Campaigns don’t happen, or work overnight. It takes weeks, months and sometimes years to succeed or indeed fail. To help keep everyone up-to-date, however, here’s what’s happened so far with the campaign to save the Sir Ralph Abercromby on Bootle Street, Manchester
Manchester City Council (MCC) considered a report concerning an emerging Strategic Regeneration Framework for Jackson’s Row, including the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub. This set out some background (including the land pooling arrangements between the Council, developers and land owners), and some objectives and principles.
It also included a statement that the Framework…
“does not determine the future of the existing buildings on the site, including the Sir Ralph Abercromby Public House. Any decision on these buildings will be made in the light of a full assessment of the approach adopted by a future development proposal, in the context of the relevant planning policies and Historic England guidance.”
MCC considered and approved the Jackson’s Row Strategic Development Framework. The document by then was showing a garden square public open space covering the area currently occupied by the pub.
MCC had received 5 comments on the original document, one from the tenant of the Sir Ralph, expressing concern over the possible loss of the pub, emphasizing its importance to the area and asking for it to be incorporated into the pub.
Another comment was made by Historic England stating that it did not think the Framework sufficiently assessed the individual significance of existing buildings or their contribution to the conservation area [Peter St and Deansgate], and that it provided only limited reference to the heritage appraisal. It felt that the document did not sufficiently set out the significance of the place, or provide a full understanding of the significance and character of the site and its context.
In response to these comments MCC stated that they did recognize the importance of food and drink outlets and that the developer is making arrangements to meet with the tenant of the Sir Ralph to discuss the scheme proposals as they are progressed.
In relation to HE’s comments, MCC felt it had taken the heritage appraisal into account and that the SRF makes clear the contribution of the value of the existing buildings in terms of their contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area will be carefully considered as part of emerging development options.
The decision notice published on this report states that further dialogue with business owner and Heritage England would continue as the redevelopment became more detailed.
MCC acknowledged receipt of a request by T&H CAMRA to nominate the Sir Ralph as an Asset of Community Value. Legally, the Council needed to determine this within 8 weeks, ie by 11th February 2016.
The Central Manchester Branch held its inaugural meeting taking over the administration of the pubs within the new boundaries. This included the Sir Ralph Abercromby. It was agreed between the 2 Branches that it would be best leaving the situation as was with MCC to save any confusion that this may cause with Council Officers.
MCC determined the ACV nomination and stated that the legal test in Section 88(1) of the Localism Act 2011 was not satisfied and the Sir Ralph pub is not land of community value. The key reasons given were that:
- The building is due for demolition under a development scheme and therefore it is not realistic to think that its current use can continue: and
- The building is subject to a binding contract for sale, which would be an exempt disposal under the Localism Act 2011.
When the decision was announced the Chair of the Central Manchester Branch (Graham Donning) sought advice from CAMRA head quarters as to what was the best approach for the future and also sought a meeting with the 3 Ward Councilors Peel, Knowles & Davies. Advice from CAMRA HQ was that there was currently no right of appeal against the decision made by MCC and that seeking a judicial review whilst possible was very expensive. Further advice was that we should consider submitting a new Nomination for an ACV for the Sir Ralph.
A Change.org petition was launched by John O’Donnell (T&H Chair). This now (17/04/16) has over 2,500 signatures including one from Jonathan Schofield, a well know Historian and local blogger who commented:
“Landmarks that go to the heart of what makes this city should be preserved. Especially landmarks that are useful and add variety to the life of the city. The Abercromby is more though than that. It is a rare remaining Georgian building, along with the Friends Meeting House, in the area. More importantly, again with the Friends Meeting House, it is the last witness of the Peterloo Massacre. This was an epoch changing event in 1819 and a vital stepping stone to full British democracy. To demolish it would be short-sighted and morally wrong. It would be embarrassing for a city as ambitious as Manchester.”
Jonathan Schofield, Stretford, United Kingdom
The meeting with the 3 Ward Cllrs was held on the 17th March with Mike Chistodoulou (Landlord of the SRA) present along with Graham Donning and Tim Field. Cllr Peel could not attend due to other meetings but sent a message of support. The Cllrs were surprised that MCC had rejected the ACV ion the basis that the SRA was die for demolition as they had not been consulted as Ward Cllrs nor seen any proposals for planning permission for demolition. They were going to ask the MCC Solicitor for background information and why this decision was made. They also suggested that then publicity campaign was the best way forward and they would try and seek a meeting between all interested parties and the developers to discuss possible alternatives to the demolition of the SRA.
After the meeting Graham Donning made contact with various reporters submitting documents to them to support the case for saving the pub.
As nothing had been heard from local Cllrs and on the advice from CAMRA HQ Central Manchester CAMRA submitted a fresh ACV application. The advice was to use the following wording in the pre-amble to the nomination:
In nominating the Sir Ralph Abercromby public house as an Asset of Community Value, we are of course well aware of the Council’s decision dated 3 February 2016 not to accept our previous nomination of this building. However, we are not convinced that the reasons given for declining to register the land as being of community value were reasonable or justifiable. We would therefore hope and expect that this further nomination will be considered in the light of the following comments.
The decision notice states that it is not realistic to think that there can continue to be non-ancillary use of the pub because it is in an area earmarked for regeneration under the Jackson’s Row Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF). However, our understanding of SRFs is that they are used to establish a vision, core priorities and key objectives within which regeneration effort in an area can respond strategically. They do not in themselves grant planning permission so any development of the pub site would still require such permission. In other words, it would be premature to conclude that permission to redevelop the pub site would be forthcoming and that up and until any such decision is made a nomination to register the property as an ACV is entirely legitimate.
The decision notice also mentioned that Enterprise Inns had entered into a contract for sale of the pub. Our understanding is that this sale has not been concluded. So, if any sale does occur then any ACV would apply to them, not Enterprise. We accept, of course, that the new owners are not likely to put the property up for sale in the near future (though that is by no means impossible) but ACV status would mean that the planning restrictions imposed by recent legislation would apply to the pub. This would, for instance, mean that demolition of the pub could not take place without planning permission first being obtained. ACV status would also be a material consideration for planning purposes.
This was initially rejected by the MCC Solicitor on the basis that the pub had been sold but we had not provided information as to whom. MCC were advised that it was they who had stated, in the reasons for rejection of the original ACV, the pub had been sold and sent copies of the Land Registry search that showed Enterprise had entered into an ‘Agreement for sale’ dated 25 August 2015 had been made between Enterprise Inns PLC and Jacksons Row Developments Limited.
On the 13th April MCC accepted the Nomination and stated it would be decided on by 6th June 2016. Additionally Central Manchester received contact from the Manchester Evening News, BBC North West and Granada TV. The reason for this sudden interest was that reporters believed that the submission of a planning application for demolition of the SRA was imminent. An article appeared online on the evening of the 13th and in the paper on 14th April.
The Chair of Central Manchester Branch was interviewed on Friday 16th April and it is hoped may appear on Granada Report’s evening broadcast on TV on Monday 18th April. BBC North West have also expressed interest in an interview but no contact has been made.