Footballers bench current plans for luxury development in Manchester

Developer asks planners to hold off considering its 153-unit St Michael’s development after local ire

Footballers-turned-property developers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have asked planners to not consider their 700,000 square foot luxury mixed-use scheme in Manchester in its current guise, after a lot of locals and campaign groups poured criticism on designs.

“We are failing to get our message across”, Neville told the Architects’ Journal at MIPIM, admitting that he was “frustrated” by the force of opposition to Make Architects’ plans for two bronze-coloured towers (31 and 21 storeys) near Manchester Town Hall, which would have delivered 153 apartments alongside a hotel, bars, restaurants, shops and a synagogue.

Neville, Giggs and Brendan Flood’s development outfit Jackson’s Row is behind the St Michael’s scheme; plans were initially unveiled last Summer, and went through two public consultations before being submitted to council planners. But locals were not impressed, particularly by proposals to knock down incumbent buildings including a 1950s synagogue, the 1930s Bootle Street police station and an 18th-century pub. The Twentieth Century Society named the synagogue and police station in its top 10 list of buildings most at risk.

Developers altered the colour of the towers, from black to bronze, as a result of consultations which called original designed “huge dark towers”, but it sounds like that has not been enough to placate naysayers. “The design of the building façade has evolved,” said Make Architects principal Ken Shuttleworth of the hue-change, “including lightening the colour to a softer bronzed aluminium that will change the towers’ appearance in different lights and times of the day and responds to the material tones already in the conservation area.”

Historic England said it was “deeply concerned” about Make’s designs, warning that the scheme would “erase different layers of this area’s history, irreparably damaging the special character of the surrounding conservation area”, while four other heritage groups – the Ancient Monuments Society, Save Britain’s Heritage, the Twentieth Century Society and the Victorian Society – petitioned communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid to get involved and call in the scheme if Manchester council approved it.

Here’s what Neville said to the AJ in Cannes: “We are looking again at the façade design, the top of the buildings and where they meet the street. There will be no stone left unturned and when we [started off] knew full well the scheme would change and adapt. We will continue to make changes.

“We are failing to get our message across and what we are trying to achieve. The reaction has been out of proportion [to the scale of the scheme]. There has been a perfect storm and no doubt there has been [more noise in the media] because of us as individuals and the site.”

“We feel frustrated, but I don’t think it is nimbyism. The other day I received a tweet about the Bootle Street and South Mill Street junction and I thought: that’s right. We welcome feedback and are humble enough to look at things. The listening has to continue.

‘You can’t please everybody – but we [believe in] the site, and the fundamentals [in terms of height and scale] won’t change. We would never criticise any other development or architect – developing is a big risk and we welcome everybody’s efforts. But the last six to eight months have felt a bit lonely.”