PLANNING | Speakers House refused, Debenhams approved

A proposed 135,000 sq ft office building on Deansgate were knocked back by Manchester City Council, while the conversion of the Rylands building on Market Street into an office-led mixed-use development was given the green light. 

Meanwhile, Marshall CDP’s One City Road, a 370,000 sq ft office development, was approved, as was the city council’s memorial to the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, while controversial proposals for a 55-storey student accommodation tower were deferred. 


Debenhams overhaul 


Debenhams Rylands Exterior NEW Jeffrey Bell

Developer: AM Alpha 

Architect: Jeffrey Bell Architects 

Planner: Deloitte 

Project: The £68.5m proposal includes 70,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space on the ground floor of the grade two-listed building, including a retail arcade accessed from High Street, and 258,000 sq ft of offices on the upper three floors. Plans also include a four-storey rooftop extension featuring a further 40,000 sq ft of offices, and a winter garden on the sixth floor. 

Part of the building will be demolished to create an atrium, providing natural light across the second to seventh floors. The entire building is currently leased by Debenhams, which continues to trade, but floors five to seven are largely unused.  

Manchester city Council planning officers said: “Putting heritage assets to a viable use leads to investment in their maintenance and supports their long-term conservation,” arguing that this outweighs harmful elements of the scheme.

Stephen Levrant Heritage Architecture is also on the professional team. 

Katie Wray, assistant director at Deloitte, said: “The Rylands Building is a heritage asset at the very heart of Manchester city centre that is well-loved by visitors to the city and Mancunians alike.  

“The granting of planning and listed building consent means the city can now look forward to its careful restoration and repurposing. The Rylands Building’s hidden heritage features will once again be restored, bringing new-found vitality and vibrancy to the area.” 

One City Road 

One City Road Concept

Developer: Marshall CDP 

Architect: Jon Matthews Architects 

Planner: Deloitte Rel Estate

Project: Marshall CDP has been granted consent to develop two office buildings, one of 11 storeys and one of 14, along with ground floor retail, in the scheme close to First Street and Deansgate station; offering upward of 370,000 sq ft of office space off City Road and Medlock Street. 

Under the plans, a central atrium will occupy the area between the two blocks, linking Medlock Street through to a garden on Shortcroft Street. 

The site currently houses a 1980s office building that will be demolished under Marshall’s proposals. 

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

Lodged in October, the scheme provoked 49 objections, many relating to scale and light impact, but officers reported that the scheme’s height, scale, massing and appearance are in keeping with the area.

Glade of Light 

Glade Of Light MCC Memorial

Developer: Manchester City Council 

Designer: BCA Landscape and Smiling Wolf 

Masterplanner: Planit-IE 

Project: The permanent memorial to those who died as a result of the Manchester Arean terror attack in May 2017 is to be located between Manchester Cathedral and Chetham’s School of Music, at the foot of Fennel Street.

It will feature a white stone ring “halo” adorned with the names of the 22 people who lost their lives set in bronze, with personalised memory capsules held within the stone. The Glade of Light will also feature a planting scheme planned to ensure year-round colour. 

The project sits within the masterplan for the Medieval Quarter set out by SimpsonHaugh in 2016. 

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This memorial at the heart of our city promises to be a beautiful tribute to those whose lives were so cruelly cut short on 22 May 2017. Their memories will endure and Manchester will never forget them. 

“The Glade of Light will become part of the fabric of our city, a calm and peaceful place which will blend seamlessly with the regeneration of the wider Medieval Quarter in which it sits.” 


Speakers House 

39 Deansgate

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

Architect: Sheppard Robson 

Planner: CBRE 

Project: The plan to replace a 1960s block with a 135,000 sq ft office building with a 17-storey block was refused due to the impact has been before committee previously, with issues raised including concerns over the St Ann’s Square Conservation Area and impact on residents in No. 1 Deansgate, 43 of whom combined to fight the development. 

Following deferral at November’s committee, December’s verdict was “minded to refuse” with officers asked to provide further information. Officers set these out in January’s reports pack, pointing out that the issues facing the No. 1 Deansgate residents are not uncommon; outlining further that the scheme as proposed is supported by approved planning policies. 

However, the planning committee voted to refuse the scheme yesterday.


GMS’ 55-storey student tower 

GMS Hulme Street Tower

Developer: GMS (Parking) 

Architect: Glenn Howells Architects 

Planner: Deloitte Real Estate

Project: The £130m plans, deferred pending a site visit, involve the reduction of the multi-storey car park on Great Marlborough Street, with the space created being used to build a part 55-storey, part 11-storey complex offering 853 student accommodation units.

The applicant company is linked to the Student Castle group that developed the nearby 37-storey tower since sold to Liberty Living. 

