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Grand Plans For Granada Site - And An Apology

Jonathan Schofield on the blueprint for the city centre's south western gateway

Written by . Published on March 14th 2012.

Grand Plans For Granada Site - And An Apology

APOLOGIES dear readers.

We had duff information on Tuesday (13 March) and suggested that Granada House might be demolished. After further investigation instigated by your comments we realise this may not be the case. And apologies to the City Council, ITV and those who compiled the report, our story was wrong.

The official Chief Executive’s report says this about Granada House:

‘The existing main building could be refurbished to Grade B+ standards and complement Spinningfields and the Manchester City Council  Item 10 adjacent new buildings. A comprehensive refurbishment of this building could be delivered in 12– 15 months, as opposed to around 24 months for new build. A refurbished building in this location close to Spinningfields could appeal to different occupier markets in terms of second tier financial and professional service providers, creative media and ICT companies, as well as business support functions.’

So let’s reverse one of the main sentences in our previous story.

Ralph Tubbs’ simple, austere, but measured Granada House, a city landmark since 1962, may well be saved. The Manchester Modernist Society will be pleased.

Ralph Stubbs' 1962 Granada HouseRalph Stubbs' 1962 Granada House

Much of the rest of the story was correct about the 13 acre site being vacated because of the move later this year of ITV to MediaCityUK. A big part of the plans for the ex-Granada Studios area include turning part into a new city centre ‘family neighbourhood’ alongside commercial property. This will involve the potential creation of 5000 jobs directly from the implementation of the full project.

Specifically: ‘A limited number of family friendly independent cafes and restaurants could be  developed and this would help to extend dwell time  during the day and early evening. A similar night-time circuit could link the leisure offer at Spinningfields, the Opera House, the Great John Street Hotel and established food and beverage uses along Liverpool Road.

While: ‘The provision of ancillary amenity facilities in the form of a small cornershop, pharmacy, doctor’s surgery, dentist, crèche, dry cleaner, gym etc. would help to establish the area as a destination and would provide benefits to existing residents in the wider area.’

This is good news if notional at presnet.

But let’s hope the lesson of the well-known ‘family restaurants’ Spinningfields brought in along the River Irwell bank are learnt. Cafe Rouge and the rest are High Street brands and proved inappropriate for the area.

Another look at the added detail in the report makes for interesting reading as a follow-on to our Coronation Street exclusive of January.

‘ITV are considering whether any potential exists to develop a leisure attraction based around the existing Coronation Street set which is commercially viable. This work must be completed before the long-term future of the set can finally be determined. Officers will be consulted on the evaluation of options given the critical importance of ensuring that any proposals are founded upon the need to satisfy key criteria about deliverability and long-term sustainability. The outcome of the work will be reported to the Council and will be used to refine the overall framework.’

There’s a caveat in there over ‘long-term sustainability’. Confidential thinks priority must be given to saving the set, it would become an immense visitor asset. It would be ridiculous if it were demolished – a massive missed opportunity for Manchester’s tourism.

Happily, in the plan, there’s a decent emphasis on public areas for those who would like to see more green and landscaped space around the city centre with ‘ the creation of strong pedestrian links and the introduction of high quality public realm’.

ITV/Granada is moving from its five decades home on the right to the towers of MediaCityUK to the left in the distanceITV/Granada is moving from its five decades home on the right in the middle distance, to the towers of MediaCityUK to the left, in the far distance

There’s also a re-statement of Castlefield’s distinctive and significant heritage. It says one of the aims of redevelopment ‘would be to protect and enhance the character of the Conservation Area and build upon the unique heritage assets which define the special character of Castlefield’.

The Museum of Science and Industry  (MOSI) is critical here. ‘The ITV site is located adjacent to MOSI, one of the North West’s leading tourist destinations: visitor numbers topped 600,000 in 2010. MOSI forecast this will increase to in excess of 1m visitors in 2012.

‘There are clear opportunities to harness this footfall by improving permeability and accessibility between MOSI and the ITV site. The demolition of the redundant studios and other out buildings presents  the opportunity to create routes across the cleared site in the short term.'

The ‘waterside quarter’ idea is a logical one give the River Irwell flows along one side of the 13 acres.

Perhaps planners could not only utilise the River Irwell bank but also original Potato Wharf mini-port of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal as it spilled into the river. The lock at the junction of river and canal on Water Street that still survives here is shown on the photo below.

Where the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal kisses the River IrwellWhere the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal kisses the River Irwell

Overall the report is encouraging, although a little more emphasis on the public realm and a firm commitment to the Corrie set would have been welcome. What it does do is firmly underline the importance of this south western city centre 'gateway'. 

At the same time we appear to be living through the rise and rise of the ‘Community Neighbourhood’. On Monday (12 March) we reported on the Collyhurst/Irk Valley scheme set to build 2,000 new homes.

Now we have this.

