New shop plan for Deansgate rejected as it would ‘harm the look’ of the city centre street

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The unit next to Barton Arcade, which was last used by Caffe Nero before it closed in 2020, is on a stretch of empty shops on the major city centre road in Manchester.

Plans to open a new slot machine centre on Deansgate which have been described as ‘lifeless’ and ‘dead’ have been rejected by Manchester council.

The unit next to Barton Arcade, which was last used by Caffe Nero before it closed in 2020, is on a stretch of empty shops on the major city centre road.

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But councillors concluded that this is not a suitable site for a gambling centre. It comes after town hall planners said the proposal would not ‘contribute positively’ to Deansgate and recommended refusing planning permission.

They said it would make the small stretch of vacant units look worse. This is because the frontage of the adult gaming centre would be largely obscured by vinyl and TV screens, harming the character of Deansgate.

Deansgate councillor Joan Davies, who sits on the planning committee, said that the plans also contradict the move to make the road more pedestrianised.

She told the committee that businesses say the area is unattractive because of the orange and white cones that have been there for more than two years.

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But she believes the empty unit will be filled once the roadworks are finished.

Speaking at the planning committee meeting where the decision was made on Thursday (December 15), she said: “Once those highways works are complete and the area’s improved, people will be flocking, I believe, to use that unit.”

Council officers recommended refusing planning permission on the grounds that it would be a ‘non-traditional’ retail use that is not compatible with the retail, food and drink function of Deansgate and create an ‘inactive’ shop front.

The unit in Deansgate which Merkur Slots wants to turn into an adult gaming centre. Credit: Merkur SlotsThe unit in Deansgate which Merkur Slots wants to turn into an adult gaming centre. Credit: Merkur Slots
The unit in Deansgate which Merkur Slots wants to turn into an adult gaming centre. Credit: Merkur Slots | ldrs

The proposal would fail to contribute positively to Deansgate and provide a ‘lifeless’ and ‘dead’ frontage to the street, the planning officers’ report said.

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This would offer ‘very limited visual interest and activity’ to this ‘important’ road and pedestrian environment, according to the report, and would not provide the ‘suitably active’ street frontage that is required in this location.

The ‘inactive’ nature of the premises would ‘exacerbate’ this small pocket of vacant units in this section of Deansgate, the report added, and have an ‘unduly harmful impact’ on the vitality, viability and character of the major road and the ongoing regeneration activity in this part of Manchester city centre.

The planning committee agreed with the reasons for refusal in the report. However, speaking on behalf of Merkur Slots which submitted the application, planning agent Harry Hodgson said these were not good reasons to reject it.

He argued that a nearby betting shop, mobile phone shop and the hairdressers next door have digital displays in the windows which are similar to this design.

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Bringing the unit back into use would also create 12 jobs, he told councillors.

He said: “Surely the long-term investment and commitment proposed is more preferable than a vacant unit which in its current form adds nothing to the activity of the frontage.”

The application was refused planning permission, with 10 councillors voting against it and one abstaining, but the applicant could now appeal the decision.

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