A history of protecting heritage buildings in Manchester’s Northern Quarter

A report detailing the rise of Manchester’s famous Northern Quarter and the efforts taken to preserve the historic buildings in the area will be heard by the Council’s executive today (Weds, 12 Dec)

Following decades of decline following the collapse of local industry, the Northern Quarter has become one of the UK’s great regeneration success stories, bringing more than 50 vulnerable buildings back into use – including 20 key listed properties.

In addition, many other properties – on sites including Thomas Street, Tib Street, Oldham Street and Edge Street – have also been brought back into use, many of which are also listed. 

So named in the mid-90s, the Northern Quarter regeneration approach focused on retaining the fabric and character of the former industrial district through lower rent opportunities, aimed at attracting independent business to create a new identity for the area.

The neighbourhood was designated a conservation area in the late 80s and the City Council adopted a site by site approach working closely with building owners, occupiers and investors to bring property back into use while retaining its character.

An emphasis on smaller, creative industry tenants – contrary to the traditional, and often quicker, top down approach – has ensured the fabric and character of the properties have been protected.

However, despite wide-scale investment, vacant properties remain in the area, some of which are becoming unsafe.

The Council works closely with these building owners to understand their intentions for empty property, urge owners to bring the buildings back into use, and review the condition of a property when it becomes unsafe through Building Control.

When a property is deemed unsafe, all avenues are explored and exhausted to save the building. Where there is no alternative – especially if there is a risk to the public – it is sometimes necessary to consider demolition.

The report going to the Council’s executive next week, will include a comprehensive overview of the remaining buildings at risk in the area and an update to their being brought back into use.

Read the full report

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Northern Quarter is an iconic area that attracts a huge amount of visitors who are looking for an alternative to high street brands. This has only been possible because of a considered approach to regenerating the area over a long period, supporting independent business to retain the neighbourhood’s character.

“More than 25 years on since the idea of the Northern Quarter was first mooted, we can now see the results of this effort through the area’s continued success. However, the neighbourhood is by no means finished and there remains vacant properties that are becoming increasingly dilapidated and some are quickly becoming a threat to public safety.

“We have a responsibility to the Northern Quarter to retain its identity and that means saving as much historic property as possible, retaining the fabric that makes the area, and we will continue to work closely with building owners to make this possible.”

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