A bistro and wine shop will be allowed to open beneath retirement apartments in Ancoats despite claims from residents that their ‘silent voices’ had been ignored.
Gob Manchester’s bid to move into the Grade II listed Victoria Square building was approved by a single vote at a meeting of Manchester’s planning committee last week.
The business will look to restore and repair the unit facing onto George Leigh Street, which has been vacant for more than 15 years.
Councillors heard Gob had bought the site with a view of delivering a ‘high quality upmarket venue’ that would build on the ‘budding food scene’ in Ancoats.
But a tenant of Victoria Square, the first social housing built in Manchester in 1894, expressed fears about the venture’s potential impact on those living above and around it.
Josie Loftus told the committee on July 29 that there were concerns that the noise of customers eating outside or leaving the bistro would ‘exacerbate an already massive problem’.
The ongoing noise issues are compounded by the fact that the council tenants living in Victoria Square need to keep their windows permanently open as they have no control over heating levels, the meeting heard.
Mrs Loftus said: “We need a duty of care policy to preserve the character and historical interest of Victoria Square.
“Around 95 per cent of tenants in Victoria Square are hidden voices that are screaming out to be heard and are of the era that have been left behind by the technological revolution which is why you have not heard of their opposition.”
Gesturing to a pile of letters and petitions in front of her, Mrs Loftus added: “These are 200 of the silent voices that can’t use technology and who are also infirm.
“Manchester council’s aims and objectives are people, pride and place. We are your people, you should be our pride, and the place is 59-61 George Leigh Street.”
A planning officer told the committee that the new use would generate ‘some comings and goings and noise disturbance’ and that mitigation measures would be put in place.
Lucy Furber, a planning consultant speaking on behalf of Gob, said all doors and windows in the premises would shut from 7pm with the outdoor seating area closing at 9pm.
The opening times would also fall within established commercial operating hours for Ancoats, closing at midnight Friday and Saturday and 11.30pm on the remaining days of the week.
Ms Furber told the meeting that Gob would create eight new jobs, and that some Victoria Square residents were onboard with the plans.
With the committee also considering the building of over 200 new homes in Ancoats – plans which were approved later in the meeting – Ms Furber said: “It’s clear that the area needs to be supported by a strong mix of commercial premises to support a growing, vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood.”
But Ancoats and Beswick councillor Marcia Hutchinson, who sits on the planning committee, was unable to give her support to the scheme.
“I don’t think we’ve taken into account the effect on older people living above this kind of use,” she said.
“Whilst I recognise it’s important to maximise the use of the site, I have serious concerns about the outdoor seating.
“People living above are really going to struggle with the amount of noise generated.
“Internal soundproofing is great, but happy people leaving at 9pm or probably later is going to cause a problem for residents above.”
Deansgate councillor Joan Davies added: “Generally speaking in the city centre a large number of people live with licensed premises under their homes and outside their windows.
“But those people have made a choice to live there and have, except for the cladding scandal, the choice to live elsewhere.
“For the Victoria Square residents there is not, for many of them, a great deal of choice once they’ve lived there and have lived there and made their homes and social life there.”
However the committee approved the application by a single vote, with six members in favour of the scheme and five – including Coun Hutchinson and Coun Davies – against.
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