Across three rounds of consultation, two councillors have objected along with the Macintosh Village Management Company, which described the development as “tombstone-like”.

In addition, 216 residents, 80 of whom have a parking space within the car park concerned also objected, while Manchester Metropolitan University supports the plan. 

Your Comments

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Refusing a 17 storey building IN A CITY CENTRE for blocking views of another building of a similar height seems shady. Aren’t there plans on the opposite site of the road on the Renaissance Hotel site for buildings of height in future plans too? Will these too be refused because they block views? Can we only now have one building of height at that end of Deansgate? The Speakers House scheme would massively improve that area of Deansgate and St Ann’s Square and replace the current eyesore of a building on the site.

By Manchester Blue

The fact that the council have refused the speakers house development yet again proves just how short sighted they are. Replacing a ghastly 1960s block with something that will revitalise this part of town should have flown through, but instead, they just want to satisfy the NIMBY population in no. 1 Deansgate.

By Slice

These same councillors have approved an awful lot worse than Speakers house and in places that are overlooked rather more than No 1 Deansgate.. Strange indeed.

By James

Such a shame about Speaker’s House. It’s a great looking scheme. I’m sure they’ll win at appeal and potentially get a costs award against the council. As a more general point, I think the Government should look to add a significant punitive element to cost awards in cases like this where members have ignored professional advice from their own planners in order to pander to local NIMBYs.


I hope they appeal on speakers house. Deansgate should thrive with businesses and shops. The odd decision was ever letting No1 deansgate be built for residential in the heart of what has historically been a business led area.

I’m ok with flats central but when it stops offices gaining approval then questions need to be asked

By Tomo

Just wait until the proposed redevelopment plans for the Renaissance Hotel complex are made public, which will probably include a residential tower, and a large office block. No doubt those same residents at No1 Deansgate will enlist the same Councillors again to reject that proposal as well.

By jrb

I really hope the Speakers House developer appeals the committee’s decision and challenges these made-up reasons for refusal in Court. It is baffling how a bunch of layman Cllrs with no understanding of how development impact on heritage assets is assessed can be making a judgment call on this, especially when Historic England had no issue with the proposals. Same goes for daylight/sunlight impact on No.1 Deansgate residents. Bring more sense to planning committee….


Awful decision regarding speakers house. This sets a terrible precedent for the city centre in general. I hope the developer appeals this and it goes to the Secretary of State.

By Bob

Very very strange decision regarding speakers house. Most cities would be falling over themselves for a building of this quality. Considering some of the other rubbish that has been approved in the past

By Johnboy

Speakers House is a good design on a part of Deansgate which needs regeneration.
Refusing this because of a few noisy neighbors is a bad precedent to set, not just for Deansgate, but for the rest of the city centre.

By Local Lad

Very, very strange decision regarding Speakers house. The council have ignored more valid concerns regarding height in the past (for example, Oxygen, comes to mind immediately but there are others). This development would have significantly improved the street scape and had a significant economic impact.

What precedent does it set for the redevelopment of the Renassaince? At what point did two tall buildings in major city in a major economy become not okay?

They need to appeal. As a Labour voter, I despair. I feel some of the members of our council are so out of their depth now given the rapid success of the city. Time for better leadership and better vision.


I agree with everyone else, Speaker’s House is one of the most tasteful, appropriate pieces of planning I’ve seen in a long time. I completely agree with conservation of heritage in the area but surely we should be approving excellent planning such as this. We should value our past but not so much that we damage the future. Completely backwards.
This type of planning looks on par with places like NYC and Melbourne. Accept this and if not there, build it around the corner!

By Mr F

Speakers House, I’m speechless!

By Manc Man

Let’s be honest speakers house has been rejected because a few multimillion pound apartments don’t want to lose their view. What sort of message does this send to the rest of the city and developers looking to invest in it. I thought you were not entitled to a view anywhere in the UK never mind in the centre of one of the fastest growing cities. APPEAL please

By William Davies

Would the same decision have been made had No1 Deansgate been a block of social housing flats? As yourself that honestly

By William Davies

The development of the city has been so fast that a real NIMBY movement has had chance to get going, but you suspect as the population of the core areas continues to build we are going to see more of this. Part of that’s good, its going to be real place that people care about because they live there, but……

By Rich X

Astonished about Speakers House and yet the rubbish scheme on City Road and mutilation of Debenhams goes through??

By Observer

Speaker’s House is probably the finest piece of architecture I’ve seen proposed in the city in several years. The fact that NIMBYs can convince a committee to reject huge amounts of investment into the city at a time where it is needed most, is quite shameful! I sincerely hope that they appeal the decision and go for costs!

