Hulme residents took to the streets last week to protest against proposals for a student block on the site of the old Gamecock pub.
Locals appeared in high spirits on Friday, chanting “We want powers, not more towers” and “Block the block”, while bus drivers beeped their horns in support as they drove by.
Block the Block is campaign group led by residents of neighbouring blocks to the Gamecock pub site, called Cooper House and Hopton Court, who are opposing the plans to demolish the vacant Gamecock pub on Boundary Lane in Hulme, and build a 261-bedroom, 13-storey student accommodation block. Developers Curlew Opportunities lodged the plans with Manchester city council last month.
The group has run demonstrations on the site every Friday afternoon for the last three weeks to voice their opposition to the plans. Campaigners argue there is no need for the proposed tower blocks in the area, which already has a large proportion of student accommodation flats. They are also concerned the development would overshadow a communal garden to which the elderly residents of neighbouring Cooper House and Hopton Court have access as an amenity.
Sally Casey, one of those protesting last week, has lived in Hulme since 1969 and works as a representative of the local Tenants and Residents Association. She told The Meteor she is concerned that sunlight in nearby properties and in the local communal garden would be diminished if the tower block was built.
“What about the light for the elderly? All they want is to come to the garden, to meet people, to meet their neighbours.
“There is nothing else for older people here. They don’t have a community room to meet in. I have been volunteering in Hulme since 1974, why am I still fighting for this?”
Roy Bennett, another protestor, was born in Hulme and has lived in the area all his life. He worked as a caretaker for Manchester City Council for 39 years. He agreed with Sally that the garden was an essential amenity for elderly local residents.
“I have seen changes in Hulme that I do not think are for the better. Even during the Crescents, there were communities, real communities — punks and everything.
“We used to have 38 pubs in Hulme. There’s nowhere now for the community, particularly the older generation. All we have is this garden. We can’t sit in it with all this drilling going on, and trees being knocked down for portacabins and workmen’s areas.”
The Meteor contacted the council to comment on the concerns of residents about their being a lack of amenities for locals, particularly the elderly. It did not respond by time of publication.
Curlew’s plans align with Manchester council’s desire to see more purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA’s) developed in the city centre to attract students out of private rented sector housing and boost council tax revenues. It is estimated this could increase council tax revenue by £17m.
Residents say there are already too many student flats in the area. “We are not anti-student,” Sally emphasised, and went on to say:
“We love to see the young people come to be educated in Hulme. But the idea of another block of flats, where we have a block of mostly elderly, vulnerable people, who only have a single garden opposite. It’s the only piece of land they have with a bit of sunshine to give them a pleasant life.”
Roy said: “I don’t see any sense in it, Manchester Metropolitan University is currently building three PBSA blocks on Bonsall Street. We have heard they are struggling to fill them, so I do not see why we need PBSAs.”
The Meteor contacted MMU to ask they respond to this claim that it was struggling to fill current accommodation. They had not responded by the time of publication.
Campaigners argue Policy H12 of the city’s Core Strategy requires developers demonstrate there is a need for additional PBSA or that they have entered into a formal agreement with a University or provider of higher education. “No formal agreement with any of the education providers has been met or provided,” a Block the Block spokesperson said.
The council’s planning committee rejected the last development proposal for the site in 2012 unanimously, with a major reason being there was no demonstration of unmet need for student accommodation. The excessive height of the proposed blocks and their effect on homes already there was also listed as a factor behind refusing the proposal.
Block the Block last year raised £1,500 from a Crowdfunder campaign to pay for a planning consultant to help prepare its case against the proposals. The planning consultant, Urban Imprint, will draft official objections to the plans so that they are legally watertight,
Residents say they would like to see the site turned into a communal facility instead of student accommodation.
The Meteor understands the building itself is owned by Cyprus-based developer Jumani Holdings, while Manchester council owns the grounds. This means Manchester council cannot force the landowner to not develop the land on which the former pub is situated.
“We are not saying we do not want the former pub to be knocked down, because it is a mess,” Roy admits. “I would like to see a community centre. There are a lot of people in Hopton Court who do not know who their next door neighbours are.
“I would love to see something here for the community. We have very few facilities in this area. We lost three care homes in Hulme. There is nothing for older people here. We would love to see that as a community centre, or maybe low-rise housing for vulnerable elderly people. We want something for our residents.”
Local residents can respond to the proposals online by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by post to Planning, Manchester City Council, PO Box 532, Manchester, M60 2LA
Block the Block is holding a workshop on Wednesday, 23 June to help residents draft objections.
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Featured image and all in article images: Ella Marshall/Deem Studio