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Plea to council to save historic Manchester hospital

A proposal to demolish the former Ancoats Dispensary in east Manchester goes against Government policy and should be refused, according to the Victorian Society.

'Ancoats Dispensary must be saved. This last remaining fragment of Ancoats' heritage is an impressive survivor in an area that has already lost most of its historic buildings. It must not become the victim of short-term economic concerns,' said Chris Costelloe, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society.

The Grade II-listed Dispensary on Old Mill Street was built in 1891 to treat patients who did not qualify for the poor law hospitals but who could not afford medical bills.

It closed down in 1996 and was later bought by the regeneration company, Urban Splash, which hoped to refurbish the former hospital as part of the wider New Islington project. In 2001 Urban Splash made a short film about the plans for the Cardroom Estate in which the company's co-founder, Tom Bloxham made the following statement:

'It is a challenge. We've got the skills, we've got the enthusiasm, we've got the energy to make this deliver. And we have to make it deliver, because if we don't deliver on this one, we'll never work in the city again.'

Ten years later and Urban Splash has applied to knock down the historic dispensary at the heart of the site.

The Society believes there is insufficient justification for the destruction of this Grade II-listed building and is urging Manchester City Council to refuse consent. In the application Urban Splash focuses on the current development climate, rather than taking a medium term view as required by Government planning policy, and it considers the building in isolation and not as a relatively small part of a much larger development site.

Mr Costelloe added: 'The Dispensary needs some investment to be made safe and watertight, but one day it could and should be the heart of a regenerated Ancoats. The case for demolition has not been made'.

The building is now covered in scaffolding and growing safety concerns have led to the Council issuing an instruction to take down the central tower.

This is clearly regrettable but the Society is asking the Council to keep a close eye on works so that minimum demolition is carried out, and all parts are clearly labelled and securely stored.

Background

The Former Ancoats Dispensary on Old Mill Street was designed in 1879-91 by Lewis & Crawcroft. It was famously painted by the artist LS Lowry in 1952 in his work, Ancoats Hospital Outpatients Hall.

 

Wednesday 14 September, 2011

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