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Castlefield is revolting

Castlefield meeting points at a new direction for world important city centre district

Published on January 11th 2008.


Castlefield is revolting

Last night Castlefield residents got together in Albert’s Shed at Duke's 92 and made their opinions felt. This was a follow-on meeting from the Castlefield debate, Confidential had arranged in summer 07.

The issues are these.

Manchester has a heritage area in Castlefield which is of world significance historically, with the oldest passenger railway station and the first canal of the Industrial Age. The area also contains remains of the original Manchester, the Roman Fort. It is also the largest area in the city centre which can be dedicated to recreation – strolling, taking it easy.

Yet it is falling apart with inadequate paving, lighting and street-furniture, and an uncertain planning future. The problems are compounded by seemingly unregulated apartment construction.

It was this latter issue that most concentrated the minds of the people at the meeting. In particular, the proposed Peel Holdings plan for flats on the site of Jackson’s Wharf pub. The first plans were thrown out at planning stage in November –the first time in a decade this had happened. They were too cumbersome, heavy and inappropriate for the basin area of Castlefield.

The plans have now been re-submitted and as David Astbury of the Civic Society noted it’s a case of “spot the difference”. Ed Burrows of Peel Holdings defended the proposals as “sensible and suitable, reducing the massing of the scheme”. He argued that there were people who thought the proposals were good ones.

Confidential asked the assembled residents, and other interested parties who’d come along, if there was a person in the room, aside from Mr Burrows, who liked the scheme. Nobody did.

The meeting was chaired by the inimitable Councillor Pat Karney. Councillor Karney suggested that John Whittaker, head honcho of Peel (and a Whitefield lad now living in the Isle of Man) use part of his £600m personal fortune, to donate the land as public realm, possibly as gardens. There was much giggling at this tongue-in-cheek suggestion and Ed Burrows sported a cheeky grin.

Yet Confidential wonders whether this isn’t a good idea. Whittaker would merely be reflecting a Victorian ideal of philanthropy if he did this. Many of the public areas of the city were given as gifts by people who’d made their money here and then wanted to give something back.

The public can attend the planning meeting for the second Jackson’s Wharf proposal on 17 January at 2pm at the Town Hall. Confidential will be going along. If you don’t like the look of the proposed scheme shown here offer a comment below and we'll take them along too.

A real result of the meeting was that a Steering Committee is now being put together so that a clear way forward for Castlefield can be planned. This should be up and running within the month. Confidential has promised to create a website for the Castlefield area which will act as a Forum for opinion and suggestions.

The residents, businesses and the Council, have a real chance of creating something very special in Castlefield: an attractive area underpinned by major history. This is a place which should draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors, something which can act as model for other cities, something of which we can be very proud.

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

John WilsonJanuary 11th 2008.

Why are they building more apartments in Manchester when half the new apartments are still not lived in yet. The area is not a good investment area and hardly anyone I know that owns apartments has made money as there are so many being built. Get a grip Peel and try something different other than apartments. We need more green areas.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

Peel and the Council need to come to a financial settlement whereby the land becomes open space. The council can contribute the money it made from the sale of Piccadilly Gardens and right a very, very, very bad wrong. Peel can settle for a low price and the chance to put something back into a city which has made it so much money. We'll even let you name it Peel Gardens if you like. The same goes for the open plot next to Jackson's Wharf (any building here would dominate the bridge) and the surface car park (a very rare south facing open space!) on the site of the former coal wharf other side of the canal. Don't let Castlefield become a canyon of buildings.

JoanJanuary 11th 2008.

