Three storeys chopped off Manchester student tower as campaigners object to plans

Protest group Block the Block is arguing against the new scheme at the old Gamecock pub.

Controversial plans for a new student block in Manchester have been scaled down following objections from campaigners.

The 13-storey student tower that was set to be built on the site of the old Gamecock pub in Hulme was rejected by the planning committee in May.

The developer has now offered to remove three storeys from the proposed block, reducing the number of students it would accommodate to under 200.

But campaigners are opposed to any more student flats being built in the area and are now working with architects to come up with an alternative proposal.

Block the Block campaigners Roy Bennett and Sally Casey MBE outside the former Gamecock pub. Credit: Ella Marshall/Deem

Protest group Block the Block has delivered 1,000 letters to neighbours of the Boundary Lane site about the latest proposal as they remobilise the campaign.

In the letter, the group says it will oppose these plans as it did the original ones.

It said: “This is not what Hulme needs. We don’t need any more students and it is changing the nature of our community.

“We need amenities for the long-standing residents. We need amenities for the elderly.

“It is clearly a cynical insult from the developers, who do not care about our community but simply want to make a quick profit.

“They are protecting their profits at the expense of students who would be crammed into a smaller space, they would also have no amenities.”

The campaign group is now working with London-based architects Unit38 on an alternative proposal for the site which could include some form of housing.

However, one member of the group suggested that the ideal development would be social housing or an age-friendly scheme which they say is needed.

Plans for the former Gamecock pub site in Boundary Lane, Hulme. Credit: Curlew Opportunities / SimpsonHaugh

Residents have also called for more community space to be made available.

As part of the current plans, developer Curlew has offered to create a community hub in the ground floor of the student block, but some of the campaigners rejected the suggestion that residents would use the facility.

This latest proposal comes after plans for the site which were smaller in scale were refused in 2008 and 2012 on the grounds of being ‘over-dominant’.

Manchester’s planning committee voted against the application at a meeting in May based on the height of the building, saying it would be ‘over-intrusive’.

The developer has now removed two floors from the proposed block as well as a podium level at the top set back from the main building making it 11 storeys.

The former Gamecock pub in Boundary Lane, Hulme. Pictured in August 2021 Credit: Google

Greg Fox, senior development director at Curlew Opportunities, says the firm has taken on board feedback from the planning committee about the height.

He said: “[We] have made a number of significant changes to the scheme in response.

“This includes a reduction in the overall height of the development by three storeys, resulting in a 20 pc reduction in the volume of development and a reduction in the number of bedrooms from 261 to 197.

“The significant need for student accommodation in the city is well published, with the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University unable to provide all first-year students with a bedroom for the 2022/23 student in take due to low levels of supply.

“The development will provide a modest but important contribution to meeting this need on a derelict and eyesore site which is very well located in relation to the main university campuses and Oxford Road.

“We have worked closely with Officers at the City Council for over two years to arrive at a high-quality scheme which is respectful to its setting in the community of Hulme and are pleased to have received the full support of Manchester Metropolitan University for the development.

“We look forward to the revised development being considered by the City’s Planning Committee shortly.”

Members of the public can view or comment on the proposal by visiting the council’s website and searching for application reference 130387/FO/2021.

Block the Block will be holding a public meeting at the Aquarius Centre today (Tuesday 4 October at 4.30pm) to discuss alternatives to this development.

The group is also raising money again to pay for planning consultants to update their representation to the council, having already raised hundreds.