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Banks And More Banks: MCR Loses Appeals

Jonathan Schofield on banks invading prime retail units

Written by . Published on December 10th 2013.

Banks And More Banks: MCR Loses Appeals

CONVERSATIONS you’ll never overhear: “I’ve got a treat for you this afternoon darling, thought we’d nip into Manchester and spend some quality time in banks looking at posters of interest rates.”

After recent planning decisions bank tourism might have to become an option in Manchester’s retail areas.

The city council is on a losing run.

It would appear the Planning Department following from policy agreed by the democratically elected officers of the city has no control over its own jurisdiction.

The Planning Inspectorate, an arm of the government based in Bristol, and the lead body for planning keeps finding against the city when it comes to Manchester city centre policy and banks.

The council doesn’t want more banks in Market Street or St Ann’s Square. Who does? As one property owner in the city centre, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “St Ann’s Square is a wasteland now, three banks, mobile phone shops, it’s a bloody commercial disaster. Whoever comes to town for a bank? Or fifty mobile phone shops? Peel don't have chains of glass box banks with ranks of cash dispensers like slot machines in their arcades at the Trafford Centre. Whittaker (the chair of Peel Group) must be laughing his face off.”

The city appears to agree and, as set out in Manchester’s Unitary Development Plan (UDP), wants to ensure ‘the predominantly retail character of the shopping street (in these areas) will be safeguarded, a limited introduction of other uses such as public houses and cafes will be encouraged’.

Thus planning permission was refused for a Lloyd’s Bank on Market Street this year. Earlier planning permission had been refused for Starbucks on St Ann’s Square to allow their site to be sold for ‘financial and professional services’.

Both these proposals required ‘change of use’ permissions and this is what the city turned down as there was, in the city's own words, concern about diluting the vitality of the shopping experience.

But Bayswater Properties (who own the Market Street site) and Starbucks appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

And they won. The Inspectors, probably not from the city, probably not very familiar with Manchester and the changing nature of the city centre, thought putting banks in the city centre is just dandy.

Inspector Keith Manning with the St Ann’s Square appeal wrote in his report, ‘On the basis of my observations of the area (it) is a dynamic retail location at the heart of the city with many upmarket shops, an occasional vacancy and a variety of other uses.”

Dynamic. Really? Numerous reports and stories - Confidential has led on this - have shown how the strong retail presence in Kings Street and St Ann’s Square has thinned dramatically in recent years.

Manning went on to say that banking is ‘logically complementary to any dynamic and up-market shopping environment’. Four of them in one square (if Starbucks does get converted) is not complementary, it’s invasive, especially as they occupy the largest floorplates.

St Bank Square

St Bank Square

It would appear Manning had little idea of the situation in the city and little insight into how retail was being hit by the economic downturn, crippling rents and rates and the lurch to digital shopping.

In November Inspector Alison Roland visited the Boots’ end of Market Street and was of the same mind, she found ‘little evidence to substantiate the council’s fear that the loss of the retail units, 86-88 Market Street, would compromise the retail attractiveness and function of the centre’.

The city was then left with little choice to allow the changes of use. Expect an ugly Lloyd’s glass box filled with cash points on the corner of Market Street and Pall Mall very soon. Retention of the site for retail would obviously be far better, but even a bar would be ten times more desirable – as the Development Plan states above.

Indeed the site used to be a bar.

The building Lloyds will occupy was built by UCP, United Cattle Products, in the 1960s. This featured a ‘restaurant, cafeteria, and banqueting’. The menus mainly centred on tripe, an appropriate word for the bank and mobile phone shop invasion.

Tripe then, tripe now

Tripe then, tripe now

So is this a storm in a teacup?

At Confidential we think not. In effect it would appear the Planning Department following from policy agreed by the democratically elected officers of the city has no control over its own jurisdiction.

It can produce all the guidelines it wants, it can make a decision, in the council’s own words, over when ‘the tipping point has been reached and the retail effectiveness is about to undermined’ but it can’t prevent the Planning Inspectorate reversing it.

Suddenly this seems a question of democracy as well as a question over whether a bank should snaffle a spec formally used by real retailers. Of course there should be a right of appeal but inspectors should balance that by displaying respect for an elected body’s guidelines unless extreme circumstances dictate those guidelines should be ignored.

A final issue is the random nature of these appeals, decided by one person, who may or may not have a full backstory to call on.

At present the Starbucks in St Ann’s Square remains a coffee shop but don’t bank on it doing so. As one Confidential reader has noted, there'll probably be bank stalls on the Christmas markets next year. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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42 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DavidDecember 10th 2013.

