A selective news round-up for Manchester this last week, 10-16 April
A regular column charting some changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
Manchester stands taller
From the moors, the growth upwards is obvious. The central areas of Manchester and Salford now stand head and shoulders above the rest of the UK outside London. Here’s the league tally of buildings over 250ft (76m) built or under construction – not including the proposed BDP Salford tower in the story below. Not sure what any of this gallop for height proves except maybe in this city we like to be closer to God. Or maybe we have our heads in the clouds. Or perhaps it’s just a lot easier to get planning permission. Many of the tall structures in the other cities are Victorian or post-war as well, most of Manchester's are from the last 15 years.
Manchester 30 tall buildings (Deansgate Square, South Tower, is by far the tallest building outside London at 659ft, 201m)
Glasgow 2 (one is nineteenth-century and the other is a viewing platform)
Edinburgh 2 (both nineteenth-century churches)
Tower of the week
Of course, there’s another tower on the horizon, if you forgive the pun. This one is designed by BDP architects for Progressive Living Developments and is being shoe-horned into a parcel of land betwixt the River Irwell and the railway viaducts approaching Victoria Station from the south west. This means it’s in that area of Salford undergoing hyper-development, east of Trinity Way. Salford appears to be determined to fill every last goddamn centimetre there with cement.
The building will be tall, 36 storeys, so around 107m (350ft) tall. It will provide 485 co-living apartments and a 171-bed hotel. Co-living generally means smaller flats but lots of amenities and leisure spaces. This is made plain by the marketing which is targeting "millennial occupiers". No, not people over a thousand years old, but nippers. The scheme will also be ideal for trainspotters who will be able to lean out of their windows (almost) and stroke those handsome Transpennine Express trains, although by some curious oversight, that potential audience seems to have been forgotten by the marketing.
Walkway imagination please and an official toilet
One fine aspect of the scheme would be the potential to add to the existing walkways along the River Irwell from Peel Park to the Quays through the city centre. This is explicitly stated in the proposal: "At the same time, some of the railway arches will be repurposed to expand the choice of social and leisure spaces in the area, while public realm improvements would aim to improve pedestrian and cycle links to an existing walkway along the River Irwell." Meanwhile, a little further south along the same stretch of viaduct, Salford Council has signed-off improvements along Gore Street to again open up railway arches and improve connectivity close to Salford Central Station. Maybe this will give a nudge to Joseph Holt to bring the attractive Egerton Arms into the 21st Century, hopefully without removing the most entertaining sign outside any central pub’s toilets.
He built this city - Roger Stephenson turns consultant for his own company
Manchester’s gentleman-architect Roger Stephenson is stepping down from the day-to-day management of his eponymous practice Stephenson Studio which will be renamed Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio. Long-term associates Keith Hamilton and Justin Risley will step into director roles. Stephenson will continue as a consultant. Stephenson’s work stretches back to 1979 in Manchester and throughout that period he has been a gracious omnipresence on the Manchester architectural scene. His masterpiece is the 2012 building for Chetham’s School of Musicand Stoller Hall. The refurbishment and extension of Halle St Peters in Ancoats is not far behind. Confidentials has a picture of Roger Stephenson back in 2012 during the construction of Chetham’s with him holding a specially designated "Chetham’s brick". To use an old-fashioned phrase, Stephenson has been an absolute brick as well over the years. We’ll have a look at his legacy in greater depth on these pages soon.
London enhances Manchester in ‘plane’ sight
Developers and city planners face increasing criticism and protest across the city. We’ve covered this on Confidentials with the Great Ancoats Street car park farrago and the Hulme Street Tower fiasco. Now a group of people want the rather lovely London Plane trees between Aytoun and Minshall streets protected. The 31 mature specimens fringe a surface car park which has future 40 storey tower block written all over it - should the developers and the council be given half the chance. Over 100 local residents asked the city council to place the trees under a protection order in December 2020. There was no reply so they’ve started a petition to protect the Aytoun Street trees. In an ideal world, a millionaire would buy the land, create a new pocket park ten times nicer than Piccadilly Gardens around the corner and leave legacy funding for maintenance. It’s nice to dream.
Manchester Flower Show to brighten May
Bring out the blossom, let the city centre pout petals at the passing public. The Manchester Flower Show returns from Saturday 29 May to Sunday 6 June. It will "see the city come together to create large-scale blooms and urban gardens, alongside the floral dressing of city centre windows, statues, lampposts, fountains and more". If you are feeling floral, businesses "are being encouraged to take part and get creative with pop-up urban gardens, floral displays, window dressing or by creating themed menus and cocktails." More information about the Manchester Flower Show can be found here.
Shopping trolleys climb trees
The Liberal Democrat strategy of targeting abandoned shopping trolleys in Trafford as a means to win votes as we mentioned last week seems to have struck a chord. A reader has sent me lots of abandoned apparatuses. But the king of abandoned trolleys is surely this one spotted halfway up a tree on the wrong side of the Bridgewater Canal behind a massive fence and nowhere near any store that may have allowed it to be stolen. How did it get there, a massive trolley attracted magpie? Or is it an artwork? Who would bother to do so much hard work for so little point? These are profound questions that go to the very heart of existence.
Scorched earth policy with sausages
There are idiots and there are those who condone idiocy. This is the view across the Roman Gardens after a weekend of cheap barbecue action. Tesco and Sainsbury’s nearby, exploiting the occasion to make some dosh sell foil trays to folk who clearly have not learned their country code. These strange people then set them down on the grass and scorch the sward. All they need to do is raise the thing off the ground and they wouldn’t cause such wanton damage. Or maybe just get a take-away eh?
Yet, Twitterland, being the fecund domain of anything-goes, often finds it hard to agree with the bleeding obvious. Thus one person seeing the photo of the damage wrote: "Not everyone has balconies. A lot of people have been shielding for over a year. Give people a break." For some, it seems if you’ve had a hard time then you should be allowed to vandalise and behave badly, and thus "given a break". So I’m off to abandon a shopping trolley somewhere unlikely. Give me a break eh?