I've recently read a few articles suggesting that philanthropy is making a comeback. Great idea.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

I wonder how many of the objectors live in Slate Wharf or City Gate - two of the very worst developments the city has seen (Bellway's City Gate in particular). This proposal by comparison is sensitively scaled, respectful of its setting and contemporary without being pastiche. I agree though that ground floor flats should be discouraged.As for the points about open space, well Peel would have to write off several million pounds I would have thought. You are on a hiding to nothing appealing to the better nature of a developer to voluntarily make a loss of that magnitude. Neither is the location particularly suitable for open space being neither overlooked nor well integrated into the wider area that would help make it a safe useable resource. The current development is, I believe the best solution for the site.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

The design is overbearing & is over development for this site, its design is cluttered with all the balconies facing the canal and the glass additions to the roof, the public space just will not work due to its proximity to the ground floor apartments. Justifying such a large development on the grounds that it masks other developments cannot be acceptable.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

Can somebody please explain how ground floor flats and a public plaza for 'temporary events' will integrate?, this space will not be used.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

Re the Quay bar site & what is planned, I guess its whatever will fit next to this development next door at 2-4 Chester Road, *another* Simpson designed apartment block already given www.skyscrapernews.com/buildings.php?id=1780…

regen08January 11th 2008.

Why should modern additions be subservient to listed buildings? Why not equal partner as this one appears to be? How can a building whose size and shape looks to be equivalent to that of the adjacent Middle Warehouse possibly be described as over development or inappropriate? Surely this stance is inconsistent? I understand what you are saying about the unique atmosphere and sense of history created by the older buildings but no progressive, modern city is a museum not should it be. What we must strive for is the highest possible quality. This development might be guilty of conservatism but the building appears to be a cut above anything else built in Castlefield in the last 20 years. My only concern would be the track record of Peel who are not renowned for delivering high quality buildings.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

This is a horrendous new-build which reminds me a little of Vantage Quay and the other coming BSC developments at Piccadilly Basin. So as well as it looking totally out of place for Castlefield, it's going to make it look very similar to another part of town which in my view destroys the unique identity of the area. There is far too much ****e going up in Manchester and Salford now (has anyone saw Richmond Court behind the Adelphi Campus at Salford - dull new-build, totally empty with windows and doors smashed already) and we're going to have to start all over again in 20/30 years time to re-development the sites that spineless developers are now supposedly regenerating. As for the ground floor flats...I am also totally confused by this. If you're wanting to integrate some public realm into developments of this scale then profiting from some extra low-level 480 sq ft box-flats isn't the way to do it. Shouldn't the ground floor perhaps consist of small (European-sized), flexible units that local people can afford to run as small independent businesses. Bakers, thrift shops, a florists, a chippy, a cafe, a dentist, a art studio...these opening on to a public plaza would probably be more successful than someones sofa opening on to the plaza. Grrr.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

I wonder if Chris from Castlegate objected to the proposals for Castlegate when they were in for planning. I suspect not, but that building towers above the warehouse next door and fills its site without contributing any public space. So what's the problem with Jackson's Wharf. Anybody think there's an element of nimbyism here?

Resident of PiccadillyJanuary 11th 2008.

I live in Piccadilly and we have some fantastic areas in this city that have been developed with some real thought. However, we have a lot of cr@p too and I find it almost shocking the council can ask Peel to give over the land - our city lacks green space and the buck stops with the Town Hall.The last 12 years has seen a gold rush of development money into the city which on balance, has developed the City of Manchester into a fantastic metropolis that people want to live in and be apart of. Poor developments like this must be challenged (anyone spotted the multi coloured panel monstrosity on the city side of manc-way flyover??) and its only through local resident pressure it will happen. And here is where my rant concludes - with so many flats now rented, there is huge resident apathy and therefore our council gets a trouble free ride. Good for Castlefield - I hope you succeed in creating your green space.

eugeneJanuary 11th 2008.