This has been coming for years .A council that chooses to raise parking charges and have 24 hour wardens has succeeded in undermining the economic vitality of the City as a shopping destination.This combined with yearly above inflation train and tram fare rises is driving people out of Manchester as a shopping destination.A council that unlike other council did not concentrate on the basics,like keeping the streets clean and instead was more interested in being the servant of the Labour Party in London rather than the people of this city. London on the other hand has seen a significant rise in the number of new shops.Most of whom seem to show no interest in coming to this city.Maybe Manchester Confidential can ask them why?.Banana Republic,Ben Sherman,Muji,Uniqlo,El Ganso,Scotch and Soda etc all have shops in London and not Manchester and these are not expensive brands.

13 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 10th 2013.

Well said David, hear hear.

DrakeDecember 10th 2013.

Top trolling. Your knowledge of the city centre is only matched by your knowledge of retail. Most of the stores you mention have no interest in going anywhe outside of London. Ben Sherman has only one stand-alone store outside of London, Muji likewise (though it has a concession in the Trafford Centre)--its had a massive retrenchment in recent years. El Ganso has precisely two stores in the Uk, both in London. Banana Republic is in the Trafford Centre so is unlikely to be in the city centre (they like shopping centres). Scotch and Soda (just three stores in the UK) is currently looking at Manchester, Uniqlo opens here next year. If you really think shopping in the city isn't succesful, you need to get out and have a look around, the place is (uncomfortably to my mind) rammed.

AnonymousDecember 10th 2013.

Muji used to be in the Corn Exchange basement after the IRA '96 bomb.

DavidDecember 10th 2013.

Muji and Uniqlo were both here past but left. Gant and Brooks Brothers just left.Banana Republic is in Trafford Centre but not the city centre.There are loads mid market brands around Carnaby Street and Covent Garden who are just not coming to MNchester anymore. It's not just clothing either.The likes of Paul has dozens of patisserie in London but does not come to Manchester.

DrakeDecember 10th 2013.

Did the 'loads' of brands you mention ever come to Manchester? The point you're making would be stronger if there was any evidence they were interested in anywhere but London. Muji closed in Manc when they closed almst all their regional stores. As I say, Uniqlo is back. Brooks Brothers had a no rent deal and went when t ended.

AnonymousDecember 10th 2013.

I'm beginning to think that "David" troll is either some kind of spambot or else a paid PR instructed to respond to any article with the words "council" or "labour" in it, or can be tenuously linked to those two subjects as here. ... He must realise that people familiar with his contributions will just wearily dismiss it as another one of his typical rants? Or maybe he is so lacking in self awareness that he doesn't realise?

GimboidDecember 10th 2013.

Interesting theory, Anon. I lean towards the supposition that's he's just a massive bell.

Mr knottyDecember 11th 2013.

Paul patisserie has to be central to there bakery and as such only operate in Central London!! Such a shame

Matt BradyDecember 11th 2013.

Scotch and Soda not an expensive brand? I obviously don't earn enough then. It seems expensive to me at it's concession in Kendals

AnonymousDecember 12th 2013.

Do you ever walk around the city centre? When will you admit there's a massive problem in Manchester? When it's too late perhaps? Just keep shooting that messenger...

PaulDecember 24th 2013.

In response to the comments above, just to be frank and to the point - some of this brands would find it difficult to cope in the city centre on space, specialism and need. Many have been in Manchester before and pulled out - so I wouldn't regard them as great brands to get behind as the exited when the going got tough. Banana Republic (in the Trafford Centre - they wouldn't secure the necessary floorspace in the City Centre),Ben Sherman (has had stores in Manchester and closed them, but is in plenty of concessions around the city centre),Muji (is/was in the Corn Exchange, has been for years and also has concessions in the city),Uniqlo (used to have an outlet in Eccles retail park, wouldn't find the necessary space in the city),El Ganso (is in concessions but hardly a big concern),Scotch and Soda (is in concessions, but is hardly a big concern). I am a Retail Strategist and have performed many roles for Retailers over the years, including running chains of stores with 800+ outlets. Manchester is a fine destination for shopping, however the rates are prohibitively high - which forms the larger part of thinking regarding budget for new entrants, essentially as the rates are so high, retailers are forced to reconsider the size of a unit and then whittle it down to a size that just wont perform the necessary function, then they have to pull out. Believe me, I have been there many times before. Including trying to secure the Starbucks site in St Anns Square and formally on Deansgate twice! All this whining about banks taking sites, what's the issue - nobody else will take them at the moment, they will make the site look good by investing, they will put cash machines right at the door of hundreds of retailers and they will employ people. Banks are one of the few destinations that people go out of their way to visit, especially at the weekends when only the city centre locations are open. ANYTHING that drives footfall in to the City is a good thing, especially if if dispenses cash to shoppers to spend! Seriously, are we saying that the council is correct in wanting to put another Costa/Starbucks/Nero on to Market Street, or worse still a Bar!!?? Why do you think Banks do not exist on Retail Parks, they are a footfall destination and they serve communities, its far too easy to dismiss them as a plight of the high street. If the banks didn't exist and everything was done online, most people would complain for that reason too. Its about balance, and for me.. If banks want to fill empty shops with useful services, why should we complain.