By Ardy

Hmmm, Speakers House refused as it impacts on St Anns Conservation area, but St Micheal’s approved despite looming over Albert Square. Something smells a bit whiffy here…. Looks like we might be seeing just how MCC planning ‘works’?

By Loganberry

Speakers House – they should have just appointed Deloitte. Simple

By anon

Hmm…Speakers House again, how odd. Can we borrow some of Liverpool’s recently imposed planning Governance . It would be so interesting to scrutinise how these decisions are arrived at. I hope the developers seriously consider having this referred.

By Citizen

All the good work Sir Howard and others have done is slowly starting to be unpicked. If the council and the planning committee are at loggerheads, it sends a terrible message to external investors who are already sensing things are changing for the worse and Manchester runs the risk of starting to become a place that is too difficult to invest. Needs sorting asap.

By Jobsworth

I hope the would-be developer of Speakers House wins on appeal and goes for substantial costs.

By Monty

Does Burnham have the powers to step in and get speakers approved?


Speakers House:
Really disappointing. I guess if they’d covered it in chequerboard, it would have been built.
Can only suggest they submit the plans again, to construct it smaller so it actually gets built, THEN find another location and go bigger.

By MrP

The Speakers House refusal is shocking. It’s a great piece of architecture. If I was living in,,, let’s say,,, No. 1 Deansgate I’d have no problems with looking out at it. Very contrary to the general development of the city in the 21st century. I’ll stop there……

By Robert Fuller

Just counting the comments on here, that’s 20 individuals in favour of the Speakers House replacement development. Is there a link to the council planning department where these can be formalised, or are we simply saying that going forward there will be no further developments across the road from an apartment block, anywhere in the city centre?

By Graham

Surprised that office block was refused. I think it looked about the right size and looked a nice design to boot.

I would refuse a 55-story student block. I do not think that is a good idea at all. The design also brings to mind a Judge Dredd esque tower!

By Chris

I think Labour are going to be in for a big shock at the next local elections, myself and a lot of people I know are not happy with the backwardness of some councillors over the last few years. We used to be a business-friendly forward thinking city. This is sadly being eroded and investment once destined for here is finding its way to other cities such as Leeds and Birmingham.


Whilst it’s great to see the pace of Manchester’s development continue to outpace every one, the Speakers House descision has caused more controversy because it feels so wrong and any argument the planning committee have made in regard to ‘the St Anne’s conservation area , have already been refuted by No1 Deansgate itself !

By Catherine

I cannot see Manchester’s office take-up being challenged by Leeds, Liverpool, or Birmingham, particularly as I sense they wish to make Manchester the ‘Northern capital’. The only fly in the ointment would be cancelling HS2 and not doing anything else (e.g., NPR). If HS2 stops at Birmingham then I think Birmingham will have a distinct advantage over every other regional city. Very fast times to London being a daily commute is feasible but also billions of capital spending on the station and the area surrounding it. I think HS2 should aim to encompass all major UK cities (including Liverpool, Sheffield, and Newcastle) if levelling up really is a thing. Not hopeful on this though. For what it’s worth, I think HS2 will get to Manchester but likely done cheaply and maybe its having its budget combined with NPR to give the illusion that lots of money is being spent on the North.

By Chris

Haven’t we already got dozens of buildings that look like the proposal for One City Road?
The building that is there has some character, this proposal has none.

GMS’ 55-storey student tower is a monster and should be fully declined. The residents here have a right to be aggrieved and a right to be listened to – it’s sheer hypocrisy that they are likely to be sidelined while those in No. 1 Deansgate are paid attention.

By Becky

I listened in to the Councillors debating Speakers House….ridiculous comments form people who have are so far behind the curve.
Don’t be under any illusion about the schemed design; it’s straight out of the Sheppard Robson cut and paste REVIT office plan book.
However, it passes all of the policy tests.
I also listened to the debate on Rylands. Again, dissenters on the Council talked complete and utter nonsense…very low intelligence and not a coherent argument amongst them…it was so bad that I felt sorry for David Roscoe!

By anonymous

These Labour Councillors seem now to grant or refuse planning at a whim!
The student Tower ( Very innovative) and Speakers Corner are both refused yet Fred Done’s Salboy obtains not only planning for a monstrosity at Shudehill in the Northern Quarter but then are able to obtain a change of use once planning is given! How? One can probably come to one’s own conclusions.
The sooner we have a bigger diversification of council members, the sooner its members will represent the interests of ALL in The City Centre

By Michael

Where can I access (online) the justification by city councillors or planning officers why they are for or against planning applications. Do they also have to declare any personal or family interest or connection with a person or company applicant? Answers to Place North West enclosing a stamped addressed envelope.

By James Yates

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