The Forum has sent an open letter to all the Greater Manchester 2017 Mayoral candidates asking them to write to the Government supporting the request to ‘call in’ the 2-4 Chester Road planning application.
Open Letter to all Greater Manchester 2017 Mayoral Candidates:
Sean Anstee, Jane Brophy, Andy Burnham, Peter Clifford, Stephen Morris, Shneur Odze and Will Patterson
14 February 2017
This is an open letter from Castlefield Forum to you and other Mayoral candidates to seek your support in opposing a proposed development in Castlefield.
The Forum is a voluntary, community group which aims to make Castlefield an even better place than it is now for local residents, businesses, workers, all Mancunians, visitors and tourists. Over the last 5 months we have been working closely with Castlefield Estates to try to ensure the above planning application is not approved. I set out below a brief summary of the case and can provide further detailed information if required.
Castlefield is a Conservation Area (designated an Outstanding Conservation Area by the Department of the Environment), the UK’s first Urban Heritage Park and recommended for World Heritage Site status by central government. It has just been selected by the National Trust to be the first urban area in the UK to provide the basis of a “Spirit of Place” study. There is no doubt that this area is a nationally significant Conservation Area – the site of the first Roman settlement in Manchester, the first cut canal in the world, the first passenger railway station in the world and home to numerous listed buildings including Edward Walters 1852 Congregational Chapel, next to which the site sits. Castlefield is also, arguably, the “birthplace” of the Industrial Revolution.
The application involves the construction of 2 towers, one of 21 storeys and one of 12 storeys of glass and light coloured cladding in the immediate basin area where the tallest building is 8 storeys and the predominant feature is red brick and sandstone. Manchester City Council supported this application.
The application has had over 450 objectors and an independent heritage impact appraisal, commissioned by Castlefield Estates, (one of the original heritage developers in Castlefield) condemned the impact of the development on the Conservation Area, saying that its impact would be “substantial and damaging”. Historic England, who have no objection to development of the site have said:
“Whilst HE does not object in principle to the proposed development, it considers the statutory and policy context is only partially met by the proposed development. It recommends that the design of the proposed development should be re-considered to improve how it would related to the character and appearance of the conservation area, particularly in terms of the proposed materials.”
A scheme for a 7 storey building on a nearby site in the Conservation Area was refused at appeal by the Planning Inspector (reference: APP/B4215/A/08/2070864/NWF) on the grounds that the development would be over-dominant, contrast markedly with the existing structures and would damage the character of the Conservation Area as a whole.
There are several strands to the planning case, which include
its impact on several listed buildings nearby
whether or not it can be said to “preserve and enhance” the “character and appearance” of the Conservation Area
whether or not its approval by the Council constitutes a complete disregard for the requirements in the 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act for local authorities to have special regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of designated areas and preserving the setting of listed buildings. It also disregards all the advice in the National Planning Policy Framework about sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and also Manchester’s own planning policies
the advice of Historic England has not been followed. No redesign has been requested and the materials (which are a cornerstone of assessing impact in a Conservation Area) were not presented to and approved by the Planning Committee but delegated to a Planning Officer.
At a planning committee meeting last Thursday 9 February, the Planning Committee voted to approve the application. However, this was subject to an offer of a Section 106 contribution (introduced just before the planning meeting) towards “off site affordable housing”, which we believe delayed the issuing of the planning permission. In the interim we wrote to the Secretary of State, The Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, to request that the matter be ‘called in’. This is on the basis that Castlefield is a heritage asset of national importance and that this application has not been robustly considered by the Local Planning Authority and that the advice of Historic England has not been fully reflected in Planning Officer’s assessment or the Planning Committee’s decision.
We have also instituted a study of an alternative, viable scheme on this site which would be more appropriate in heritage terms and delivers approximately 60% of the units proposed.
Overall, the proposal raises significant architectural and design issues which have not been robustly and fully considered. Castlefield Conservation Area is a nationally important heritage site and as a matter of planning law requires special consideration that we do not think it has been accorded during the local planning process. We understand the importance of encouraging development in the City but this should not be at the expense of sensitive and nationally important heritage areas.
We would ask therefore if you would be able to support our request for the matter to be ‘called in’ and decided at Public Inquiry. If you are able to do so, please write as soon as possible to the National Planning Casework Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org You would need to quote the planning application reference number 113870/FO/2016 and give your postal address. You can either simply say you support the email sent by Castlefield Forum on 13 February (attached) or put your own arguments forward. The Government have not given us a deadline but clearly speed is of the essence – we’re talking about days rather than weeks.
Many thanks if you can help.
I am copying this to our Chair Carol Middleton and Sarah Ramsbottom of Castlefield Estates.
Secretary Castlefield Forum
7 Rochdale House, 15 Slate Wharf
Manchester M145 4SX