillion=pound apartments, this would be getting approved.

By Bob

This is one idiotic council we’ve got in the city.


You kind of get the feeling that there more objections MCC get the more likely it is to be approved. Whereas any good schemes that get positive feedback take an age to get over the line – High Street, Speakers Corner etc. Do they do it on purpose or do they really not a have a clue?

By Loganberry

An apt summary of MCC planning.

Speakers House is a perfect modern building for that plot on Deansgate. Whitworth Street is atrocious.

I also agree with the constant need to site visit; it really makes it look like they know very little about the city.

By Dear oh dear

Approve the dreadful Whitworth Street Hotel and defer the excellent Speakers House. Crazy decision.

By Monty

Wow, shocker of a planning committee. Poor schemes get permission and the high quality schemes get refused/deferred. They may as well not even bother with public consultation in Manc as it’s clearly not relevant for the committee members.

By Anonymous

Speakers House:
There must be a hell of a lot of influence in number 1 Deansgate. Could they not have been offered one way glass?
The excuses for refusing this building are odd, especially when there’s so many questionable buildings being thrown up elsewhere. I hope there’s an appeal because its probably the best designed proposal I’ve seen in the city.

By MrP

I meant the refusal of Speakers House is crazy it is one of the best designed office proposal of recent years yet the Whitworth Street Hotel which was approved is a dull bog standard design. The planning Committee are fools.

By Monty

It’s beyond belief that the Speakers House application was refused. The proposal appeared to be far more in keeping with the surrounding area than some other schemes that have recently been given the go-ahead. I’m thinking in particular of Salboy’s Shudehill office block that will tower over the Northern Quarter. I hope the applicant takes a leaf out of Salboy’s book and tries again. After all, the committee changed their mind with that one despite only minor changes being made to the plans.

By Keith H

I am fairly shocked by the decision regarding speakers house. Its a great design which in no way demigrates the St Ann’s conservation area. How do these people reach these decisions?. I’m disappointed.

By Robert Fuller

I can’t believe they rejected Speakers House. What are they thinking? Not only is it a great design to replace the existing eyesore, but the council should not be turning down this level of private investment during an economic downturn.

By David L

Jokers from the one-party state doing their thing again. One thing about the Bernstein era was that he managed members properly to ensure the good projects got done. Speakers House is a major loss for the City and beggars belief frankly when the world and city will need huge investment to get the economy back on its feet. Members can pontificate all they like but the hard fact is that X number of jobs will not be created by decisions like this.


Let’s hope that the developers of Speakers House appeal this ridiculous decision get approval and pass on all their cost to the city council.

By Lenny68

Is there a way to lobby in favour of the proposal or a way to encourage an appeal ?

(Apart from Trinity Islands, Speakers House was the one that excited me. I hope they find another plot and build it way bigger).

By MrP

2-4 Whitworth St is one of the worst approvals in years: The lost warehouses are interesting and handsome while this new building is of extremely poor quality.

By Observer

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