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Gay Village No Longer Gay: The Latest Property Threat To Manchester's Character

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As concern mounts that the property industry is endangering  the unique character of Manchester's rough-and-tumble Northern Quarter, another Manchester neighbourhood is also said to be under threat.

A Manchester City Council strategic regeneration framework for Portland Street has been accused of erasing the city's LGBT community.

The framework for Portland Street "so utterly erases the LGBT people from our part of the city it borders on institutional bi- homo- and trans-phobia" according to business consultant Loz Kaye writing on Twitter.

“This report has been hurriedly cobbled together — it is full of grammatical and spelling issues — so it clearly isn’t ready yet, which makes me doubt the quality of the thinking. But the real problem is that the community element is downplayed," Kaye told Bisnow.

The criticism that the Portland Street plan will damage the gay village, to which it is intimately linked, has also been echoed by local campaigners who accuse the council and the property industry of "blandification."

The framework could mean the demolition of a car park site which includes a gay pub. The car park has powerful historic resonances. It was the scene of the death in 1989 of Albert Kennedy, a troubled teenager in whose name the U.K.'s gay youth homelessness charity was founded. The site is marked by an official plaque.

"This crucial site has the potential to be great for the Gay Village or to be an error of blandification and destroy the world-famed area we love," Gay Village campaigner Adam Price said. "Such opportunities fill many with trepidation and fear, because of the poor engagement from our planners and Council. Co-creation and identity are vital for planning an engaged and thriving area important to the LGBTQ community. The people this time cannot be ignored as is the case too often."

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The Chorlton Street car park

However, fears for the gay village are misplaced according to official and property sources. One senior Labour city councillor called it "fake pirate politics."

In a statement to Bisnow, Manchester City Council said: "Strategic Regeneration Frameworks are high-level documents that provide a strategic approach to the potential development of an area, and a context to help inform planned investment. Any specific proposals will be subject to public consultation and the usual planning process.

“The SRF takes account of the many current uses of the area, and the Council’s Executive made particular reference to the importance of taking into account proximity to the Village and the Pride celebration, and the framework sets out proposals of how the area and major events can be enhanced and better supported, rather than hindered.”  

The regeneration framework has been prepared by Property Alliance Group, Stephenson STUDIO and HOW Planning on behalf of Manchester City Council.

The document acknowledges Portland Street's important relationship with the gay village.

"The Village is uniquely Mancunian in character — its physical form being established by the wealth of fine Victorian and Edwardian buildings. The defining quality of The Village lies in it being the home of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, and the night time and leisure scene for which The Village is world-famous," the document said.

"Portland Street will interface with these areas either directly or indirectly, and as
such, will help to knit together these distinctive neighbourhoods through the
replacement or improvement of the post-war buildings to create a new focus
and identity for this area, and add to the sense of place."