On Thursday 15 April 2021, Stockport Council's Economy & Regeneration Scrutiny Committee will endorse continuing plans and resources to support the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation - to the tune of £500,000 pa and use of a £100 million investment fund - to regenerate Town Centre West. Additionally, Greater Manchester Combined Authority brownfield housing funds seem also to be available - £6 million of which has gone to supporting the new residential developments planned at the Royal George, St Thomas's and Interchange sites. So why can't some of this money go towards land swaps and development subsidies to remove Capital & Centric's 14-storey tower from obstructing the iconic views of Stockport's grade II* viaduct?
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Colleagues at SAVE Britain's Heritage reminded us that, as long ago as 1979, in their seminal publication and traveling exhibition, "Satanic Mills" that raised awareness of the country's rich heritage of industrial sites and views, they recalled damage to iconic views of Stockport Viaduct by the first horrid tower at Regent House. See pages 12-14 in: https://www.conservationtech.com/RL%27s%20resume&%20pub%27s/RL-publications/Milltowns/1979-Satanic-Mills/SATANIC-MILLS-recognized.pdf
The Victorian Society has formally objected to the tower. Being a statutory amenity society of specialist heritage experts, its objections raise the prospect of the case being referred to central government ministers if Stockport Council are minded to grant permissions for the scheme.
In a separate and equally supportive development, local M.P. Nav Mishra just released a press release calling on the Council to rethink its support for the tower, arguing that space for enabling development to save the mill is available further west - without spoiling views of the beloved viaduct. See www.navendumishra.co.uk/2021/03/11/statement-on-the-weir-mill-development/
Stockport Heritage Trust reached out to Historic England to obtain a copy of it's views on the proposals (since Stockport Council will not publish public comments on the its planning web portal). Salient points are (i) the proposed new tower is identified to harm the ability to appreciate the viaduct and would diminish the viaduct's townscape value (ii) the proposals as a whole would result in a high-level of harm to the Grade II mill, medium-level harm to the Grade II* viaduct and would impact the important contribution that the viaduct makes to Stockport's townscape value (iii) the viaduct is of exceptional historic interest (iv) the tower would be a considerable visual intrusion when seen from the east. It would diminish the viaduct's prominence and harm its historic and evidential values.
Updated image attached. This shows the Council's planned Interchange "Park" on the roof of the proposed bus station. We left tree and shrub planting boxes out of the constructed image to provide a 'naked' view of impacts on the Viaduct scene. But in reality, much of this view will be obscured from sight by tree foliage for 75% of the year.
Stockport Heritage Trust lodged objections to the tower proposals and delivered the petition of nearly 3,000 signatures to Stockport Council today. The 14-storey tower would obstruct iconic views of the Grade II* listed viaducts, especially when combined with the existing Regent House, the planned Interchange development, and future plans for offices along the hillside to the railway station. Equally important are views of Stockport’s historic town centre and key landmarks seen from trains passing over the viaducts that would also be lost.
While the Trust accepts the need for enabling development to help fund the rehabilitation of the Grade II listed Weir Mill, it objects to the 14-story eastern tower. There are ample vacant sites within the Council’s Town Centre West development zone, including some owned by the Council, that could be provided by the Council and/or the Mayoral Development Commission to facilitate a more benign Weir Mill development without impacting the viaduct.
New image above, created on behalf of the Stockport Heritage Trust, to illustrate the combined, cumulative impact of developments proposed for the east side of the listed Viaduct. View from Wellington Bridge - at left, Stockport Council's own Interchange tower; centre foreground - the park landscaped roof of the Interchange bus station; centre right, the Weir Mill Tower; and far right, the existing Regent House. The view of the Viaduct is chopped off at its knees by the Interchange park, and to the left, centre and rights obscured by towers.
Many thanks for all the sign-ups this last few weeks! Spreading the word has been great. But we now have over 100 or more "signatures" without postcode information that limits their impact, and diminishes the effectiveness of statistics - opponents, for example, may claim that parts of the petition could be fictional. Please provide surnames and postcodes if at all possible.
If you have previously signed this petition, you need not do so again. Your signature already counts! But please spread word about this site and encourage all those who love Stockport and its viaduct to sign here.
This petition website does not allow us to illustrate the context with more than one photograph. And the developer's CGI image above, only shows potential visual damage to an iconic viaduct view from a perspective to the east. But had you also considered views of the town centre from passing trains on the viaduct? Millions of commuters and inter-city passengers enjoy Stockport's townscape every day (pre- and post- COVID). But much of the town will be concealed from view by the Weir Mill and Interchange towers.