City Council, I hope you are listening. Manchester and it's residents are crying out for the respectful 'development' of Castlefield. The area needs restoring, not modernising.Don't you agree it is easier and more workable to market an area as attractive space to spend time and stroll/relax/spend time with friends/soak up the atmosphere/walk back in time etc etc rather than meander through blocks of soulless apartments that could be (forgive me), but Rotterdam or anywhere?Manchester is it's citizens' city, not the developer's to do with as they like.Don't forget that old adage 'Once it's gone, it's gone. Rant over.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

We can't expect any help from the council in making this a public space, as they have demonstrated time and time again a loack of comittment to public spaces, selling off space to developers that they own, and even bits of Piccadilly Gardens. There are already plans for the Jacksons Wharf site, but what about the site where Quay bar used to be?....

AndyJanuary 11th 2008.

addition to the above, the 'proposed' public plaza built into the Jacksons Wharf scheme will not be able to be used properly due to the idiotic addition of the ground floor flats, temporary events, possible outside seating for the commercial unit etc will all be affected by the proximity.

saint georges island residentJanuary 11th 2008.

PLEASE DON'T BUILD THIS BUILDING !!! It is totally insensitive to the area. What castlefield needs is more pedestrian lighting and more grass and trees to encourage the herons and other birds to settle in this area. The building itself is nothing creative. Castlefield is a village of sorts so if something has to be built then build a few large detached houses with a unique style. Give us some architecture to be proud of, a man's house is his castle!

Chris GrimesJanuary 11th 2008.

I live in Castlegate - the reason i bought the apartment was to be in this loverly area. Things need to be done, there is a building going up were key bar use to be. What is that?

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

The space is far too small for a development on this scale. It will be totally out of place. A green space would be excellent. However, if this is not realistic then at least develop something of an appropriate size and scale.

Michael LJanuary 11th 2008.

BBC journalist and presenter Brian Redhead did a "Home Ground" programme on Castlefield in about 1979. Does anybody know exactly when it was broadcast?

John, Castlefield ResidentJanuary 11th 2008.

I attended last night's meeting. I thought Pat's suggestion to appeal to Mr Whittaker's philanthrophic side was worth a shot. How about we make it the Anthony Wilson Memorial Garden? I used to see him frequently walking round Castlefield and I am sure this would make a fitting tribute.

AndyJanuary 11th 2008.

Slate Wharf may be ‘pastiche’ or however it is always described in architect speak, however it is great for the location, low rise, very neutral, subservient to the listed buildings and not so large as to dominate the area and excessively overshadow the canal, as should anything that ends up being given permission on the Jacksons Wharf site(bar a great act of generosity & it becoming public realm). 2-4 Chester Road, Castlegate & City Gate are all boundary sites built right up to Chester Road, this site is not at the extreme periphery of Castlefield and therefore should not be used to fence the area in further. This site should not be used as opportunity to mask off what some people consider as ‘mistakes’, instantly becoming one itself. Any public plaza created will not be able to be used properly, think about it.

JohnJanuary 11th 2008.

Hang on , Anonymous, Peel Holdings already have their name on Peel Green....haven't they?

Michael LJanuary 11th 2008.

Having carried out extensive research focused on CF for the last 5 years it is evident that what is happening now with the Jackson Wharf housing proposal is similar to what happened in the 1970s when the city council wanted to redevelop CF for housing and in the 1980/90s when the CMDC wanted to do the same. Whilst the heritage dominated understanding of CF went largely unchallenged in the 1990s, now the struggle to impose a current meaning and future for CF has resurfaced as it did in the 1970s. Today the heritage view of CF cannot remain focused narrowly on canals, railways and warehouses. The area has a much richer history including: elegant Georgian housing, working class housing, gritty industry (the abattoir) and a rather riotous and short lived 19th century annual fair. This was reinvented for a brief time in the 1980s with the Castlefield funfair and festival. But the most important part of CF's history is the link with the Transatlantic Trade in West African peoples, they produced the cotton which came in and the went in out of the city and surrounding towns. Manchester textiles were traded for abducted West African peoples who were later enslaved. The Liverpool to Manchester Railway was funded partly from the proceeds of the Transatlantic Trade. The statue in Lincoln Square with its inscription of thanks from Abraham Lincoln for the support of Manchester workers during the 1860s cotton famine is just about the only recognition in the city of the links between Castlefield and enslavement. The silence on this aspect of CFs past is deafening. The Jackson’s Wharf scheme if wholly inappropriate and hopefully will not get through the appeal, but even if it does it is unlikely to go ahead in the present financial climate. When funding is available things will have moved on. In the meantime the site should be given to the city as public open space with a maintenance trust fund attached.

