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Eleventh Hour Legal Appeal: More Agony For Gary Neville's £200M St Michaels Development?

A last-minute crowdfunding effort threatens to challenge Gary Neville's £200M St Michael's residential and office development in central Manchester.

Simultaneously a legal dispute has begun between the founder members of the original development partnership.

Can the scheme survive yet more agony?

Gary Neville, left, backing the £200M St Michaels plan

Just a month after the Gary Neville-fronted consortium behind the £200M St Michael's development, Manchester, announced it had overcome the last hurdle to gaining planning permission, the scheme faces another challenge.

Heritage and civic bodies in Manchester have launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a judicial review, and now the U.K.'s national civic society, Civic Voice, has backed the campaign. They rapidly reached their target of £6K to pay for advice from a specialist heritage solicitor. Persuading the developers to rethink in the face of the potential legal challenge is part of the strategy.

“The approval of this scheme utterly fails to address the issue of its negative impact on the surrounding heritage assets, which include both highly graded listed buildings and Conservation Areas," Civic Voice Executive Director Ian Harvey said. "We are concerned at the scheme’s absolute failure to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area."

The 39-storey development is in a Conservation Area, one of nine interlocking Areas in the heart of Manchester. It is within 250 metres of 72 Listed Buildings, many of the highest rating. Manchester’s internationally acclaimed Town Hall, its Albert Memorial and St Ann’s Church (all of which are listed Grade I) are among the many buildings whose settings will be significantly affected if this scheme goes ahead, Civic Voice said.

This proposal was objected to in the strongest terms by many heritage bodies, including The Victorian Society, The Twentieth Century Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

Heritage objectors will have to act fast. Manchester City Council gave formal consent to the scheme on 20 June, starting the clock ticking on a six week window in which judicial review can be launched, so the deadline would be Wednesday 1 August.

Behind The Scenes, More Trouble?

The Ralph Abercromby, left, in the new St Michael's setting

Reports of a legal dispute between the original members of the Jackson's Row Development Partnership — which is at the core of the project — provide a backdrop to the potential heritage challenge.

The St Michael's Partnership is formed by Beijing Construction Engineering Group working in close partnership with Singapore-based Rowsley — who have worked with Giggs and Neville on two other Manchester hotels — and The Jackson’s Row Development Partnership (owned by Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Brendan Flood). BCEG owns a 21% stake in the £200M regeneration scheme, according to its website.

However, Giggs and Neville are in a legal dispute with Flood over an alledged trademark infringement of the "Class of 92" University Academy at Old Trafford, the Sunday Times reports.

The former Manchester United players claim that Flood incorporated companies using the UA92 name, infringing their own trademark. Flood's counter-claim is that the 92 refers to England's 92 professional clubs, not to the Class of 92.

The Neville-Giggs UA92, developed in partnership with Bruntwood and Microsoft, is expected to begin work on-site later this year.

The St Michael's development will include an international luxury five-star hotel featuring 216 bedrooms and 189 high-end apartments in a tower reaching 39 storeys. There will also be 148K SF of office space, 33K SF of leisure space — including an outdoor rooftop terrace — and a boutique five-star hotel in the former Bootle Street police station which will retain its frontage.

Bisnow asked the St Michael's partnership to comment on the potential judicial review but they declined to comment, referring inquiries to the city council, which had not responded at the time of publication. However, they added that Flood remains a partner in the St Michael's scheme.