Capital & Centric's plan for Weir Mill and its enabling development were submitted to Stockport Council on 23 December 2020, and loaded onto the Council's website planning portal between 15-21 January 2021.
The plans have not changed, despite reservations expressed to C&C by the Stockport Heritage Trust and Historic England. The east tower, shown in the picture at the top of this petition, still blocks views of the Grade II* viaducts - especially when views from the town centre are further obstructed by the existing Regent House, and by the forthcoming Interchange and its tower to the south.
You can object to the tower by submitting comments to Stockport Council on the planning portal: using the reference 079225 by visiting https://planning.stockport.gov.uk/PlanningData-live/, pressing the button for Finding Planning Applications, tapping the Status button and choosing Current. Then adding the reference number in the slot for "Search" (keywords) to locate the application.
Capital and Centric have just issued publicity for their revised design to regenerate Weir Mill, and it is for the most part well-designed and thoughtful in scale and content west of the railway. But it still retains a 14-storey apartment tower on the east side that conceals the viaduct from the town centre, particularly due to cumulative impacts with other tall towers at the Interchange site and at Regents House to the north.
A win-win situation would be if Stockport Council and the Mayoral Development Corporation used their powers and resources to free up additional alternative land on the west side of the viaduct, near to Weir Mill, for low- to mid- rise substitute accommodation so that the tower need not be built.
If this cannot be achieved, then objections to the tower will be submitted to the Planning Department when applications for listed building consent and planning permission are submitted in the near future.
New Owners, Capital and Centric are reaching out to the public, laudably, with a pre-design consultation. See www.weirmill.com for details. Ask questions and give your opinions by emailing [email protected] by 14th August 2020.
C&C's initial concept (no plans yet) seems to be a reduced housing / mixed use project from that proposed by the previous owners, with apartments now limited to 250 rather than the 297 flats that architect Hodder had intended. Hopefully, eliminating the need for any tower that obscures the Mill or the viaduct?
Capital and Centric PLC., the new owners of the Weir Mill site, took the bold step yesterday and withdrew the current planning and listed building consent applications that included the offending Hodder tower. New architects have been appointed. A scheme of reduced size is being planned. And a new planning application will be submitted to Stockport Council in due course. We do not know at this stage whether the developer intends to discard the tower concept altogether (best option from our perspective), move it to another location (furthest to the west is one consideration) or retain a tower in the enabling development. Watch this space.
Members of the Stockport Heritage Trust were graciously consulted today by the development team behind another (unrelated) planning scheme - Royal George Village, behind the War Memorial / Art Gallery on the former College site. The team's use of laser scan surveys to map impacts of new buildings in the area, as part of their validated Tall Buildings Assessment report was exemplary. Contrast this with the Stockport Interchange and Weir Mill tower schemes, where the architects went out of their way to obscure tall building implications. Not a level playing field for planning submissions and decision-making, as we'll make plain to the Planning Inspectorate.
Revised image to show iconic view being lost if the Hodder Tower is built in the current proposals. Photo by Eric de Mare (1910-2002) taken in 1954. Image in public domain at Historic England archives.
1,000 signatures reached
Since Stockport Council have yet to determine the planning case, and appear instead to be in negotiations with the developers and Greater Manchester Mayor's development commission over the amount of public subsidy for the scheme, petitioners might like to object directly to the tower in the project via the Council's planning portal at: https://planning.stockport.gov.uk/PlanningData-live/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage
Revised image attached at head of this website illustrates the height of the proposed tower next to the Grade II* listed Viaduct. Apartment owners with flats facing the viaduct piers would have zero views. Those in the tallest part of the tower, facing west would have millions of rail commuters looking into their homes instead of enjoying Stockport's townscape.
Ex-pat Stockport folks seem to be prevented from signing the petition by 38-Degrees operating system. For those wishing to sign, but prevented from doing so, please send your name, country and post code to me at [email protected]
According to the Planning Statement issued by the developers' planning consultants in March 2019 (p15 para 5.16), the offending tower was originally planned for the west side of the viaduct but then, after consultation with Stockport council, was to be moved to the east side and raised in height. But by October 2019, and the submission of the revised planning application, the tower design was back on the east side, facing the town centre, hiding the Mill and Viaduct, and raised in height to 14 storeys. So who influenced this decision? Was it to align with the Council's own Town Centre West plans, already published with an illustration of the planned tower on the east side? Did the Council change its mind and suggest this to bolster arguments for the erection of its own tall Interchange tower further south? The council does not seem to have an urban design strategy for the Mersey Gorge and valley at the heart of the town centre.