AlanJanuary 11th 2008.

I agree that Castlegate is an ugly group of buildings but didn't object because they are on the periphery of Castlefield mostly seen from the roundabout. Whether Slate Wharf is a pastiche or not I still think it works and is where I live. The "Plot G" used to be a lovely lawn to relax in the summer until it was used to store builders materials when building Egerton and Blantyre House and then never tidied up and became an eyesore. Jacksons Wharf used to be great and very busy at weekends until Deansgate Locks killed it and Quay Bar (that I never liked anyway). I think that the best would be to replace Jackson's Wharf by flats in similar materials and height as Slate Wharf so as to blend in but not too close to the canal. Plot G should be returned to being a pleasant lawn/park area by the bouncy bridge and swans/ducks/wildlife. The whole Castlefield area needs a good tidy up to remove weeds, plant replacement trees, repaint the bouncy bridge, sort out the Spanish "rostrum" outside Barca etc.

AndyJanuary 11th 2008.

Not OLDER buildings, but the LISTED buildings, the more oversize buildings of an overdeveloped nature that get built in the canal basin will detract from the scale of the buildings that create a part of the unique atmosphere in the area, the sense of history, the feeling of space and openness in the canal basin, in what is an urban heritage park. The aspects that create the unique atmosphere in the area are in a delicate balance & the risk is that ill-considered, overdevelopment, additions will erode the character of the area and the atmosphere will be lost.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 11th 2008.

Anonymous - can people put a few names here please, it's hardly contentious - the simple things are the first things we need to do with any steering group. You're spot on. That's what I would go for first. Attention to detail first adn let everything flow from that.

Rob AdlardJanuary 11th 2008.

Its difficult to throw this out of hand when a precedent has been set with buildings of lesser quality than this already in the area, its a great shame that some previous buildings weren't opposed, one wonders why?A good point was made at the meeting by someone involved in property law who brought to our attention the fact that the council can influence whether apartments are to be built, or a focus on commercial space through the area plan, and also regarding the conditions the council can insist upon, such as commerical space, greenery etc to be included....lets hope someone at the council pays attention to this. Its difficult for the Labour council to argue that private land owners should be giving their land to the city (although thats a great idea, and the way many cities gain their public spaces) when the council has been undermining public spaces for such a long time. A large chunk of Piccadilly Gardens was sold off and the area downgraded, a large 28 storey tower given planning permission in another part of Castlefield to be built upon council land....lead by example.

Sarah CookJanuary 11th 2008.

I think the design is too big and dominating, and doesn't fir in at all with the tone or historical significance of the area.

angelaJanuary 11th 2008.

about time there was some scenice open space in city center manchester for visitors/ residents to enjoy to- fewer glass/steel monstrosities the better. we forget that manchester was once open fields...well done Confidential

MancunianJanuary 11th 2008.

Well done anonymous, what a balanced view. In summary, Slate Wharf is a terrible development so lets build another larger terrible development next to it....

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

There is no need for yet more flats in the Castlefield area. I rented one & when I was moving out to buy a house the estate agent obviously asked if I had a property to sell. When he heard the address & that I was only renting his response was "good, because I have other flats in that building & they're not shifting". The vast majority of apartment blocks in the city have empty flats in them & still developers keep flinging up more. It would be far better for the people of Manchester to have a pleasant green space in the city than yet another generic apartment block which will probably never be full of residents and lose it's shine after a year or two.

helenJanuary 11th 2008.

