Redhill Street's rat running, missing shops and lots more student flats

The New Islington bridge of sighs

There’s a swing bridge of frustration in New Islington because it doesn’t do what a bridge is supposed to do: it doesn’t connect disparate parts but just leaves you hanging there. It’s a non-bridge, a fake bridge.

It's also seriously irritating when walking in Cotton Field Park that you now have to circumnavigate the whole canal basin rather than cutting across in the middle.

Trivial, perhaps? Well, it would be if this were a whinge between one week when the bridge broke and the next when it was fixed. Not so trivial and indicative of poor UK service again in these troubled times when the bridge has been broken more than six months.

The park is owned by the city council but the company that manages the area is private. This is Plumlife Property Management.

We wrote to them with: ‘The footbridge in (Cotton Field Park) and the eastern towpath, between Pollen Bakery and Flawd bar, has been left permanently open, presumably in need of repair, for more than six months. This makes movement around the marina slower and creates considerable inconvenience for residents and visitors alike.  

‘Could you please inform us when the bridge will be repaired with a timescale? Also you could please give a reason for the excessive delay in fixing the bridge?’

This was the reply from Caroline Millington, Director of Private Sector Management at Plumlife Property Management. 

“The swing bridge at Islington Marina has been out of action since late summer as we’ve looked to find a remedy to the issue. The engineering company that maintains the bridge has carried out a detailed investigation and concluded the bridge’s bearings and wheels are severely damaged and beyond repair. Therefore, Plumlife has appointed a surveying firm with the expertise to manage the repair project, to prepare a scope of works and put the works out to tender as the parts will need to be specially fabricated and cannot be bought off the shelf. 

“We’re now nearing the end of this process and we should be in position to update on when the repair works will start and when the bridge will be back in operation shortly. This information will be shared with all the head leaseholders on the estate as soon as this is available.”

Reading between the lines this means they have no idea when the bridge might do what bridges do, in other words connect those disparate places. The wait goes on. Don’t hold your breath. 

2024 01 23 Property Roundup 10
Swans can sail but people can't cross Imageg: Confidentials

Shiny phallus building to detumesce

In some ways we’ll miss it, in some ways we won’t. 

Post-modern architecture has a bad rep, written off as pastiche. It appears as dated as an episode of Dallas or Dynasty. And my-oh-my Manchester has some crap post-modern buildings such as the whole of the Trafford Centre and much of Salford Quays. The Victoria Building is just such an example. 

One City Road, given its scale, is perhaps Manchester's most entertaining example of post-modernism, all mirrored glass leading to a phallic tower. The building used to have a pink stripe which made it look like a packet of Silk Cut fags or maybe a pink coconut liquorice allsort.

The architects were CAD and the building went up in the nineties at a time when the notion of Deansgate Square’s towers and HOME arts centre, or any useful life around here, seemed as remote as Manchester gaining a £242m event space called Aviva Studios.

Now the phallus is being unerected, so to speak, to be replaced by a neat and tidy if more generic building by Jon Matthews Architects. This will be in the form of two office blocks of 11 and 15 storeys, providing a combined 370,000 sq ft of workspace. 

2024 01 24 One City Road
One City Road about to get the chop Image: Confidentials
2024 01 23 Property Roundup 2
The replacement One City Road Image: Planning documents

Noughties nonsense to vanish too

The neighbour of One City Road will also vanish for another pair of buildings by John Matthews Architects. 

There can be no regrets about this one though as it’s a noughties shocker designed by we-not-whom and care even less. This was hosting a Premier Inn. 

The plan is to replace the building with accommodation across two structures of 37 and 13 storeys. 1000 students will be hosted here along with ‘office space with 2,200 desks’ whatever that means. The development is arriving via Whitbread, owner of the Premier Inn chain, and student accommodation developer Dominus.

Speaking to Construction Index magazine, Jay Ahluwalia, principal director at Dominus Real Estate, said: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Whitbread to create a mixed-use scheme that will provide an attractive, sustainable and well-connected hub for work, study and living. Our aim is to provide a huge boost to Manchester’s Southern Gateway, contributing to the continued regeneration of the First Street area.

“Our One Medlock Street scheme will bring high-quality and flexible Grade A offices, much-needed student housing at a location supported by the city council and a better street-level experience for all.”

He would say that of course. Indeed, in statements concerning property you can make a game of spotting words such as 'sustainable', 'hub' and 'flexible'. 

The upshot though will be a huge increase in scale at one of the main approaches into the city centre from the airport. There will be John Matthews Architects' tower on the western side and the Simpson Haugh towers on the eastern. 

2024 01 23 Property Roundup 7
Goodbye grotty Premier Inn Image: Wikimedia
2024 01 23 Property Roundup 9
The scale in the southern city centre gets ever higher Image: Developer

The Ancoats' street of chaos

In a city centre being currently mucked up with ludicrous traffic management schemes aimed at traffic calming (or rather traffic banning) Redhill Street, Ancoats, appears to have escaped the notice of the city’s doctrinaire policy makers. 

The thing is, this is one street which desperately needs some traffic management. The attractive, cobbled but narrow street between the Rochdale Canal and behemoth old textile mills has two way traffic and seems very much beloved of large delivery trucks and boy-racers charging over the pavements playing chicken with pedestrians.

We asked the Council if there are any plans to make Redhill Street one way and thus safer and more pleasant?

This was the reply. ‘The Council is aware of concerns about traffic on Redhill Street and is exploring potential solutions which would significantly reduce rat-running through Ancoats. This scheme is still being developed, with more information being made available to residents and businesses in the coming months.’

Nobody, certainly not cyclists, asked for the madness on Deansgate which expects cyclists to cross to the wrong side of the road for 100 yards at John Rylands Library and then cross back. Nobody asked for the chaos on Quay Street and its daily evening traffic jam. It appears that the people modelling traffic flows in Manchester are very very incompetent. 

For once the introduction of traffic management on Redhill Street would have a postive impact on local amenity rather than a negative one. 

2024 01 23 Property Roundup Redhill Street
Redhill Street, all traffic chaos Image: Confidentials

Bikes, paint and the city centre

The introduction of often wayward and impractical cycle lanes (and we're cyclists at Manchester Confidential) comes at a time of retail pain in the city centre. 

Given the money being spent on cycle lanes there's a cruel irony in the fact that since Harry Hall Cycles closed in October 2023 there are no general cycling stores remaining in the city centre (as opposed to specialist ones such as Rapha or Trek). Harry Hall had been going since 1955 and was a landmark retailer in Manchester. Evans Cycles had closed earlier in 2023.

Meanwhile you now can't buy a pot of paint in the city centre.

Farrow & Ball has closed on Deansgate so city centre residents will have to (probably) drive to a DIY store on the fringes of the city for some mellow shades. 

We are compiling a list of what the city centre is missing in terms of interesting retail: a decent antiques shop, a proper second-hand bookshop, a real deli, a toy and model shop, the list goes on with more practical omissions such as a good hardware shop. 

There will be an article to follow but diverse and interesting retail is an important asset for city centres, appealing to locals and visitors alike. 

Paint Spill Wood
No possibility of spilling paint in a Manchester city centre shop anymore Image: Wikimedia

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New Library and other property stories

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