“They make millions… and we lose thousands”: Businesses speak out over Northern Quarter development causing chaos

A group of businesses have come together to vent their frustration at a huge development in the Northern Quarter which is disrupting their trade. Billionaire Fred Done’s plans for the 17-storey glass tower near Shudehill caused outcry when approved in 2019, and he is continuing to do so during its construction.

The Betfred owner’s construction firm, Salboy, is behind the plans which is seeing the old redbrick building converted and extended into a glass tower which will primarily used for office space. Construction for this is due to finish at the start of next year, with the glass tower visibly taking shape.

The construction racing on has incensed some local businesses sitting next to the dense construction site on High Street, who say they are feeling the full brunt of it. From debris dirtying windows next to where customers sit, road closures hitting takings hard, and even the emptying of chemical toilets causing a stink.

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The Shack Bar & Grill, Salvi’s restaurant, and High Street Tavern, all in the Basil Chambers building fronting High Street, Back Turner Street, and Nicholas Croft, told the Manchester Evening News the problems they have come up against, and the little help they feel they have received from Manchester City Council. One weekend of road closures to accommodate construction vehicles caused The Shack’s weekend takings to drop from £20,000 to as little as £2,000.

Gerald David, the landlord for Basil Chambers told the MEN that all tenants in the building have had major issues with waste disposal since the construction site has taken over Back Turner Street. Mr David said: “As Landlord of Basil Chambers, we notified both Manchester City Council and the developers of our serious concern over the waste disposal from Basil Chambers tenant’s, prior to the planning permission being given.

Businesses in the Basil Chambers building are being disrupted by the construction, they say

“We only have one waste bay that houses a number of very heavy waste bins in Basil Chambers. The various waste collection companies that are contracted by our different tenants are unable to access this bay due to hoarding and an ‘access gate’ through the hoardings being removed by the contractor.In order for the bins to be emptied, our tenant’s are supposed to lift them up a pavement curb and wheel them down a very narrow foot path, that is also used by pedestrians, which is unreasonable to expect from staff in the early hours.”

Sam Maughan, manager at The Shack, is especially frustrated with the development. He said: “We basically can’t put the bins out properly anymore. It’s unreasonable to expect the girls on the closing shift to lift the bin over the pavement, down the narrow path and across the road.

“We’ve been told we can just put the bags out but that will just bring loads of rats to the area which is horrible. We have had lots of meetings with the council over this but never get anywhere.”

The area where staff are expected to lift and take large bins out of the building
The area where staff are expected to lift and take large bins out of the building

Ian Maughan, who owns the Shack, says the plans were given the green light on the premise vehicles could enter the site via High Street and exit onto Nicholas Croft, minimizing disruption on High Street for the businesses. However, the amount of equipment and materials makes this impossible, with heavy vehicles often blocking High Street to turn in and out of the site, disrupting businesses for The Shack and Salvi’s.

“We’ve complained so many times about it but nothing gets done,” Ian said. “It’s been absolute murder for us.

The impact the road closure had on The Shack's outdoor area
The impact the road closure had on The Shack’s outdoor area

“Our takings have definitely gone down since this has been going on, which is the last thing we need after Covid. But it just feels like there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. This has done nothing but causes problems.

“We’ve still got to pay our bills to the full. It’s been totally gutting for us. They’re making millions while we’re losing thousands.”

The 17-storey glass building is set to tower over the rest of the Northern Quarter
The 17-storey glass building is set to tower over the rest of the Northern Quarter

Sam added: “We were told we could move our outside seating and put the bins there, which we thought was ridiculous. When they’ve closed the road without warning and put fencing around our seating area our takings have gone down massively. On a quiet weekend we would take £20,000 at least, but after that we only took £2,000 and that was only because of bookings.

“Everyday we get lorries parking in the disabled spot outside the front entrance, which is hardly appealing for customers. And when they have to empty their toilets it absolutely stinks, completely puts everyone off.”

Building manager Brett Sadler has shared these problems with the tenants. He said: “We came back after the lockdown around April last year and the hoarding was suddenly right next to the building.

“They’re making millions while we’re losing thousands”

“I’ve tried to find the documents on the council website to check if what they’re doing is within plans but it’s so hard to find anything on there. The waste disposal situation for the whole building is ridiculous, I’ve nearly given myself a hernia trying to help Shack staff empty the bins, what chance do they have?

“The road is more or less blocked off by turning lorries and vans multiple times a day, making it nearly impossible for any deliveries to come to the building, it’s like they own the whole street now. I don’t understand how they seem to be able to park anywhere without consequences.”

How the Salboy Development is set to look when complete in early-2023
How the Salboy Development is set to look when complete in early-2023

To Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “As with any development we expect contractors to work with local businesses and residents to minimize disruption, and work within agreed parameters in terms of access and deliveries to ensure local communities are impacted as little as possible – and for as little time as possible.” .

“The Council is investigating the concerns raised around the site and we will work with the contractor to minimize the impact on the surrounding area.”

A Salboy Development spokesperson said: “The Salboy team endeavor to minimize the short term disruption and develop considerately in the neighborhoods we work in. This is something we constantly review with our partners on site and we will be looking into the specific issues raised to see what further can be done to address these. The Glassworks on Back Turner Street is on track and due to complete in January 2023, once complete we believe this scheme will benefit the area and create an attractive gateway from the Shudehill area to the Northern Quarter neighbourhood.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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