Precinct developers PJ Livesey attended our meeting on 2 November. Here’s the detail behind what they say on their website. It’s important to have the full picture.
The Precinct will stand empty and untouched for at least several months.
Retail space will be less than half of what we have now.
The public car park will be lost and not replaced – no spaces for shoppers, visitors, health centre patients and workers.
Tower blocks rising to 10 storeys high.
The development will turn Chorlton into a huge building site for between four and five years.
GMPF (Greater Manchester Pension Fund), bought the Precinct site in 2014, paying £10m. We’ve had a lot of false starts on redevelopment over the years. Alan (Williams, Unicorn) sent a response to the One Chorlton consultation on our behalf, with our views of what we believe would be best for the site, placing it in the context of Chorlton’s development as a whole. This seems to have been ignored.
Richard Wilshaw, Town Planning Manager for PJ Livesey (PJL) began his presentation.
To clarify: the site belongs to GMPF: PJL are the preferred developers and have no ownership interests. GMPF have entered into private negotiations with individual tenants.
The recent consultation returned 1,000-plus responses. People have strong views, but they were surprised at how much these views varied.
Another round of pre-planning public consultation starts on November 6, with an updated website, more detailed plans and a newsletter posted to local homes. PJL and One Chorlton (the consultation project team) will run public meetings (including on 18 and 21 November) and offer a drop-in facility at a vacant unit in the precinct.
They will take vacant possession of the precinct on 1 February 2024, when the gates will be locked for the last time. The planning application will be submitted in the spring, with hope of approval in June/July after the local elections. After planning approval, they intend to start works as fast as possible. This could by this time next year. We should start to see the first houses being completed from Summer 2025.
The precinct faces inwards and currently creates a ‘disconnect’ between Wilbraham Rd and shops/businesses up towards Unicorn. They say they want to improve the public realm, and look at the site in context of what may happen at the Picture House, the Baths redevelopment and the district centre as a whole. The unit occupied by Costa isn’t part of the site, but they are in negotiations to buy it.
200+ new homes – a mix of apartments and town houses with 20% of the site classed as ‘affordable’. They are looking at the visual character of other homes in the area, to ensure they ‘fit’ within their environment. They say they won’t sell homes to investors, only to owner-occupiers.
300 parking spaces, 280 of which will be underground.
12,500 sq ft of retail space. They want to make retail more attractive with flexible units and uses that could include co-working, workshop space or a boutique cinema.
In terms of height, they will have lower-level buildings at the Wilbraham Road side, building up to eight storeys by the medical centre and ten at the corner of Nicolas Road.
A linear park will run along the Barlow Moor Road side, with public space and a new public square at the corner with Nicolas Road.
The site will be totally flattened, with as much demolished material being re-used as possible. The developers looked at retaining Graeme House, but it wouldn’t work for them.
The scheme will bring some social value with eg apprentices, commissioning mural artists etc.
The plan are presented in detail, with site maps etc during the next consultation round.
And the Detail
The following points emerged and were made during the discussion:
The 12,500 sq ft retail-use space represents less than half of what we have now. While they say that much of the existing space is low-grade / first-floor, that’s actually work and storage space used as an essential part of operations. In terms of retail front-of-house, the scheme will offer around a third less than what we have now.
The 300-space car park. 280 underground spaces will only be for residents: 20 surface ones will be designated as disabled, car club and retail unit occupier spaces. This means there is no parking at all for shoppers, visitors and workers. They are taking the current public car park away and not replacing it. A significant amount of the site will become residents’ gardens: in effect, gating-off large areas of Chorlton’s commercial centre. Richard says it’s “not their responsibility” to provide district centre parking. This will mean congestion (as vehicles circle in search of parking) and an on-street/resident parking nightmare – this will put people off coming into Chorlton – especially when there are nearby centres (e.g. Altrincham, Urmston) which notably have affordable, easily-accessed parking. Yes, we want to encourage cycling and walking, but many people need to use their cars – for transporting goods, mobility reasons and to visit destination shops from outside the immediate area. The shops that make Chorlton’s current retail offer so distinctive have catchment areas that reach far beyond Chorlton.
Timescale: vacant possession on February 1 etc. This means the Precinct will stand empty and untouched for at least several months – closing before the planning application is even submitted! If the planning application is rejected, it could stand derelict at the heart of the district centre for many months more.
We should start to see the first houses being completed from Summer 2025, but the development as a whole will take between four and five years. That’s major noise, dirt, disruption, congestion and foundations being rattled for a very long time. PJL say they will work with MCC to keep noise levels within what’s legal, but it will still be very noisy. As well as building upwards, there are major excavations for private underground parking.
Businesses along the north side of Wilbraham Road will face particular disruption and have to share site access with the developers to get to the rear of their properties.
The Council is working on a Local Infrastructure Framework – a report which looks into the impact Chorlton’s multiple developments (Precinct, Baths, Ryebank, Picture House, Irish Club etc – literally hundreds more homes in a small area) will have on facilities – health, schools, access etc etc. This is due in January. Given timings, it appears that GMPF/PJL will already have their own plans (small p) in place before the report’s publication. It’s essential that this report – as well as the very strong views of residents – is taken into account as part of the formal planning application process.
Whatever your thoughts, please be sure to share them with the developers. They’ll occupy one of the now-vacant shops in the Precinct, opposite Timpsons for drop-ins.
Saturday 18 November, 10am-4pm
Tuesday 21 November, 10am-4pm
with follow-up sessions on:
Friday 24 November, 10-4pm
Thursday 30 November, 10am-4pm
Monday 4 December, 10am-4pm
Thanks for reading – please do take part in the consultation if you can. There are more ways to take part listed in the One Chorlton newsletter .
Closing date 8 December. Visit https://onechorlton.co.uk