Jonathan Schofield casts a sideways glance at some stories in the property world

An opinionated monthly look at some of the stories that caught our eye in the property world including goings-on in Manchester, Stockport and Wirral.

June 20 2022 Cheadle Hulme House Extension
Can't see why this has caused so much controversy can you? Image: Maurice Shapero

Cheadle Hulme suburban shock house extension

Maurice Shapero has done it again. Shapero is one of the UK’s most original architects. We covered him earlier in the year with a section on Beehive Mill and the maddest toilet doors ever. Now he’s brought his marvellous and eccentric visions to suburban Cheadle Hulme, specifically the home of Matt Jones. The house extension by Shapero on Bancroft Avenue was featured earlier in the month on a TV programme presented by Damien Burrows (shown in the yellow t-shirt above and an ex-club designer in Manchester). Newspapers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail called it the most disgusting extension ever built. Of course they did. 

Even Shapero was surprised to get planning permission, the key to this was producing two-dimensional drawings for the planning committee, not three-dimensional CGIs. This fooled them apparently, damned hard to read those old-style images. 

The extension has split opinion on the street too but not as fiercely as might have been predicted. It's lovely on the interior and what the hell’s wrong with a discordant intervention anyway? 

“It is a bit different,” admits Maurice Shapero to Confidentials. And then some Maurice, and then some. Keep up the good work. 

June 2022 04 Cgi Station Cross Section 1024X853 1 E1634047745956
The proposed underground station that the Government have dumped Image: HS2

Train pain again

We're not talking strikes. Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority are calling on the Government to urgently rethink flawed plans for the city’s new HS2 overground station in Manchester and return to the underground station plan. A new bill before Parliament proposes a new six-platform overground station next to the existing Manchester Piccadilly station to accommodate HS2 and improved northern links, known as Northern Powerhouse rail. This isn’t good enough say local leaders and will “squander many of the regeneration benefits of the once-in-a-century opportunity created by new rail capacity – and create a station which is inefficient, unable to cope with future growth and a poor welcome to the city. Instead, it is arguing for an underground station which would address all these issues and have more future flexibility.”

June 2022 Hs2 Manchester Piccadilly Station Cgi
The overground solution and the loss of 14,000 jobs, perhaps. Image: HS2

Train gain refrain   

Figures and stats and projections. The Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority estimate the amount of development land swallowed by the overground option of HS2 could be almost half a million sq m of prime land. This, they say, could support around 14,000 jobs. The underground option might, by 2050, bring economic benefits to the city and wider region in excess of £333m a year greater than those delivered by the overground plan. With those figures the underground option is surely the best option - but...

June 20 2022 Ordsall Chord
The Ordsall Chord - the North West's biggest white elephant Image: Confidentials

Ordsall Chord farce 

14,000 jobs eh? £333m really? 

It would be great if these figures were to be accurate but the example of Ordsall Chord is sobering. This impressive piece of engineering from 2017, designed by BDP, was supposed to have 15 train movements an hour at least. It was supposed to link Piccadilly Station and Victoria Station so intimately that economic benefits would blossom across the north like daisies opening their petals on a summer’s morning. 30,000 new jobs and £4.6bn of wider economic benefits were nailed onto the proposals as guaranteed. Yes, guaranteed. Then after £100m was spent on Ordsall Chord the additional capacity at Piccadilly Station, Oxford Road and Victoria failed to materialise resulting in one train in each direction each hour. The Ordsall Chord also resulted in terrible heritage damage as it cut the oldest passenger railway line in the world, but hey, the quid pro quo was 30,000 jobs. 

As if. 

Has even one job flowed from what is presently the North West’s biggest white elephant? 

That might happen in future but it shows you what can happen with grand predictions if other plans don't work out.

