‘It’s just too big’: Moss Side residents’ groups oppose new student accommodation building

Moss Side residents’ groups were left frustrated after a decision on a major building project that could “overshadow” local residents was delayed.

Manchester City Council’s planning and highways committee voted to visit the site of a proposed nine-storey student accommodation block on Moss Lane East, which has courted controversy in the local community. 

A number of residents attended the 2pm meeting yesterday to oppose the building plans, claiming the structure would “dwarf” the two-story houses surrounding the site. 

The block, proposed by London-based developers CitySide UK, would be built around a grade II listed building opposite Whitworth Park and provide housing for around 261 students. 

Thirza Assanga-Rae, who represented the Moss Side community to the committee, said: “The height is totally out of context and will feel oppressive and overbearing for residents on the surrounding streets.” 

“Moss Side may be inner city but it is not the city centre where this scale of development and loss of light is normal or acceptable – nor do we want it to become acceptable.” 

She argued that the height of the building would cause darkness and a loss of privacy for families in the neighbourhood. 

The developers’ agent, Andrew Bickerdike, argued that the project – which has been backed in writing by the University of Manchester – would be in keeping with the area due to a six-storey building one block across from the proposed site. 

However, a number of groups including the Moss Side Tenant’s Union, the Platt Claremont Residents Association and The Victorian Society, noted in their objections that this was only towards the west of the site, whereas the rest of the surrounding area was home to low-rise family residences. 

Bickerdike said: “The city has a significant student accommodation need. This is evidently a sustainable way to deliver on that need.

“This provision is vital to the city’s ability to continue to attract students to Manchester continuing along with the success story of producing new graduates, many coming back down roots and making a contribution to the success of our city.” 

The conflict appears to be driven by competing accommodation crises. One of the biggest concern raised by locals is that the demolition of several mixed student/resident houses currently on the site will exacerbate the existing housing crisis in the area.

Yet the local community feels as though its concerns are going unheard. 

One of the attendee residents, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s incredibly frustrating and it feels like no one is listening to us.

“Why is the university allowing local communities to absorb the impact of their expansion? They need to expand responsibly.” 

Pippa Francis, another local and direct neighbour to the proposed site, suggested it felt as though community involvement in the proposal had been limited from the start. 

She said: “One of the things that annoyed me about the application was that it said [the developers] had consulted local residents. We live probably the closest to the site out of anybody in the local area, and we haven’t heard a sausage. Who have they consulted?” 

When approached for comment, Turley, who represent CitySide in Manchester, said they had distributed leaflets and conducted door-to-door conversations, as well as meeting with the Moss Side Tenants Union in March and publicising the application in accordance with statutory requirements.

Steven Healey, a consultant from Turley, said: “The applicant remains committed to engaging with the local community and to being a good neighbour.”

It has not been confirmed when the site visit will take place.

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