Communities secretary mulls whether to call in Manchester United stars’ 40-storey St Michael’s development 

Communities secretary Sajid Javid is being urged to call in the decision to approve Hodder & Partners’ 40-storey St Michael’s development in Manchester for a public inquiry overseen by a planning inspector.

Campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage, backed by the Victorian Society and Manchester Civic Society, is questioning the balancing process by which Manchester City Council was able to offset the scheme’s impact on existing historic buildings against public benefits offered by the new scheme. The Twentieth Century Society also supports the call-in request.

Save director Henrietta Billings said the scheme’s developers – a consortium fronted by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, with the backing of Chinese investor BCEGI Group – were “cashing in” with a tower when a “world-class contextual development” was possible.

She said the proposals were being foisted on Manchester’s Deansgate/Peter’s Street Conservation Area, which predominantly features 19th-century buildings of three to six storeys. Billings added that there were 72 listed buildings within 250m of the scheme – among them the grade I-listed Town Hall and Albert Memorial.

“Conservation areas are meant to protect important streets and spaces from exactly this type of overscaled scheme,” she said. “We need an independent public inquiry to fully assess its impact.”

St Michael's by Hodder & Partners - November 2017 incarnation

How the tower will look when finished

Government heritage adviser Historic England said it was unable to support the Hodder proposals on heritage grounds because of the “cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings”, but it stopped short of objecting to the plans.

Manchester councillors gave a “minded to approve” verdict on Hodder’s plans at a meeting last week, less than three months after they were submitted for perusal. If Javid calls in the scheme, a planning inspector will be appointed to review the proposals and report to the secretary of state for a final decision, a process that is unlikely to conclude within a year.

In a report for the councillors, the city’s planning officers said Javid had signalled he “would like the opportunity to consider whether call-in is appropriate for this application”.

The Hodder scheme is valued at £200m and would deliver up to 189 apartments and a 216-room hotel in the main tower. A separate 10-storey block would deliver 13,721sq m of new commercial space.

Hodder was appointed to the scheme last year after earlier proposals by Ken Shuttleworth’s Make Architects were pulled.