Speakers House: New 17-storey office block to be built in Manchester a year after similar scheme was rejected

Plans for the Deansgate site have been approved and will involve the current building being demolished

Plans for a 17-storey office block at Speakers House in Deansgate. Image courtesy of Kames Property Income Fund

Plans for a new 17-storey office block in Manchester city centre have been approved one year after a similar scheme for the site was rejected by Manchester council.

The new skyscraper on Deansgate will be located opposite the Ramada Renaissance hotel which is due to be refurbished with a new 26-storey tower built alongside it.

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The proposal to demolish Speakers House to make way for a new office building has been given the go-ahead by the planning committee, despite a similar previous scheme for the location being thrown out by councillors a year ago.

However, objections were raised about the effect the new tower would have on the surrounding area.

What was the planning committee told about the new skyscraper?

The planning committee was told that the offices would operate 24 hours a day, but the rooftop garden would close at 11pm during the week and 10pm on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays.

There would also be a 96-space cycle hub in the basement of the eco-friendly development which has been designed to cut day-to-day carbon emissions.

However, the green light for the plan comes one year after councillors sided with residents at No. 1 Deansgate who opposed the development which they said would invade their privacy.

View of the proposed office block at Speakers House in Deansgate from St Ann’s Square. Credit: Kames Property Income Fund

Objectors also complained that the 17-storey structure would harm heritage sites such as the Grade-II listed Barton Arcade and the Royal Exchange.

Historic England raised concerns about the new tower affecting the view from St Ann’s Square, but the body said the impact would be less than substantial.

Manchester council planning officer Dave Roscoe told the committee that the developer has considered alternative options for the site, including a hotel and apartments – but he said a scheme of this scale was the only viable option.

Representatives from Kames Property Income Fund, which bought the site in 2017, also met with residents at No. 1 Deansgate to discuss the development.

What did objectors say to the committee about the plan?

Speaking against the latest plans, Jaie Dlay said residents were ‘shocked’ that the application was resubmitted, describing the move as ‘disrespectful’.

She said: “Our objection remains that this is not appropriate due to its height and mass. These impact detrimentally on the conservation area in which the site sits and also on the residential amenity of nearby homes.

Plans for a 17-storey office block at Speakers House in Deansgate. Credit: Kames Property Income Fund

“We do not object to the redevelopment of the site per se, just this proposal.

“We have been happy to engage with the developer to discuss our concerns where we made a number of suggestions, all of which were rejected.”

Dlay said office workers in the new development would still be able to see into the apartments opposite despite the developer obscuring some of the glass.

What did councillors say about the proposal?

Deansgate councillor Joan Davies, who sits on the committee, agreed that the design is ‘intrusive’ – but council planners insisted that the distance between the buildings would be acceptable with no views directly into living spaces.

Fellow ward councillor Marcus Johns urged the committee to reject the latest application, which was ‘unchanged’, for the same reasons as the previous one.

What did the developers say about the scheme?

Speaking on behalf of Kames at the meeting, planning agent Chris Sinton said the developer has provided ‘significant additional justification’ for the scheme.

He said: “Significant consideration went into developing the original scheme and the applicant was understandably disappointed with the outcome.

“But having since considered all available options, the applicant has made a conscious and concerted effort to work collaboratively with the council, key stakeholders and objectors. This they have done.”

What happened at the planning meeting?

The latest application for the Deansgate site was approved with only four councillors voting against.

The committee also approved an application for more than 200 homes in two new towers and 14 townhouses on the outskirts of Manchester city centre.

The 11 and 13-storey apartment buildings accommodating 223 flats are set to replace a car park in Rochdale Road alongside a further 14 duplex townhouses.

Councillors raised concerns that no affordable housing would be available as part of the plans and requested a soft play area is included within the scheme.

The committee deferred a decision relating to the £80m redevelopment of the old Manox chemicals factory site in Miles Platting into 410 new homes.

The developer has requested permission to remove a condition requiring affordable housing in order to access grant funding from Homes England.

More than a quarter of the new homes – 114 in total – would be affordable, but councillors demanded they see the new agreement with the developer first.

Councillors also granted permission for a contractor to use a car park as a construction compound during the development of the former police station in Didsbury Village which is being currently converted into six apartments.