Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialNews.

Sir Howard on the rack in CPO hearing

Chief exec scrutinised over fire station plans

Published on April 13th 2011.

Sir Howard on the rack in CPO hearing

Argent is now the only developer in the running to take on the London Road Fire Station after hotel operator Park Plaza ended its interest in the site.

The second day of the inquiry into Manchester City Council’s proposed CPO (compulsory purchase order) started with the news that Park Plaza had pulled its bid to operate the building yesterday afternoon (Monday).

That means only Argent remains on the council’s shortlist of potential developers on the building, owned by Hale-based Britannia Hotels, if the local authority’s CPO bid is successful.

Sir Howard Bernstein gave evidence to the inquiry, under cross examination from David Elvin QC, representing Britannia. The council chief executive came under fire several times, including an incident where he presented a previously confidential letter from Manchester-based planning consultancy Turley Associates.

Turley’s had been working with Britannia on plans for the fire station, but the three-year old letter revealed that they had withdrawn from the relationship ‘on professional grounds’. When asked about the letter, Sir Howard said it detailed how Turley’s was ‘not happy to progress Britannia’s strategy as they were only interested in doing what was absolutely necessary to keep the city council at bay.’

“The letter said that Turley’s did not want to be used as stooges in plan to frustrate the council,” said Sir Howard.

Elvin then accused Sir Howard of a ‘gross breach of professional conduct’ in submitting the letter to the hearing, after obtaining permission from a director at the firm to make it public.

“It’s taken you three years to follow up a letter,” he said. “You’d expect one of your consultants to respect confidence wouldn’t you?”

“Probably, yes,” replied Sir Howard.

“Did you ask Britannia’s permission to approach one of their former consultants? Did you even think about it?” Elvin asked.

“It never occurred to me, no,” said Sir Howard.

Sir Howard also refuted allegations that he and Sir Richard Leese, leader of the council, had a private telephone conversation about giving the fire station to Argent, and that ‘his mind was made up.’

“There was no conversation,” he said. “It did not happen.”

Britannia’s argument centred on Sir Howard’s insistence on insisting the building’s owner sign a delivery guarantee, tying them into a 12 month planning permission, also starting on site within that period.

Elvin said Sir Howard had acted ‘outside his authority’ as he was never given a mandate from executive members to do that.

The inquiry is proceeding.

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

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

Eddy Of The BaileyApril 13th 2011.

There is a saying in the halls of our town hall "What Sir Howard wants Sir Howard gets' and mandate rarely comes into it. It would be a shame however if this appeal is upheld because of a technicality or because of some derry doings between our glorious leaders. Britannia have had this building in their toybox long enough and its about time they let some other children play with it. I also wouldnt put it past Britannia to do a poo in the sand pit whilst they are at it.

GMSApril 13th 2011.

Come on Sir Howard, put Brittania to bed and let's get this gem of a building back in use! Do it!

Simon BinnsApril 14th 2011.

That's a good point Melanie; Sir Howard said the council would carry out another procurement process if Argent dropped out - however, under the council's CPO plan, it would be prepared to hold the building until 2013, costing £2m from capital reserves.

Fired upApril 14th 2011.

What ever you might think of the councils rationale or methodology, they are the only ones with the ability to wrest it from Britannia. Otherwise, it will sit there, look a mess and fall to bits.

The end result of having the building restored and put to good use is what everybody wants and there is 1000 times more chance of this happening if its not Britannia. Even if it was them, their other assets are so poor, I wouldnt trust them to come up with an even moderately sympathetic or quality refurbishment.

Duke FameApril 14th 2011.

The council should concentrate of mending roads, picking up litter, libraries and thinking up really expensive and unworkable transport initiatives rather than play at property development.

Sausage TowerApril 14th 2011.

I only know one famous duck, and he doesn't wear any trousers.
But here here

Duke FameApril 14th 2011.

So Bernie is putting all his eggs in the basket of Argent Estates, Co no 01573790. A business who's net worth is less than a quarter if it's worth just 2 years ago.

He's trying to push out a local company with a net worth some 20 times greater?

All this in a time when the council are claiming have the budget to employ a librarian.

This appears very strange, fishy even.

PedantApril 15th 2011.

"insistence on insisting"?

AnonymousApril 16th 2011.

Why doesn't the council turn the fire station into affordable social housing? has no one thought of that one??? Before Tom Bloxham gets hold of it for a quid that is!??
From recent communications with the council which generally seem to be one sided if at all, i think more energy should be put into wisely using reserves and cancelling non-projects such as moving the cornerhouse/library theatre 200 yards to First Street at a cost of 19m! oh and scrapping the 24m bmx centre as we may have one olympic hopeful!! leisure centres, surestart centres, libraries, are a lot more useful to the citizens, Why is Sir Howard not explaining himself does he think he isnt accountable to the people of Manchester?? Prefers nothing more than to count his 232k salary greedily like Rumplestiltskin in his ivory tower, no questions asked, who the hell does this man think he is. Sooner hes out and the other croonies the better.....long live May 6th!!

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Ashle Kumar

After putting password in our system often we forget it. But don't worry it can be recover by a…

 Read more

Postal services in goverment sector are pretty awesome. Now USPS offering excellent services in…

 Read more

Know your username(which is same as your employee number) Now click this link. And complete your…

 Read more

Link below to an MEN article on future plans for the area.…

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2021

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord