Chorlton Traders have very serious concerns about the proposals. We’ve been through council committee minutes, the development framework and other documents to further assess what has been proposed in the wider context of the council’s stated ambitions for Chorlton.
Below is our response, written by Alan Williams, in association with some of our partners.
Chorlton Precinct: Response to Consultation, December 2023
Chorlton Traders Association
Alan Williams, Chorlton Traders Co-chair and Unicorn Grocery
Richard Wilshaw from PJ Livesey came to the recent Chorlton Traders meeting and presented their latest position on the precinct design, notes of that meeting are available here.
Traders expressed serious concerns over the plans presented. It was also recognised that Richard did not respond to the issues raised in Traders original feedback, which would have been more useful and appropriate, given that this was specifically a Traders meeting. Our concerns presented in this feedback still go unanswered.
We are also concerned that the proposals do not match the general principles agreed by the Council for the redevelopment of this site, and in conjunction with the overall vision for the Chorlton District Centre. This applies across several issues: parking, local infrastructure provision, building scale and sizing, providing a balance of provision, enhancing independent retail, providing a significant amount of affordable housing.
What are the proposals to include a ‘fair’ share of the neighbourhood services (for example, community services such as health centres, community meeting spaces or public IT facilities) required? Currently there are none. The development should adhere to the Local Infrastructure Plan when it is produced.
The Report to the MCC Executive July 2017 quotes the 2010 District Plan:
Chorlton will continue to be a successful neighbourhood that is accessible to all and well connected. It will provide an attractive and vibrant district centre with a full range of quality shops and community facilities. A redeveloped core will provide the catalyst for further investment, providing a new destination where people can meet and shop, encouraging visitors to spend more time in the district centre. The distinctive independent retail sector will continue to differentiate Chorlton from other centres in Manchester.
and throughout the themes of delivering mixed-use with public amenities and places where people can socialise and fulfil a wide range of basic daily needs.
Contributing to the Council’s Infrastructure study and particularly the recommendation on Chorlton high street parking generally.
The original Precinct Development framework says:
“Servicing, Cycles and Intelligent Parking – consolidation of parking in an improved facility. Car parking numbers will be subject to analysis of demand and mix of uses…..”
and the Report to MCC Executive July 2017 states:
5.3: Given the site’s unique position at the heart of the retail core, the Framework presents an opportunity to provide new and improved car parking that will support both the new residential and retail demand on the site whilst also making provision for the wider retail core. The provision of new car parking on this site will assist in the promotion and further regeneration of the retail core. This will also assist in addressing the loss of existing surface car parking directly from the site.
So to provide no public parking at all does not meet these strategic aims agreed by the Council. Also regarding residents’ parking: 1.5 spaces per flat sounds like a lot, given the availability of public transport and active travel options in Chorlton. Richard stated that the current car park was not heavily used, but this is entirely due to the charging and prosecution regime of the company running it; before charges were introduced, the car park was regularly full.
Therefore, the parking facilities provided within the Precinct development should be considered as part of a district-wide car parking/management system, and it should contribute to parking, not just for residents, but also for district centre workers and visitors. This should be viewed in conjunction with supporting and promoting a transition from car dependency to active travel, which will take time and further investment in infrastructure.
Original GVA Precinct Development Framework
This was written by GMPF (the owners of the site), so referring to it is simply them marking their own homework… and they set the homework in the first place. It has veered away from the original principles of balanced development, serving and enhancing the community and essentially produces a large housing estate to replace the district centre. It is not what Chorlton needs, and should be reconsidered. Even reading it, the development does not meet its requirements:
- Building massing (10-storey) does not reflect those surrounding area, in particular on Manchester Road (3-storey), which again goes against the principles agreed by the Council.
- 1.5 spaces of private car park provision for the gated community do not encourage the use of public transport or active travel.
- Rather than having pedestrian permeability, since the heart of the development is gated, pedestrians will now have to walk much further to get across the site.
- Although the tower blocks will be oriented to maximise direct light, these will cast a shadow over the surrounding buildings and block out their light.
- Cycling facilities in the centre of the block will be removed.
Again from the 2018 report to the Council:
The Council’s aims for District centres, as local centres, need to be more clearly defined as places where there is public space where people can meet and spend time together, and where people can meet a reasonable part of their basic day to day needs. District Centres also require transport and digital interconnectivity. Viable retail activity is therefore a really important element of this mix,
Chorlton requires a much higher level of affordable housing and this development could provide that. Most retail staff for example are not able to afford to live nearby. We would recommend 100% affordable housing to counterbalance the other developments. The public consultation feedback, supported by the 2018 report to the Executive, highlighted the need for more affordable housing in this development.
A representative at the drop-in said that Passivhaus principles will be followed. We would request that all buildings are Passivhaus certified.
Open space, public realm and public facilities
Rather than opening up the site, more of it is now closed off, with a gated community with private green space. The plan only has the route of the existing carpark road and the existing green area on Manchester Road remaining as public realm, removing the internal walkways and square, and the public car park, which can be used for special events. So there is an overall significant reduction in publicly accessible space. Again, the reports agreed by Council Executive highlight the need for the site to be publicly accessible and providing public space
Attracting Independent businesses
What are the plans to manage the business provision of the area? Their render shows the retail units populated with cafes. The last thing Chorlton needs is more cafes.
10-storey tower blocks in the centre of Chorlton are completely wrong for the area. The 2017 plan was essentially written by GMPF and so this needs to be reviewed, together with the pricing of the development so that a development plan in keeping with the scale of the area can be developed. Currently a housing estate is going to land on the centre of the district centre
Relationship with neighbouring developments
The Cinema (Picture House) development is adjacent, and there are other large developments about to happen in Chorlton. The Local Infrastructure Plan should define how this development should be considered in relation to these others.
Support for local business and community
The construction work will have a massive negative impact on Chorlton. Businesses have to try to stay open, and people have to live and work in the area while the precinct is closed and works are underway. There will be congestion, dirt and noise to contend with. Measures to support and compensate people should be introduced.
Provision within the development for non-retail businesses
Currently there is none: Chorlton is losing the whole of Graeme House in terms of local employment, as well as a large number of retail jobs. This then impacts retail and leisure trade, since fewer people are travelling to or spending time within the district centre.
The development should positively contribute to developing a 15-minute neighbourhood for Chorlton: provision for work, leisure, social, everyday facilities, and promote a sense of place. It should also contribute to making Chorlton a destination place for others beyond its residents when they come home to sleep,
Accurate rendered images and CGI models should be easily available, so we would like to request that these are produced so that the full scale and impact of the proposals can be appreciated. The drop-in session had renderings but only partially showed the proposed tower blocks.
For example, here’s an image from the development framework document, which is strikingly similar to the proposals. It would have been useful for the public attending the consultation drop-ins to be able to visualise the full size of the proposed developments, especially in relation to the surrounding low-level buildings. The scaling and perspective in this particular image seem inaccurate.