PaulDecember 24th 2013.

Silly Article. City Centres need Banks, Banks need City Centres. The fact that banks exist around shopping metropolis is a good thing, people need to get their cash from somewhere - plus the draw of footfall that Banks generate in to Manchester is a main reason why many people go in to town on a weekend. Seriously, its ludicrous to suggest that our City Centre would be better served by another Coffee Shop or Bar. This argument, in the main is about Manchester City Council being over-ruled, or the flip-side is that they make bad decisions. Considering they are staunchly Labour ran, overly bureaucratic and as with all Labour ran functions unable to make a decision, especially when it comes to money/finance - its no great surprise that they were over-ruled. How on earth would a coffee shop or bar improve our local economy, even a shop wouldn't help in this part of town - may I remind people, this is the second busiest shopping street in the UK! Just counting from memory I know of at least 14 Starbucks, 5 Neros and god knows how many Costas in the City Centre. Do we really think another one is required? Banks provide a foundation of commerce, whether you like banks or bankers or anything financial - the fact that we need their services remain.

DavidDecember 24th 2013.

London used to be like Manchester full of just more and more Zara and Mango and Starbucks but the landlords in a Regent Street,Carnaby Street and Covent Garden have made a real effort to attract a greater range of brands,especially smaller ones.In contrast Manchester seems to be going in the opposite direction,and becoming very bland and boring in its retail offering.There is too much parochialism in Manchester,a lack of ambition from the city leaders to become a major city like Barcelona and have the shopping and facilities of a major city.

Jonathan MoranDecember 10th 2013.

The HSBC at St Annes Square is always rammed and was very convenient when I worked in the city centre. After all our city centres are a place of commerce and banks are surely an essential part of this? It would be equally pointless and annoying to have a centre filled with food and coffee outlets.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
ChheeeeDecember 10th 2013.

It's spelt St Ann's

Jonathan MoranDecember 10th 2013.

Were you a milk monitor at school? Well done, have a gold star.

AVODecember 10th 2013.

Surely having banks in these buildings would be preferable to have them empty and boarded up? With the way the economy is, who else would be willing to invest in properties with such large square footage?

1 Response: Reply To This...
DrakeDecember 10th 2013.

Indeed. It's been empty for five years (bar that strange art festival). Better a bank than an empty unit

AnonymousDecember 10th 2013.

The Trafford Centre is a shopping destination. Full of shops. And shoppers. The city centre supports more than 17,000 businesses and so therefore requires the necessary infrastructure. It needs banks.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidDecember 10th 2013.

High street banking and banking for business are not the same. This is not being driven anyway by a demand for more banks,it's being driven by slack of demand for prime retail locations by shops because increasingly retailers don't see the need to open in Manchester.King Street,and it's supposed replacement Spinningfields have failed as shopping locations they are full of empty units or being turned into restaurants.Manchester apart from the Arndale Centre is visibly in decline as a shopping destination.

DrakeDecember 10th 2013.

Sorry, but that's hilarious. 'Apart from the Arndale'. Well, yes. It's the same in Culture. Except for the theatres, concert venues, museums and galleries, Manchester is visibly in decline as a cultural destination

AnonymousDecember 10th 2013.

Second highest city centre for spend outside of London. Decline indeed.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 12th 2013.

Let's see what happens when tax credits are cut further and interest rates finally go up?

Down with WestminsterDecember 10th 2013.

Good article. Shows once again how little power local people and their councils - of whatever colour - have within our overly centralised political system. No wonder people are so disengaged from politics.

Fave MCRDecember 11th 2013.

Agreed - more examination of these articles please. The markets make the city seem artificially busy, and though welcome, are only one solution to the city's declining retail scene

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 12th 2013.