As of today, we have 886 signatures on the petition. In contrast, the original developers' "consultation" process made a leaflet drop to 100 nearby premises, and held a "public exhibition" for 5 hours at Stockport's Masonic Guildhall. So much for engagement with interested parties at an early stage (Planning Policy Guidance).
Please add your post codes to your signatures to held validate the petition and provide us with data on the geographic spread of our support.
New image from developer's planning application reveals how the tower will hide the Grade II listed mill and partially hide the Grade II* Viaduct. What the image does not show is the council's own Interchange Tower, planned for far right of view that will also hide the viaduct.
Stockport Council issued artists' renderings yesterday of the new bridge for the pedestrian / cycle route from the rail station to the new Stockport Interchange bus station. The renderings studiously avoided views of the looming 19 storey tower at the interchange. The view north alluded to long views across the Grade II* viaduct. But those views will be blocked if the current Weir Mill tower proposal is built, as it blocks central views.
Bad news today from Stockport Council that the new owners of Weir Mill, Capital and Centric, are continuing with the former owners' planning application including the Hodder design for a tower concealing the mill and viaduct from the town centre. Stockport Heritage Trust has contacted other objectors to continue the fight to a public inquiry. Please raise more signatories for the petition. Lets reach 1,000 in the next few weeks?
The Trust reached out to Capital & Centric and received a cordial response stating that its plans were at an early stage. We understand that C&C met with senior officers and councillors in Oct 2019 to take soundings. But no further announcements have been made and the current planning application appears to be in abeyance. Meanwhile, at a strategic level, the results of the Council's consultation on its Town Centre West regeneration framework was reported to SMBC and is on the council's website at the following URL: http://democracy.stockport.gov.uk/documents/g26524/Public%20reports%20pack%2012th-Nov-2019%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10. The public want heritage preserved and reused; not damaged or hidden from view; new buildings and their siting should pay homage to the viaducts.
500 signatures reached
News from the North West today: Maryland Securities, the developers of the Grade II Weir Mill proposals that include the tower obscuring both the mill and the Grade II* viaduct, have unexpectedly sold the site to Manchester developers, Capital and Centric Ltd., in an undisclosed deal. Is this an opportunity to lobby the new owners for a revised scheme that removes the offending tower and seeks additional enabling land to the west on King Street West and incorporates locally listed Mentor House? More signatures are needed!
Behind Weir Mill on King Street West, adjacent to the bridge, is a locally listed 1912c Edwardian Baroque brick and sandstone building called Mentor House. It was formerly the offices and workshops for the Chestergate Hat Manufacturing Co Ltd., and is one of the few remaining structures of Stockport's famous felt hat making hey day. The Council and Stockport Heritage Trust are fighting to keep this too.
Our petition and formal objections joined other objectors e.g., the Victorian Society and Historic England, and caused Stockport Council to seek additional clarifications from the developer.
The developer's response was to dismiss our objections as raising no substantial harm and countering by proposing an increase to the height and mass of the offending tower, to which we all objected again, and pointed out the unacceptable cumulative effect of existing and proposed tall towers along the iconic viaduct viewshed.
Of great concern is that the Council is promoting the tower scheme as part of its Town Centre West strategy while supposedly assessing the scheme in planning terms.
Bearing in mind that the national status of the Victorian Society and Historic England , the application is likely to be called in by government for a public inquiry.
So the fight goes on.
The Stockport Heritage Trust lodged its objections to the proposals with Stockport Council last night and included the 326 signature petition of concerned citizens. We concur with the objections lodged by Historic England and by the Victorian Society and will continue lobbying for a more appropriate project that respects Weir Mill and sacred views of the Viaduct
The "public consultation" held by the developers of the Weir Mill scheme only consulted immediately local neighbors (not many) and held a 1-day exhibition - hardly up to national standards of fair play. Stockport Heritage Trust (that knows a thing or two about Weir Mill and the Viaduct) was NOT consulted.
The Weir Mill Tower proposal was designed by Stephen Hodder, Past President RIBA (a Stockport lad) who is infamous for the design of Ryan Giggs' monster tower proposed to overlook Albert Square in Manchester.
How fair can SMBC be in determining this planning application? Its advisors for the Town Centre West development zone (within which Weir Mill sits), Cushman & Wakefield, produced a fancy brochure to promote inward investment in the zone that features the Weir Mill / Viaduct concealing tower.
Fighting in the dark: Stockport Council decided not to publish online other objections to the proposals. But the Trust obtained key responses from the Victorian Society among others, and was heartened to learn that it strongly objected to the scheme, on similar grounds to those expressed here.
100 signatures reached
50 signatures reached
25 signatures reached
10 signatures reached