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Footballers’ towers spell disaster for Manchester’s heritage

The latest in the St Michael's development has sent shock waves through the heritage sector.

The Ralph Abercromby pub which would be demolished as part of the St Michael's development

When the planning application for the highly controversial St Michael’s building scheme was held back shortly before Christmas last year, heritage groups and local residents hoped their strong objections against the scheme might actually be being taken into account.

The plans to build two black skyscrapers of 21 and 31 storeys respectively in central Manchester were met with horror when announced last year. Not only would these colossal blocks look completely out of place alongside the Neo-gothic masterpiece Manchester Town Hall and listed Central Library, they would also involve the senseless demolition of three historic buildings including the Ralph Abercromby Pub, one of only two remaining witnesses to the Peterloo Massacre and with 18th century origins.

The Victorian Society objected strongly to the plans fronted by footballers-turned-developers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs on the grounds that skyscrapers of that height and mass in the area would cause unjustifiable harm to Manchester’s historic landscape, and warned that if it proceeded to planning we would request that it be called-in by the Secretary of State.

Now plans have been resubmitted to Manchester City council and, incredibly, both skyscrapers have not diminished in height: they are actually taller than first proposed. Tower A was originally submitted as being 104.1m in height and has now risen to 105.2m, and Tower B has risen by 7% from 129.8m to a staggering 138.5m.

James Hughes, Senior Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society, said, “As the height of the proposed skyscrapers was a major factor in our original objections to the scheme, the fact that the resubmission has the towers even taller than originally proposed is outrageous.”

“This damaging scheme will not only cause harm in demolishing heritage assets; its creation will also cause substantial harm to the Central Manchester Conservation Area as a whole, particularly negatively affecting local listed buildings. Manchester’s Grade I-listed Town Hall, one of the most historically and architecturally important buildings in Northern England, and Grade II* listed Central Library are located less than 150 yards from the proposed site. The St Michael’s development would have a seriously intrusive and detrimental impact upon these treasured heritage assets and must not be allowed to go ahead in its present form.”

The colour change of the towers from black to bronze is practically negligible considering their enormous size and appearance, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding or perhaps even indifference of the developers to the passionate objections from the local community and heritage groups.

The Victorian Society objects to the proposed plans in the strongest terms and appeals to the public to voice their concerns to Manchester City Council and sign the petition against the scheme. 

Monday 20 February

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