Petitioning Manchester City Council

STILL TOO TALL AND TOO BIG FOR THIS LOCATION

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0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000.

Update 3/8: there will be another chance to see the revisions, on 23rd August 11am-7pm at The Royal Exchange Theatre (entrances on St Ann's Square and Cross Street). See below to lodge your view on what revisions are required. While the architect is on holiday for 3 weeks he can still see emails. 

28 July: It was good to see some real change at the exhibition at Central Library on 12th July: the exhibition boards are here if you missed it: st-michaels.com  Great to see that the pub and a slice of the old Police Station are to be kept and that the office block has been chopped to a more sensible size - BUT there’s a 38 (38!!) storey tower proposed, still so wrong so close to Manchester’s historic core - it's only 160 metres from the Grade 1 listed Town Hall, and in a conservation area next to several other conservation areas. The developers are now rushing - far too fast - to get new plans submitted in 'a few weeks' - and 2 weeks have already gone by. 


People attending the one day exhibition were pleased to see the change of approach but there's still widespread concern about such height and bulk in this location - see image. As comparison, 3 St Peter’s Square was limited to 20 storeys by Council planners in a much less contentious location (the cross on the picture), and this was approved at Planning Committee yesterday with no objections. The Council is a development partner in St Michael’s. 


Views and responses on the revisions to the plans go to enquiries@st-michaels.com -   I hope you can take time to tell them how you feel about the plan for 38 storeys and ask them to bring it right down to a realistic level - and to make it beautiful! You might want to copy them to the architect and the Council in case they're not passed on by the developers' public relations company.

Over 4500 people have signed this petition and 1400 people formally objected to the planning application. Yet the developers' latest press release says people are 'happy' with the changes - they say 84% of 182 people at the exhibition have expressed either “support” or “support with reservations” They are playing with numbers and words - that is SO NOT a mandate for 38 storeys! Yes, there is support for keeping the pub and the Bootle Street facade, but the plans are still too big and too tall - as the model shows.  We need to make this clear - there’s still a lot to be done to make this right for Manchester. So - please help - email enquiries@st-michaels.com with your views.

If you’d like to copy your email with those views to the new architect, Steve Hodder, directly, this is his address: s.hodder@hodderandpartners.com
And if you’d like to copy your email with those views directly to the Chief Executive of the Council, Joanne Roney, her address is: joanne.roney@manchester.gov.uk 

While a second exhibition is promised, on the current timetable this will only be to show what’s being submitted as a planning revision very shortly afterwards.

My own letter of response is here: Letter to St Michael's

Thank you, Lesley

6 July: Exhibition Wednesday 12 July 11am - 7pm to Rooms 2 and 3, Manchester Central Library to see what revisions have actually been made following the big changes announced last month. On 22 June the developers released a statement saying that the scheme needed 'a fresh approach' - all of us agreed. Here's hoping it's a design that respects and reflects the location of the site and its setting.

A Manchester architect, Steve Hodder, has taken over from the previous architect who designed the huge overbearing towers. In March he was asked by the Council to review the plans, after the unprecedented opposition to the planning application.

The developers' statement said that was clear that a different design approach was required, that there has been an extensive review, leading to a different philosophy. We will all be hoping that on Wednesday 12 July, we see changes sufficiently significant to require withdrawal of the original planning application. If not, we will still be asking central Government to step in and take the planning decision out of the Council's hands given their lack of impartiality, land holding and financial interest.

It’s also to be hoped that the Council will also take immediate steps to put in place a proper policy for tall buildings in Manchester.

We're told that information will be available on-line from 12 July at www.st-michaels.com. However, we are not aware of any plans by the Council to advise the 1400+ people who objected formally to the planning application. 

Feedback - comments on the plans and/or on the consultation arrangements - to enquiries@st-michaels.com or Freephone  0800 032 5725.

Revised plans to be revealed:

Manchester Evening News: http://bit.ly/2uNx6XA

Change of architect and approach:

Architects Journal: http://bit.ly/2sy9I21
Manchester Evening News: http://bit.ly/2sYxvZz
PlaceNorthWest: http://bit.ly/2sy9I21
Manchester Confidential: http://bit.ly/2sJ9HGW

The developers' statement:

“Stephen Hodder and his team were brought in three months ago to contribute design ideas. They are now focussed on submitting revised proposals for a successful mixed-use development at St Michael’s.