The City of Manchester’s population in the 1930s was more than 800,000, now it’s 300k less. The re-population of the city, especially at it’s heart, is very welcome.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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

GrassmanMarch 14th 2012.

Nice ideas. Let's hope public realm is treated properly rather than being the accidental public realm of Spinningfields, arrived at with its lawns because the property crisis hit.

Kevin PeelMarch 14th 2012.

I've read the report in full and am really pleased with t. I'm particularly glad to see a desire to retain the heritage assets in the area and the Corrie set as a tourist destination. I'm also delighted to see a commitment to high quality public realm and a family friendly area, though this needs to be backed up by ensuring that any plans for residential accommodation include a suitable mix for families.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 15th 2012.

Whilst its good that it refers to Granada House being refurbished I suspect this is only because of the changed market conditions rather than any desire to protect it. Earlier reports such as the Water Street regeneration framework indicated it would go.

The references to "heritage assets" are in relation to the character of the Castlefield conservation area, so presumably if it was felt that modernist Granada House did not conform to this character, it leaves the door open for it to be demolished further down the line.

Rather than playing down the heritage assets, I would be happier if the Council made a clear and unambiguous statement about exactly what it regards as "heritage assets" and what it does not. Then we will be clear exactly what we stand to lose BEFORE a planning application is submitted.

My reading of the situation is that Granada House and the studios are still very much imperilled.

Calum McGMarch 14th 2012.

Yes, agree with you, Kevin. We've a glut of 1 and 2 bed flats in town, but almost nothing for families. I know examples of couples who have had to up sticks once they have kids, simply because there aren't many 3 or 4-bed places in town. That needs to change!

JoanMarch 14th 2012.

Thanks for the apology Jonathan. My original comment is not completely redundant though. I'm still hoping, given the report's stress on high quality public realm, that we'll see at some stage a commitment to keeping the on-site garden & turning what is a popular private facility into an even more popular public green space.

Duke FameMarch 14th 2012.

It's still quite ugly

tblzebraMarch 14th 2012.

Where did my fantastic post about the Granada Commons Set go? I may have to sulk.

Rob MortimerMarch 16th 2012.

It may be ugly, but if we got rid of buldings just because they were ugly then we'd have no architectural history at all...

They need to save the set and make it an attraction, if they were to destroy it that would be a crime against Manchester (in essence at least).

AnonymousMarch 19th 2012.

Well, well. Maybe ManCon was a bit premature with the apology.

As this video shows (see http://vimeo.com/38624171 ), not only does there not appear to be any canal, the original studio block has been cleared and Granada House has lost its distinctive 60s modernist looks to be reclad in an anodyne concoction of glass and concrete panels (at 1:28 in the video). They might as well have demolished the building for all the respect they seem to be affording to it.

So now we know why the report was so vague and non-committal about the site's heritage assets. It looks like the philistines at the council, ITV and their planning consultants only see heritage in terms of the bonded warehouse.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
JoanMarch 19th 2012.

I think this is just an advert made by 90degrees, who basically seem to be a marketing outfit. Is it not just an advert to try and sell the site to a future developer? The document approved by the council is a framework only. It'll be ages before planning applications are made.

AnonymousMarch 19th 2012.

Fair enough Joan, I hope that you're right but given the history of neglect of so much of our industrial heritage and the lack of any real tangibles in the report I think its right to take a cynical stance. Certainly the site visuals look of a quality to suggest this could be more than just marketing.

Maybe I'm in a small minority in caring about post war architecture and industrial history but surely Granada is too important to airbrush out of existence, even as a promo?

Jonathan SchofieldMarch 19th 2012.

It's always best to be big enough to apologise. We'll investigate though.

Cladding is the worst solution in the world - maybe they should stone clad Granada House as one of the houses on the Corrie set was back in the eighties.

I don't know of a single successful cladding scheme, or rather one that won't look even more old fashioned than the original within a decade.

1 Response: Reply To This...
tomegranateMarch 19th 2012.

What about the blocks of flats on Chester Road and in Hulme that have been reclad? They look much better than before. I don't think they're going to look old fashioned any time soon.

AnonymousMarch 19th 2012.

Incidentally, it looks like the debate about which were the first purpose built TV studios is far from cut-and-dried.

This site, ( www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/rest%20of%20britain.htm… ) reaffirms Granada's claim

"The first purpose-built television studios to open in the UK were Granada's in Manchester. The BBC would have got there first with TV Centre but due to finance problems, construction was put on hold for a few years during the Centre's development. Granada started broadcasting from its new studios in Quay Street on 3rd May 1956. "

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2014.

Let's keep the original look of the building - I believe it was the first 'curtain wall' building in Manchester - but also restore the original 'GRANADA TV' sign on top of it. It was always an iconic landmark in itself. I believe it was also the first 'curtain wall' building in Manchester.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 1st 2014.

Agreed. Let's hope the site's architectural and cultural heritage does not get lost in the current round of consultation over it's future.

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