Another tower block is to be built in Manchester city centre. But for heritage groups it is a watershed moment as a Grade II listed building will evetually be demolished to make way for it - and it will be constructed in a conservation area.

The development will go ahead after the Secretary of State decided not to call in the plan despite objections from Historic England. The decision by Michael Gove not to intervene means the £55m scheme by Property Alliance Group for the 14-storey block can go ahead.

Reedham House, on King Street West, dates from 1849. It was once a showroom for horse-drawn carriages manufactured in a building behind it. With its classical design, it fits perfectly into the Parsonage Gardens conservation area, close to the River Irwell.

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Permission was given to bulldoze the building and construct a 14-storey £32m office block in its place after councillors visited the site last year. The response from the country's key heritage groups, all of whom had objected, has been one of dismay.

But today a spokesperson for the developers said in a statement: "To be clear, we are not about to demolish the building, further work is required before anything like this is done."

Historic England, on the day of the planning meeting last year described the plan as 'misguided' and warned it would cause 'irreversible harm'. Historic England exists to champion the country's heritage and decides which buildings warrant listed status. It received £108m in 2022/23 and £169m in 2021/22 in funding from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport.

John Matthews, speaking on behalf of , the developers, Property Alliance Group, and the lead architect on the project, told the planning committee last year: "The Grade II listed complex on the site is in two parts - Reedham House fronting on to King Street West and then the carriage works on Garden Lane and Smithy Lane. We appreciate that the demolition of Reedham House is a sensitive issue. Despite appearances the existing Reedham House building was almost completely rebuilt in the 1920s and then again after World War Two following bomb damage.

"As a result there is little or no Victorian era building left internally or externally. In contrast the carriage works contain a number of historic architectural features of interest. These have been neglected and are in poor condition. It has always been important to us that these are fully restored as part of any proposal. These would then make an important contribution to the Parsonage Gardens conservation area."

He said the company had spent four years trying to find the best solutions for the site, including the full or partial retention of Reedham House. But he said these were not viable solutions. He said the proposed plan would ensure the reuse of "the real" heritage assets on the site and that the buildings had been designed to reduce future energy needs.

But the reaction from both the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage at the time was deep concern.

Today SAVE Britain's Heritage said in a statement to the Manchester Evening News: "SAVE is deeply disappointed that the damaging proposals to demolish Reedham House and build a 14 storey tower are going ahead. The scheme will see a listed building, one of a group which rely on the others for their historic value, and one which is in a conservation area, lost.

"The new office building will dwarf the remaining historic buildings and, together with adjoining planned redevelopment, will entirely and adversely change the character of the conservation area in and near which they are sited. This is exactly what the listing regime and the existence of conservation areas are designed to avoid.

"Seen in the context of the proliferation of other tower developments reshaping historic neighbourhoods and the city's skyline, this must be seen as a signal failure to respect and protect what makes Manchester special in the first place: its history."

A Historic England spokesman told the Manchester Evening News last year:“We are very disappointed that the plans to demolish 31-33, King Street West have been recommended for approval, as this would deprive Manchester of an attractive building evocative of the city’s 19th century history.

“The small group of protected historic buildings on this site were once a carriage works, built and added to at various points throughout the 1800s. They give us a window into how smaller-scale industries worked in Manchester, and shaped the city’s architecture. These sites are also rare, with only five listed carriage works surviving across England.

“We have objected to the proposal to demolish one of these buildings - the historic showroom - and replace it with a much taller, visually dominating tower of 14 storeys, because of its impact on the carriage works, as well as the wider Parsonage Gardens Conservation Area."

Guy Newton of the Victorian Society described the decision to allow the demolition of Reedham House as "terrible news". "It shows if you want to build a skyscraper in Manchester it doesn't matter if there is a listed building in the way or the site is in a conservation area," he said.

He added: "There's an erosion of Manchester's history, and the soul of the city centre. There are not too many major cities in this country that have its level of working class industrial heritage that has survived - a lot is swept away, but Manchester holds on to a lot of it.

"But year by year it is losing heritage. It is a real shame that this has been approved. I do believe that Reedham House has a grouped merit, it is one of the last remaining coachworks - the showroom up front and the manufacturing element behind. It is a complete set of buildings. Alterations have been made, but that's often what happens over the years. It is one of the more ordinary buildings which make up the unique tapestry of Manchester's history - it is not just major buildings like the Cathedral."

A Manchester City Council spokersperson said: "The Council approved the application at Reedham House last year following a robust assessment of its merits and having full consideration to the law, the core strategy, national planning policy frameworks and site-specific considerations."

Asked to comment on the scheme today Property Alliance declined to do so. But last autumn Alliance chief executive Alex Russell told Place North West : “Whilst we are happy that we received planning and that it wasn’t called in by the Secretary of State, we weren’t surprised by the outcome."

He said that the part of the site in line for demolition is, while listed, of “little architectural merit”. “Through consultation with Heritage and Historic England we were able to identify that [Reedham House] was actually rebuilt in the 1920s, and again post World War Two, and has been altered several times since,” Russell said.

Russell added: “Working closely with the project team, we were able – after a four-year period – to highlight that the benefits of removing Reedham House and replacing it with a new sustainable office development that facilitated the restoration of the Carriage Works, outweighed keeping all of Reedham House and the deteriorating Carriage Works as they are now.

“That, in our opinion, is why it was a unanimous decision [at committee]. We are now focused on finalising plans to bring forward this exciting new opportunity, which will be a positive addition to the Parsonage area.”

2024-05-17T16:54:33Z dg43tfdfdgfd