June 20 Vision Manchester Building Hero Image For Press Aerial E1655456747472
Vision, 37 storeys with all a person might want Image: Alliance Investments
June 20 Vision Manchester Entrance View
The "hotel reception" entrance at Vision on Whitworth Street West, Manchester Image: Alliance Investments

Vision cuts soil 

Manchester’s latest tower project is cutting the soil. The 37-storey Vision residential tower, on Whitworth Street West, has been designed by Jon Matthews Architects (JMA) and the developer is Alliance Investments. There will be the usual package of wonderments including a hotel-style entrance, coffee shop and juice bar, gymnasium and separate yoga and spin studio, a cinema room and a residents’ lounge. There will be more than 300 apartments too – wow, that’s packing them in. Still, externally it's a very sharp design by JMA and one that will prove less controversial than another of the practice's designs a stone’s throw away. This is Axis, literally over the road, with its tan diagonals and big TV screen. Vision will be taller than Axis, 37 storeys, as opposed to 28, so for those who don't like the building might hide it a bit from the south. A quote from one of Alliance Investments bosses is a little confusing. “Successful developments like Vision are structured in such a way that residents do not have to leave their home.” So that’s why people live in the city centre is it, so they can stay in?   

June 20 2022 Port Sunlight
Lovely Port Sunlight, up for World Heritage Status Image: Drain Brains website

Port Sunlight fighting back for Merseyside

Last year Liverpool lost its UNESCO “World Heritage Site" (WHS) status. The United Nations' bods didn’t like the rapidly developing waterfront which they thought compromised its WHS status. This raised the question of whether modern dynamic cities should ever be given the status as to preserve them in aspic is to surely kill what’s good about them. 

Merseyside might regain the accolade in a far more sympathetic location, the model village of Port Sunlight created in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever. This comes complete with a museum and art gallery, dingly dells and cute houses. Development is virtually impossible which seems perfect for WHS status. Port Sunlight Village Trust has joined with Wirral Council, National Museums Liverpool and Unilever to apply for the Unesco award. Good luck to them. 

June 20 School
Crown Street Primary School, how it may look Image: Renaker

Planning given to a new city centre primary school 

Monies from the huge new towers in Manchester city centre being built by developer Renaker have been diverted into the construction of a primary school. It's a social dividend, folks. Hurrah. The school will be Crown Street Primary School and the first such school constructed inside the inner ring road area of Manchester for at least a couple of generations. The three-storey design will sit between the already completed Elizabeth Tower and an under-construction tower called The Blade. The architects are Arkilab and it's a back-to-the-future building. Anybody who’s been to the presently closed Great John Street hotel close to the old Granada headquarters in the city may have enjoyed some time on the roof swigging cocktails. The Great John Street hotel was formerly a school and the school had a rooftop playground. Crown Street Primary School will similarly have a rooftop playground. What goes around and so on...

June 20 2022 4288 Blackfriars 2414 1 1
The main entrance of Blackfriars House, Parsonage Gardens, Manchester Image; Bruntwood Works

Is the roofless pursuit of roofs over the top?

Crown Street Primary School will have a rooftop playground, the Treehouse Hotel will have a rooftop bar and restaurant and now Bruntwood Works’ Blackfriars House will will soon become home to a new rooftop restaurant called Climat. It's all going very high level in hospitality. 

This will be the second establishment of the people behind Chester’s Covino restaurant and bar. There will be a high level of design in the restaurant too with views on all sides and fortunately, according to the publicity, “food you want to eat”. Phew, Confidentials hates the alternative. There will also be 250 different wines, "with a focus on the Burgundy region, plus Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and all that sits between." By the way "climat" is French for "climate", just in case you couldn't work that out. 

The building hosting Climat is a splendid office block designed by the prolific Harry S Fairhurst and completed in 1925. It's opposite the site of the Treehouse Hotel so maybe there could be a zip wire and then another onto 20 Stories and from there a quick swish over to Chotto Matte at St Michaels. 

Another world first for Manchester. Yes, the first zip wire pub crawl.  

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @jonathschofield He has a Patreon account here and you can book a tour here.

Read next: 'Completely wholesome and well-designed' - Station South, Levenshulme, reviewed

Read again: Property: Salford's bridge of flowers, House by Urban Splash fails and more

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!