Manchester council is 'completely committed' to redeveloping Wythenshawe Civic Centre, its leader has said, after failing to win a £20m Levelling Up bid. Transformation plans for the 1970s site, which include a food hall, cultural hub and 1,500 homes, were approved by the council on Wednesday (January 18).
But hours later, the local authority learned that its bid for Levelling Up funding was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, town hall bosses said they would still be progressing with the plans regardless of the decision by the government.
Reacting to the news, council leader Bev Craig said: "We are of course deeply disappointed that our Levelling Up bid to transform Wythenshawe Civic centre has not been successful. Manchester is the sixth most deprived place in the UK and our understanding is that Levelling Up is about creating real and lasting change in our communities. We have a fully developed plan for Wythenshawe that we felt embodied the ethos of the funding criteria perfectly.
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"However, this is not the end for our plans. We remain completely committed to delivering our ambitious programme of investment in the heart of Wythenshawe.
"Only today (January 18), our executive approved the development framework for the town centre and we are excited to deliver our plans for the people of Wythenshawe – including new affordable housing, a public square and employment opportunities."
In a public consultation on the masterplan for the Civic which was held last year, 90 pc of those who responded strongly supported the proposals. The plan includes a new food hall, a public square and a 'mobility hub' car park.
Working in collaboration with Manchester Arts Centre HOME, the former Co-op department store would also be converted into a creative hub featuring studios, performance spaces, a cinema screen and a flexible events space. And a fifth of the 1,500 homes planned around the site would be affordable.
Green Party leader Astrid Johnson welcomed the masterplan, describing it as a 'wonderful project'. However, she raised concerns about the consultation only receiving 279 responses, fearing it did not reach the 'digitally excluded'.
After the approval of the Wythenshawe Civic masterplan, Labour councillors and candidates in Woodhouse Park, Northenden, Brooklands, Sharston and Baguley signed a joint letter pledging to make sure it will move forward 'with or without investment from national government'. It said: "This is something we have long been campaigning for and we welcome this significant step forward in delivering tens of millions of pounds of investment in our town centre.
"As local councillors and campaigners, we fully support this once in a lifetime opportunity. This is exactly the type of investment that local people have been telling us they want.
"The scale and variety of the plans reflect Manchester Labour’s commitment and ambition for Wythenshawe. It will deliver much of what residents say that they would like to see for the town centre – more leisure and cultural venues, including a community cinema and food hall, improved public spaces, a night- time economy and more housing particularly affordable housing.
"These exciting plans have come forward after a comprehensive consultation process that saw hundreds of residents share their views and help shape the plans. As a result of this feedback, the plans were updated to more closely reflect the aspirations of local people including keeping the name of 'Wythenshawe Civic', adding a pop-up 'digital inclusion garage' to support local people with training opportunities and safeguarding valued existing amenities such as banks.
"Last year the council, supported by our MP Mike Kane, submitted a Levelling Up Fund bid to Government that would provide funding for the plans. We will continue to work with the council to ensure that these plans will move forward with or without investment from national Government.
"From our conversations on the doorsteps we can already feel the excitement and anticipation, with residents keen to reap the benefits from these improvements as soon as possible."
Speaking at the executive meeting, strategic development director Becca Herron set out the next steps. She said that the local authority is aiming to appoint a development partner later this year to help move the plans forward.
In the short-term, the council would look to fill some of the empty retail units on the site. Manchester council acquired the long lease of the land last year.
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