The news round-up for Manchester this last week, 13-19 March
A regular column charting some changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
Burnham booted out the Chief Constable
It turns out it was Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham who told ex-Chief Constable Ian Hopkins to jump in December. Hopkins had previously said the time was right and implied it was his decision. This followed from sick leave he’d taken. But it also followed the damning report by the police inspectorate that Greater Manchester Police had brushed 80,000 crimes under the carpet over a 12-month period. The situation was compounded by Hopkins’ failure to accept the Integrated Operational Policing System, expensively developed and launched in 2019, was a catastrophe. “As police and crime commissioner I do have to hold the chief constable to account – and that is why I took the decision that new leadership was needed," said Burnham, proving he can use muscle when required in the exercise of his role. The information came after an extraordinary scrutiny meeting was called by Stockport councillors on Tuesday.
Farewell to Jim Ramsbottom
The death of Jim Ramsbottom (81) was announced this week. The bookie-turned-property-developer was colourful beyond the spectrum, great company and hugely important in Manchester’s city centre rebirth. He saw potential in an area of polluted canals, timber merchants, scrap yards and railway viaducts. That is now the Castlefield basin, a magnet of leisure for many people. It wasn’t just in Castlefield where he worked magic. There are the bars, (remember The Mark Addy?) while Duke’s and the Albert’s Shed mini-empire remain within the family. Phil Griffin, who knew him well, said: "A great Salfordian has passed and all of Manchester is poorer. The bookmaker who backed Castlefield and kickstarted urban renewal made the greatest individual contribution. One hand in waistband, one on fag, a mane of silver hair atop quick, mind." Griffin’s moving tribute to Jim Ramsbottom can be read here.
Here come more BBC departments
Lots of extra Beeb investment is coming north, much of it to MediaCityUK. Namely we’re getting Radio 4’s Today programme business updates, Morning Live, 50% of the broadcast hours of Radio 3 and 6Music generation plus the Head of New Writing and the BBC Comedy Assistant Commissioner are to be based here. A children’s commercial production department will also arrive. Nice. More jobs. The idea behind this and other movement elsewhere in the north is to dial down on metropolitan dominance. Fair enough, but where will the major editorial decisions be made? Can we have some of that as well, please.
Applications and terraces
A stroll around the city always reveals much, such as the utterly welcome increase both in pedestrians out and about and signs of a rush-hour returning. On the old Wippells outlet in Albert Square is a license application for an extension to Caffe Grande Piccolino. A deli would be an obvious use of the space, but let's wait and see.
Meanwhile, over at Ducie House, the former railway warehouse with its popular bar and restaurant is opening a south-facing terrace for those alfresco moments within earshot of train whistles. The chef to steer the food through post-pandemic pandemonium (eventually, we hope) is Andrew Green who delivered great food at The Lowry Hotel and then Mamucium restaurant in Hotel Indigo.
Rumours reach us that Soho House is going to liven up things up on the top floor of Mollie's Motel and Diner at the former Granada Studios site, off Quay Street. Soho House is a globe-trotting private members' club that began in London in the nineties and now is found in 10 locations. The hospitality idea with the worst record in Manchester is the private members' club. They all fail, so Soho House is going to have its work cut out if it does ever arrive. An odd rumour this one as previously we'd heard Soho House had looked at those peculiar local circumstances and decided against a Manc move.
Of course, there's another tall building announcement
We couldn't really let a week go by without some more tall buildings progressing. The council is allowing a Jon Matthews Architects-designed scheme to go ahead in a previously unregarded area of Manchester that's now catching fire. The Fairfax, a joint venture between Olympian Homes and Aecom Capital, will have towers of 29 and 23 storeys dropping 488 apartments into what is now known as Piccadilly East. Other developments between the railway's viaduct, Piccadilly Station and Great Ancoats Street include The Leonardo Hotel, The Castings and Victoria House.