The news round-up for Manchester this last week, 27 February-5 March
A regular column charting the changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
Cat on a hot train roof
Stations have been in the news this week. A cat came in from the cold at Piccadilly Station and paraded up to Euston train and decided it liked the look of the thing. So it somehow scaled the cab and curled up for a nap. Instead of shooing it off with a brush or coaxing it down with dead mice or maybe reading it 101 Dalmations, Network Rail took the rather extraordinary step of transferring passengers to a replacement train and causing a ‘mild’ delay. Eh? Don’t they have a specialist animal remover at Piccadilly Station? “We often have to deal with birds inside the station but in all my time here this is the first train surfing cat,” said Joe Hendry, Network Rail station manager for Euston. When asked how it had got so high on the cab, Hendry shrugged his shoulders and said: “Don’t ask miaow.” Well, maybe he did.
Starting the night in the Doghouse
We’ve clocked this beer hotel before but it is good news. Manchester’s Bruntwood Works and Scotland’s BrewDog have exchanged contracts and been granted planning approval by Manchester City Council to bring a bar, restaurant and hotel to Fountain Street. The hotel will be called Doghouse which is where a lot of people will themselves after staying for ‘just one more’. It’s hoped the place can open in mid-June around the time Boris proposes unlocking the final vestiges of lockdown and throwing away the key. The 18 bedroom hotel will be set over three floors, with industrial-style interior design features and bespoke furnishings promising high-quality comfort. On arrival at reception, guests will receive a welcome beer from one of the 28 on tap. Rooms will be furnished with shower beer fridges, draft beer taps and there will be a fabulous rooftop terrace. Food will be tacos. Tacos? Oh well, Confidentials can’t wait for the rest of the package.
Victoria Station gets tapped
More beer is on the way. Hurrah. Piccadilly Tap at Piccadilly Station approach has an interior so stripped back it almost meets itself going the other way. When it’s quiet, the bar has something of the air of Pripyat. Fortunately, the beer’s the thing and provides an invigorating distraction from the bare concrete. Now, the largely miserable catering in Victoria Station is to be perked up with the arrival of a Victoria Tap in a very convenient space at the south-western entrance. There will be the usual large array of beers, almost thirty, and the usual array of missed trains as another grog is sampled. Some of the original Edwardian features remain in situ and these will be freshened up. A decked terrace will face the tramlines at an intimate distance. Waving will probably be obligatory after the third pint.
Manchester Victoria and the route to beauty
This could be a post-Covid booster for UK travel. A public consultation is underway which includes the possibility of the Manchester to Clitheroe train service being extended onto the spectacular Settle and Carlisle line. Paul Levet, of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, says: “No capital expenditure will be needed, and only one extra train unit will provide a two-hourly service. It would be a huge boost for the communities around Hawes, Settle and Hellifield if they had direct trains to Clitheroe, Blackburn, Bolton and Manchester for access to a wide range of facilities while offering car-free access to this part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to a great many people.”
The idea follows a successful first bid by the Ribble Valley Borough Council into the Department for Transport's 'Restoring Your Railway’ fund. If progress is made then maybe local trains chugging up through the hills, Confidentials suggests a least one luxury Pullman service per weekend might be an idea. A limited stopping full service with an observation car and excellent food and drink in lovely carriages would be a real draw for local, national and international tourists. Good champagne, foie gras and views of the Ribble. The consultation for the Manchester to Clitheroe train extension is here and closes on March 10.
Denton fire insurance outcry
It was clearly something major from miles away on the Pennine moors above Glossop. On a walk on Sunday, the view into the city centre was obscured by billowing smoke and the damage being caused could be smelled. Motorway traffic on the M67 was diverted from the giant blaze and over 100 firefighters deployed.
The fire was at the three-storey building of Self Storage Tameside. The name implies the tragedy for numbers of people who had important, even personally precious, material stored there. According to The MEN, families have complained of the callous way the company dealt with individuals in a ‘To whom it may concern’ email, stating, ‘"In the event that you have suffered a loss, as you did not take the insurance option offered by us, please instead contact the insurance provider covering your goods whilst at our facility." The company later apologised for not doing ‘the right thing’. A Facebook group called ‘Self Storage Tameside Fire’ has been set up by those who have suffered. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Return of the office workers en masse
Manchester City Council Leader Sir Richard Leese cautiously predicted a return to normality for the city centre last week. Following the Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ announcement on Monday, he told Place North West: “We have some way to go before the number of commuters returns to pre-Covid levels, I hope the announcements this week provide some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There will be an eagerness to return to workplaces safely from June. There is no substitute for in-person collaboration and relationship building. And although a phased return to the office may be the only option in the short-term, the office market will come back strongly in the medium to long-term. The road map announcements give us all some optimism and give the city’s businesses an understanding of a route beyond Covid and a return to a semblance of normality.”
Of course, many believe office life has changed irrevocably, with a mix of home and office work set to be the norm. Either way hospitality, which has paid a heavy price, as Leese points out, during the lockdown will hope many of those regular commuters show ‘eagerness’ to return to city centre offices.
Levelling with the past
I slagged off the Salford tower of banality with its corpse colour crowned by an awry shipping container in another article this week. That’s by Denton Corker Marshall, but I have to praise other work in SimpsonHaughVille at the southern end of Deansgate. In the area between Chester Road, the River Medlock, the Mancunian Way and Albion Street the Manc architects Simpson Haugh have designed the four towers of Deansgate Square, River Street Tower and the two towers at Crown Street. Collectively that’s 302 floors, three and a half times the number of floors of The Shard in London. That doesn’t need to preclude subtlety, however. The lower portion of the two Crown Street towers includes an oatmeal brick element perfectly aligned to the cornice level of the neighbouring Georgian building. Nice touch. Good manners.
Marketing euphemism of the week
You’ve got to love this bit of shush-shush-hide-the-reality marketing from The Far East Consortium’s (FEC) MeadowSide development at Angel Meadow. It reads: ‘Built around a historic park that has served the community for centuries, the MeadowSide development in Manchester brings a collection of four distinctive buildings made from contrasting materials, elements and details’. Served the community for years? Well, yes, not least in providing a final resting place for more than 30,000 dead. Angel Meadow park is, in effect, a grassed over necropolis. MeadowSide should market the flats in their ‘distinctive’ properties to Goths. By the way, Section 106 contributions of £150,000 from FEC have been used this week to provide better (and more apt in design) lighting for the park.