This article appeared in the Manchester Evening News in late 2015, along with a selection of photographs. I’ve been following the development of Ancoats, Manchester for many years. It’s a place with a unique history. It was the first urban industrial district in the world. It has a unique collection of warehouses and other buildings. Some lie inside the conservation area, others further south lie outside and many have been lost. Today Ancoats is developing but there are problems with the filling in of empty spaces.
Ancoats has been in the news recently due to objections to a proposed car park next to Cutting Room Square. Local residents say it will cast a shadow over the open space. It’s not the first time that buildings considered to be over-sized and out of place have been proposed in Manchester. A glass structure for Castlefield was rejected after a residents’ campaign. An apartment building in Northenden was found to be six feet too tall. Development means building and filling spaces, but when you do that, inevitably shadows are cast, sightlines are blocked. This 1998 view of the Royal Mills in Ancoats is now hidden by residential buildings. There’s no easy answer. In Berlin they like to leave gaps, maybe we should do that here. In another part of Ancoats, you’ll find New Islington Marina, a newly created stretch of water, a canal basin, with footpaths, trees and grassy areas around it. It’s very photogenic though there’s been criticism of it. You’d think you were a long way from Manchester and yet it’s just a 10 minute walk from Piccadilly. If you’ve not been to Ancoats recently it’s worth a look. You can explore the area on one of my photo walks More information at www.aidan.co.uk