The government’s heritage watchdog has said it is “deeply concerned” about proposals from Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs to build a pair of bronze-clad skyscrapers in central Manchester and will officially object to the scheme.
Historic England said a video released by the backers of the high-rise St Michael’s development – a consortium which includes the former Manchester United footballers – showed “how aggressively the proposed buildings would jar against the grand civic buildings” around Albert Square.
CN’s sister title the Architects’ Journal reported that the organisation fears the design, height and colour of the 31 and 21-storey towers would dominate the Deansgate / Peter Street conservation area and dwarf the Grade I-listed Town Hall.
A spokeswoman for Historic England said the current proposal was “not good enough to justify the damage it would cause to the streets around the site”.
News of Historic England’s objection comes just days after the heritage organisation refused to list the 1953 Manchester Reform Synagogue in Jackson Row, one of three buildings in Jackson’s Row earmarked for demolition to make way for the new high-rise St Michael’s development.
The neighbouring 1937 Neoclassical Bootle Street Police Station and the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub will also be pulled down if architect Make wins planning for the new development, which includes a 201-bed hotel and 159 flats.
Revised design St Michaels square
Historic England planning director in the North-west Catherine Dewar said: “We are deeply concerned about how this scheme would affect some of Manchester’s most precious heritage.
“It would have an impact on people’s appreciation and experience of the stunning town hall and library but it would also erase different layers of this area’s history, irreparably damaging the special character of the surrounding conservation area.”
She added: “A dynamic city like ours needs to fully embrace development but this scheme is not good enough to justify the damage it would cause to the streets around the site and to the setting of the city’s most important buildings and spaces.
“It threatens Manchester with the loss of historic places that have soul and tell important stories about our city’s past.”
Revised design St Michaels town hall
Meanwhile a petition against the scheme, which claims the “huge, dark towers” are “in the wrong place” has now received more than 3,200 signatures.
Earlier in the year Mr Neville insisted the project team had undertaken extensive public consultation and taken on board comments wherever possible from Historic England, PlacesMatter! and the general public.
Make and the development team have been contacted for comment.