Clearly there are monstrosities in castlefield - take a look at the building to the opposite side of Middle Warehouse or that hideous Bellway thing on the roundabout - but this proposal isn't one of them. It's a strong simple design with a good relationship to Middle Warehouse. It looks like it sits well in the basin and creates a good sized public space adjacent to the canal. It also masks, to a degree, the view of the Bellway scheme and of some of the pretend warehouses on Slate Wharf. This is a good thing, as is the fact that the building is unashamedly modern. Castlefield is a World Heritage Site and you should be able to tell where the heritage is and where the modern interventions are.

Sara MJanuary 11th 2008.

Jackson's Wharf pub closed approx. 2001, since then hundred's of apartments have been built in the Castlefield area (Bellway, Urban Splash), perhaps, today, it would be a viable business if it re-opened?

AndyJanuary 11th 2008.

Visual impact on listed buildings by new developments I guess then is very subjective, in my eyes Middle Warehouse being fenced in by another large scale building and resultant overcrowding in the canal basin will without doubt lead to loss of character and impact. It must be considered whether this is overdevelopment both on its own site usage basis and also in light of all the other construction in Castlefield, overdevelopment in the area as a whole, both completed and in the pipeline. The brief by Peel was indeed too demanding & the solution by the architects has been something I personally believe can only be considered as overdevelopment. 117 apartments is excessive, just take a look at the square footage and format of the majority of the apartments, 5 apartments at ground level facing into the ‘public plaza’, rendering this unusable. As this development has been through each successive revision, the number of proposed apartments has stayed the same, no attempt has been made to reduce the density. This scheme does not address one of the Councils primary planning aims to promote and support sustainable communities and would add to an oversupply of apartments in the area.I will say it again, this is not a boundary site, it is not at the periphery of Castlefield, like all other developments fronting Chester road, so this site should not be used to close the area in further, both the canal basin and the lower scale Slate Wharf properties will be overshadowed by this over-dominant scheme. In relation to the Slate Wharf area as a whole, the proposed development does not respond at all to the tree lined boulevard atmosphere that has been created leading up to the canal basin along Blantyre Street, indeed seven young trees will be removed from this road due to this development being built right up to the site boundary on this aspect, to be replaced with stainless steel meshing, an inappropriate material, on the ground floor of this elevation.This is such a wasted opportunity, greater provision should be made for both visitor and residents amenity, considering this area in the years to come is going to actively be promoted as a leisure/events destination, as it should be, currently being such an un-tapped resource.

Who Are You!January 11th 2008.

as much as i think a nice green space on this site would be a good idea, expecting Peel to give away a £20 million + piece is like getting a resident of slate wharf to give away one of their pretend wharehouse style kitchens. the proposed building is not right for the site, but not because it is too modern, i think the architects have hit the nail on the head with the matterials, but Peel where definately being a bit unrealistic when they asked Mr Simpson & co to design a building with so many apartments. The idea of heritage is that the old should be preserved and the new should look new. However, where where all these objectors when citygate was going through planning? Citygate is an abomination, much worse than the Peel shceme. Let the build it, just shrink it a bit.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2008.

"The whole Castlefield area needs a good tidy up to remove weeds, plant replacement trees, repaint the bouncy bridge, sort out the Spanish "rostrum" outside Barca etc."Aren't these the simple things that should have been done very quickly after the first public meeting by the council/relevant owning bodies. I thought Pat Karney was going to kick them all up the butt to get things moving. Yes things have changed a little but not nearly enough.

regen08January 11th 2008.

... But why should modern additions be subservient to the older buildings? The Jackson's Wharf proposal is very similarly massed as the Middle Warehouse and as such 'fits in' quite nicely in my view. Surely reducing its mass would render it out of context with its neighbour and could also result in a poorer relationship to the canal basin?

RyanJanuary 11th 2008.

I agree with all said, who wants another ugly, huge concrete block in such a pretty area, the project is too big for the area and would spoil Castlefield completely. Haven't they got enough money already!!!

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