There's a good Facebook group called "Manchester's German Christmas Markets Are Crap." Along with an article in The Guardian saying much the same... Maybe these hackneyed markets aren't as welcome as you think?

David Michael EvansDecember 11th 2013.

Including the Trafford Centre , Salford Quays, Spinningfield etc there has been a huge increase in retail space at the same time as the biggest recession for years. Since all this development, people are also switching to buying online. The government then makes a huge cut to the block grant for Manchester city council, and at the same time, restricts council tax rises to minimal increases. Where the hell do MCC get the income to keep all the services going? Hence huge increases in parking charges, and lengthening of charging periods, which were unlikely to have been so draconian, had the national government not imposed these swinging cuts. People are put off parking in town, go to the Trafford Centre..a no win situation. But I don't know why the rents don't fall for retail space on King St if the units are not being filled? Manchester is still doing better than places like Stockport, Stoke on Trent...the smaller towns and cities.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 11th 2013.

One of these days I'm going to count the number of on-street parking spaces. I bet there's less of them, than on one floor of the NCP Shudehill... In other words, a straw man

JayDecember 11th 2013.

I know it's a quote from someone but Peel don't own the Trafford Centre. It's now owned by Intu

1 Response: Reply To This...
Fave MCRDecember 12th 2013.

Jay, Peel built the Trafford Centre and ar now major shareholders of Intu

AnonymousDecember 11th 2013.

Of course Manchester is always rammed, Drake! It's all the bank clerks out on their breaks.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2013.

Then you have the idiots at Trafford Council who make Talbot Road one lane after the cricket ground going into Manchester and make cycle lanes the same size as the car lane. They also alter the traffic lights to ensure traffic builds up going into town they do not want you to drive into Manchester. The highway departments are idiots we pay our rates for these people to make motorists life a misery yet bow down to the cyclists. Yes cyclists do have a right to ride into town but not at the expense of motorists who actually pay to use the roads.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 11th 2013.

I thought council tax goes towards local roads?

Steve McCroskeyDecember 12th 2013.

That cycle lane forms part of the A56 alternative route which is designed to get cyclists off the 2/3 lane wide Chester Road that leads directly into Manchester and beyond

AnonymousDecember 13th 2013.

Motorists don't pay to use the roads. They pay duty on their CO2 emissions. Cyclists have negligible CO2 emissions so don't pay it.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2013.

In the US, Black Friday is the first day that retailers, after all costs, go into the black and out of the red in city and town hubs. The period between Thanksgiving and Xmas provides the profit and therefore capital that can reward the operator and provide funds for further investment and growth. Manchester has a similar pattern for independent and boutique retailers. So, what turns up around the time of year when profit can be made, independents can generate a profit and the city centre shopping mix can benefit from the potential growth? Manchester Xmas Markets! 60+ additional food and drink outlets and 200+ new craft (of sorts) outlets. Yes, the streets are busier as a result but the smaller operators suffer in the first few weeks after they arrive. Operators on John Dalton are empty while around the corner mulled wine, hot chocs and german sausages are sold on mass on albert sq and king street. Happy holidays!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Rebecca BlackDecember 11th 2013.


SAZKDecember 11th 2013.

I don't want to come across as part of the spelling police, but 'on mass' is a real pet hate of mine, its 'en masse'!!!! However the point you make is a good one. The Christmas markets may increase footfall but its obviously the Indies who really suffer up against the markets. Why do we insist on embracing these iderntical German markets that appear in every major city, instead of doing something original and -gasp- supporting UK businesses and producers. It truly baffles me.

1 Response: Reply To This...
paulsouthernDecember 13th 2013.

iderntical? The spelling police should read this too ;-)

Poster BoyDecember 13th 2013.

That’s a hornet’s nest right there, and one that you do not appear to have thought through. Pray tell what is this democracy in planning you promote? Is it the local democracy, upheld by voter inertia, which allows for “what Howard wants, Howard gets” like for example Library Walk? Or is the type of national democracy which, were it not for the Planning Inspectorate, would allow nuclear reactors, deep sea ports and high speed rail a la “the Chinese Way”? Planning law provides for an appeal system in which impartial and experienced Inspectors weigh the argument in the context of local and national policy in order to provide the correct planning decision. Far better than a decision being framed by one person’s imperfect local knowledge, prejudice or favour. You may even find, in any event, that the Inspector in the Starbucks decision has far more familiarity with Manchester and its retail core, than you (incorrectly) assume.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 14th 2013.

Well said

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