Picture of two proposed buildings in Manchester up before the Planning Committee

Manchester City Council’s Planning Committee agreed plans to build a £27m luxury hotel in Piccadilly, while also ruling on a site visit to a controversial proposed 17-storey Deansgate office block.

Manchester City Council’s Planning Committee have agreed on plans to build a £27m four-star luxury hotel in Piccadilly.

The decision made by the Committee on Thursday means a 151-room hotel near Piccadilly Gardens will be built as a joint venture between former Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and hotel company Pestana. The hotel will open in 2023.

Two hundred and twenty eight full-time jobs will be created during construction and a further 187 full-time posts once the hotel opens, the committee heard.

Number 67 Piccadilly will be demolished and replaced with the11-storey hotel which will be linked to 69-75 Piccadilly, a Grade II Listed building. A nine-storey infill extension will join the old building to the new hotel.

Proposed hotel at Piccadilly Gardens approved by planning committee.
Proposed hotel at Piccadilly Gardens. Image: Feilden Clegg Bradley

While there were no objections to the proposal, the Victorian Society took issue with the changes to the Grade II listed 69-75 building which backs onto Back Piccadilly. They say the infill extension would see the loss of the back of the building which possesses great architectural heritage value.

In their report to the committee, the director of planning reassured the infill would “be set back from the main building line to reveal the original form and allow an understanding of the void which would be read as a clear intervention that is subordinate to the listed building.” The director of planning also argued the infill was “necessary to make the development viable”.

Rusholme ward councillor Jill Lovecy acknowledged the scheme required the infill to make it “viable”. However, Lovecy asked whether the committee could “do more to take on board [the views of] our heritage organisations well before the pre-development stage”.

At the meeting Piccadilly ward councillor Jon-Connor Lyons acknowledged the site was within the Stevenson Square Conservation Area but insisted its positioning within the Conservation Area meant the proposal was “absolutely appropriate”.

In a statement to The Meteor, Lyons said: “Our Mancunian heritage can be seen as a burden by some developers, but in this application it is protected and celebrated.

“I voted in favour and welcomed the hotel application as it brings a site that has been derelict and abandoned back into use, creating jobs and an active frontage for a problematic area of the city.

“Getting the city centre balance right is crucial and that’s why we have been keen to limit the potential for noise on the roof terrace to protect the quality of life for the adjacent residents, whilst encouraging the development to come forward and restore the heritage assets.”

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The Planning Committee also agreed to a site visit for a controversial proposed 17-storey office block at 39 Deansgate, after councillors heard the development could cause “undue harm” to local residential amenities and the city’s heritage.

Kames Property Income Fund proposed building a 17-storey office building, following demolition of the existing building. The office would include 96 spaces of cycle parking in the basement and a rooftop plant enclosure.

Chris Sinton, an agent for the Kames Property Income Fund, told the committee that “careful consideration” had been given to Manchester’s heritage. Sinton pointed out the harm done had not been classed as “significant” and highlighted the “substantial regeneration benefits which outweigh” the harm done to heritage assets like Barton Arcade and St Ann’s Square. This argument is based on Paragraph 196 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which states that if a development proposal leads to “less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal”.

Proposed 17-storey office block at 39 Deansgate which planning committee decided to do a site visit on.
Proposed 17-storey office block at 39 Deansgate. Image: Kames Property Income Fund

In the report to the Planning Committee Sinton claimed that the public benefits included generating around 227 construction jobs and 1,000 operational jobs, as well as contributing approximately £2.3 million per annum in business rates and an uplift in employee spending of around £1.9 million.

However, councillors cast doubt on the public benefits of the scheme.In the report submitted to the Committee, Deansgate ward councillor Marcus Johns argued that:

“The existing economic context due to Covid-19 should now be considered…This context is one of economic decline and social distancing measures”. Johns went on to say that the pandemic had “led to a shift from office-based working to working from home… It is contextually illiterate to consider that there will not be permanent changes to the local, and indeed global, office market resulting from this.”

At the meeting, Didsbury West ward councillor John Leech agreed with Johns. “We keep concentrating on this expectation that we need loads of huge extra office blocks. And I am not convinced going forward that in the context of the Covid pandemic that is the case.”

Historic England said it had concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds.

In a comment to The Meteor, Historic England said: “St Ann’s Square Conservation Area is at the heart of Manchester’s shopping district. It is a fine example of the city’s Georgian architecture, and its enclosed layout and feel is part of what makes it special and loved by Mancunians.

“Because of the proposed building’s size and location, we believe that it would have a poor effect on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. Changes in design approach wouldn’t make any difference as this is about the scale and position of the building.

“The same conclusion was reached by the heritage impact assessment produced on behalf of the applicant, which has argued that the public benefits associated with the proposals outweighs this impact. We hope that Manchester City Council, as the decision maker, weighs all of these factors carefully.”

The proposal also impacted residents, the committee heard because the offices would look directly into homes at No.1 Deansgate.

No. 1 Deansgate’s balconies do not have blinds and the design of the balconies means it is difficult to fit them. Roisin Sally who works for the company that manages No.1 Deansgate said

“If the proposal is built all facing homes will be overlooked by every floor in the new commercial development,” Ms Sally said. Ms Sally concluded the proposal failed to meet the council’s SO6 policy of making “the City… inclusive and attractive to residents, workers, investors and visitors.”

The Committee voted to conduct a site visit to better understand the impact the proposed scheme would have on local residents and neighbouring heritage assets.

By Alex King

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  • Alex is a Meteor journalist and heads up its Web and Tech team. Alex has a background in History and moved to Manchester in 2018 having freelanced in Bristol. He has particular interests in the climate crisis, industrial relations, local government and political economy. He advocates for media democracy and a Green New Deal as the best tools society has for re-engaging the public and restoring collective prosperity.

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