In light of the overall response to the first proposal, it was clear that a different design approach was required.

We reflected whether the original solution met the overall objectives for the site and Stephen Hodder was brought in as part of that challenge process. This led to an extensive review of the approach.

Stephen Hodder’s involvement led us to a different philosophy which we believe will command a greater level of support and create a fantastic new development and destination in the city."

BIG THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE SUPPORTED THIS PETITION!     

PREVIOUS UPDATE:  MARCH 2017 

THANK YOU! WE'RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE - BUT IT'S NOT OVER YET!    These destructive plans have been temporarily put on hold ⏸ by the developer after huge numbers of objections - but only, they say, for "refinements" at street level - the two huge towers stay the same. The developers still want and expect the Council to agree to the plans when they press "play" ▶️ so we must ask Government to intervene and appoint an independent planning inspector. We CAN ask Government, and they CAN agree - all it takes is an email to npcu@communities.gsi.gov.uk  

WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG WE HAVE  

Government would have to intervene before the Council makes the planning decision, and while we don't know when that would be, we know that if the developers were making any significant changes, planning law would require them to withdraw the application - but they've only paused it. Guardian 15 March. The process could start up again quickly, so we can't just wait - we must ask Government NOW to make the decision to step in before the Council agrees the plans. Please help! Here's that email address again: npcu@communities.gsi.gov.uk  - see below on what we should say.

THIS IS WHY THE COUNCIL SHOULD NOT DECIDE

The Council is a business partner in the development company that put these plans forward - but it's also the planning authority so would be giving itself planning permission to build these towers. Many, including the media (see below), have severe doubts as to whether the Council can be impartial and objective, because:

  • it has a big financial stake in the plans being approved: it's a landowner and business partner in the development company, and will get £millions from its share when planning approval is given
  • planning approval for these towers will immediately increase the value of nearby Council-owned land so that they can demolish and rebuild higher on those too, again, gaining £millions - i.e. it's a precedent, and won't end here
  • the developer says that the designs for the skyscrapers are what the Council asked for - i.e. that the Council has encouraged and promoted these plans, which will permanently and irreversibly harm our city 
  • the Council clearly and strongly supports the plans at the most senior level. For example, the Leader of the Council has said (M.E.N.) that objectors have made "silly" arguments, and "just don’t like tall buildings". That's nonsense, as comments in this petition make plain. Our problem with these towers is that they're in the wrong place, 500ft from the Town Hall entrance, overwhelming our civic centre. Last summer, a town hall boss said that  "...given the cash already ploughed into Neville’s project, it is ‘highly unlikely’ it will not be granted planning permission" (also M.E.N).

The Council often has to decide on planning applications where it has some sort of interest, such as school extensions. But this nothing like a school extension - it would have a huge impact on Manchester's nationally significant civic centre and beyond. 

ASK CENTRAL GOVERNMENT TO MAKE THE DECISION    

There are thus sound and solid reasons to ask Central Government use its power to step in and stop Manchester City Council from making this planning decision and allowing these towers to be built. The law allows this - but only for applications that are of more than local interest. In those cases, the Secretary of State can appoint an independent Planning Inspector to make the decision instead.

This is the only alternative to the fourteen councillors on Manchester's  Planning Committee deciding to approve the application. The full Council of 96 members doesn't get to vote on planning applications, given the "quasi-judicial" nature of the planning process. The 14 Planning Committee members would be the only ones to have a vote on a planning application that will cause permanent, irreversible and substantial harm to our city centre's nationally significant heritage assets. None of their ward constituents have been consulted, as none of them represent the city centre. (Scroll down for more information on the committee and the councillors.)

WHAT SHOULD WE SAY?

If you agree that Government should intervene, please email the Department of Communities and Local Government at this address: npcu@communities.gsi.gov.uk - keeping in mind that Government will only step in for applications that are of more than local interest. (NCPU is the National Planning Casework Unit in the Department for Communities and Local Government.)

