Plans for a rooftop bar at Gary Neville’s long-awaited city center development are facing fresh opposition from neighbours, councilors and town hall staff.
Work on the £200m St Michael’s development is set to start this month after suffering a series of setbacks since the scheme first surfaced many years ago.
The redevelopment of Jackson’s Row off Albert Square was finally approved in 2018 following a long-running saga sparked by a huge backlash to the plans.
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The plans were radically redrawn after Historic England strongly criticized the proposal, warning it would cause a ‘high level of harm’ to the historic town hall.
The green light was eventually given for the revised plans which featured a five-star boutique hotel, office space, bars, restaurants and a public garden.
The first phase of the development – which will see a nine-storey office block built at the former Bootle Street police station site instead of the five-star boutique hotel in the original plans – is finally due to get under way this year.
The latest plans include a rooftop restaurant accommodating 900 guests.
But an application for an alcohol license at the ’10th Floor Sky Bar’ has received objections from residents, councilors and licensing officers.
The application submitted by St Michaels UK Propco Limited seeks a license to sell alcohol until 3am all week except for Sunday when the bar would close at 1am – but the rooftop restaurant would remain open for another half hour.
If granted, the premises license would also allow for live music until 3am.
One objector who lives in the Great Northern Tower said their apartment has become ‘almost unlivable’ due to the noise created by nearby bars and clubs.
They argued that another bar would add to the already ‘intolerable noise’.
They said: “It should never be considered appropriate to grant licenses in residential areas allowing trade until the early hours of the morning.”
Another resident who lives close to the development said the application should not be granted permission without plans to control noise in place.
They claimed that the rooftop bar would be at a similar level to their flat and said that the buildings between them are too low to form a barrier to the noise.
Licensing officers working for Manchester council also raised concerns that granting the license would ‘likely’ lead to issues of public nuisance in the area.
They recommended that the licensing sub-committee refuses the application.
Deansgate councilor Joan Davies speculated that the license is crucial to funding and therefore must be secured before construction commences.
But writing on behalf of fellow ward councillor Marcus Johns as well, she asked the committee to reject the application which had ‘inadequate information’.
She said: “City center residents generally expect there to be more outside noise than they would find in other parts of Manchester.
“They are tolerant of city sounds and do not, on the whole, complain lightly.
“However, where noise is regular, when the bass is particularly intrusive, or where they can tell what songs are being played, and where this happens on a regular basis, then they have lost the benefit of ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home.
“Residents should be able to pursue their own activities at home, without having to endure other people’s choice of music.
“There is nothing in the application which addresses ways to avoid or resolve this, should a problem occur.”
Jo is a Local Democracy Reporter covering councils, the NHS and other local authorities in Manchester and Greater Manchester. He has previously covered local government in Bolton, Bury, Salford and Wigan.
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The Labor councillor called on the developer to commit to ‘genuine communication’ with residents to ‘rapidly resolve’ any issues they have.
A spokesperson for Relentless, the property developer behind St Michaels, said: “The team is in the process of meeting with each of the objectors to provide further information about the scheme and address any concerns.”
Construction firm Bowmer and Kirkland (B&K) has been appointed to build the office building, after the plans for the five-star boutique hotel were scrapped because securing an operator was ‘challenging’ in a ‘post-pandemic economy’.
The second phase of the St Michael’s development is expected to involve building a 41-storey skyscraper with 191 hotel rooms and 181 apartments.
The licensing sub committee hearing panel will consider the premises license application at a Manchester town hall meeting on Monday, January 31 at 10am.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.