"More than local interest" is the key point to mention: it's number 4 in these 6 key planning reasons why the application should be refused:

  1. this is an inappropriate location for these buildings, which don't reflect, respond to or respect their surroundings 
  2. the buildings are of poor design and appearance, from street level upwards 
  3. the proposals fail to comply with the Council’s Core Strategy and the National Planning Policy Framework, or to fit with the Guide to Development in Manchester and published Conservation Area policies
  4. substantial harm would be caused to the setting and significance of important heritage assets of more than local importance, including our nationally valued Town Hall and civic buildings
  5. the proposals are not sustainable due to their impact on the historic environment and failure to build a high-quality environment
  6. the benefits of the proposals are narrow, partial, and insufficient to balance the harm done to our city's assets. 

The reference number to add is 14664/FO/2016.

WHAT THE MEDIA SAYS

National and local press, TV, and radio have commented on this planning application and the harm it would do to Manchester's heritage assets. Some have also commented that the Council is unlikely to listen to objectors. It’s been everywhere from The Star and the Sun to The Times, on the BBC and Granada, and even in the USA news. Here’s a few:

The Times, 17 February, said "Manchester’s leaders should resist this attack of tower-mania." That "the Council leader has made his allegiances clear and that if Manchester's councillors won’t look after the city’s interests, then Sajid Javid should step in." (i.e. the Secretary of State - see below.)

Manchester Evening News, 20 February: M.E.N. The Council is compromised by the cash deal for the site, undermining "…the ability to take a clear-eyed decision on something...worth so much to the city purse".

The Guardian, 20 February: Guardian "Don’t trash Manchester’s history to make way for skyscrapers."

The Guardian, 23 February: Guardian "Wanton vandalism." +The architect says that the Council pushed re the design.

Manchester Confidential, 21 February: ManCon People are angry about the planning system. "The current planning regime plays at engagement. It appears to care little for public consultations or written responses. It seems to regard both as visits from troublesome and undesirable relatives, a duty rather than a virtue."

The Guardian, 15 March: Guardian "Gary Neville has admitted his £200m plans for two bronze skyscrapers in Manchester city centre have “failed miserably” in the wake of huge opposition from heritage groups. The former England footballer faced a fierce backlash for his plans to bulldoze three historic buildings to make way for luxury flats, hotels, offices and restaurants. On Wednesday Neville said he had asked Manchester city council not to consider the application in its current form and that it would undergo further refinements."

Manchester Confidential 15 March ManCon "We have failed miserably" said Gary Neville. 

THERE WILL BE DAMAGE TO OUR CITY: THE DEVELOPER SAYS SO:

In their own planning application, the developer says: "The proposed development will also result in major adverse impacts on the setting of the Grade I Town Hall, Grade II* Town Hall Extension, Grade II* Central Library and Grade I St Ann’s Square and consequently also the character and appearance of the Albert Square, St Peter’s Square and St Ann’s Square Conservation Areas. The Heritage Statement therefore concludes that "the proposed development will result in substantial harm to the identified heritage assets."

That is what Historic England said last July - that these plans "would cause a high level of harm" to our city centre - but their view was dismissed by the developer. The same developer is now admitting in his own planning application that Historic England were right. Thousands of us agree with Historic England that there would be unacceptable, irreversible and permanent damage to our city centre. The comments in this petition can be read on-line (click on "join the conversation" below). 

The "St Michael's" development proposals on the site of the old Bootle Street police station in Manchester city centre are just 150 metres from the Town Hall entrance in Albert Square. The 38 storey tower will overwhelm a heritage area of national importance - Albert Square, the Town Hall and our historic civic centre -  and will be seen from many miles away. They're of much more than local significance, will have an impact on much of Greater Manchester and will be seen by millions of people. 

ONLY 14 COUNCILLORS WILL MAKE THE DECISION, BUT SHOULD ALL 96 MANCHESTER CITY COUNCILLORS KNOW WHAT WE THINK? 

It is the job of your local Councillor to represent your views and opinions and to decide how the Council should carry out its many important functions. Their job is to represent public interest, as well as the individuals living within the ward in which he or she has been elected.

To find your local councillor: bit.ly/2lPtyTZ - their email addresses are all listed so that you can tell them your views directly.

 

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  • Manchester City Council

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