THE DEVELOPER, ADDY, HAVE NOW WITHDRAWN THEIR PLANNING APPLICATION- THUS IT SEEMS FOR THE TIME BEING THE WAREHOUSE PROJECT WILL NOT BE MOVING IN. 12/09/2013
HOWEVER, THE CURRENT LICENCE APPLICATION (ref.154486) IS UNDER CONSULTATION UNTIL 14 OCTOBER 2013. 18/09/2013
Confidential has it on good authority that Manchester’s most notorious super-club-night and pinnacle of modern Manc ravery, The Warehouse Project, looks set to return to the city centre in 2014.
I casually dropped in that I'd heard about the proposed move. He subsequently informed me that he'd got wind of a move to Mayfield from a number of Warehouse colleagues, but that it was all very "hush-hush".
Having moved last year from Piccadilly’s underground Store Street to the current Victoria Warehouse venue in Old Trafford, the organisers seem to have succumbed to a bout of homesickness with rumours suggesting a move to the Mayfield Depot on Piccadilly's Fairfield Street - round the corner from the Store Street site.
The venue, currently owned by BRB Residuary (previously the British Railways Board), had lain dormant for over a quarter of a century before July’s Manchester International Festival, particularly the highly anticipated Massive Attack performances, brought the dilapidated depot back to life and demonstrated that it could work as an events venue.
A show at which, incidentally, The Warehouse Project staffed all of the bars.
A planning application has been put forward to the Council by Liverpudlian design and development agency Addy Consultancy to change the use of the 120,000 sq ft site from warehousing, storage and distribution to a conference, event, leisure and dance venue.
Unfortunately, Bill Addy, founder of the consultancy and official planning applicant has remained unwilling to comment.
So are the rumours founded?
Initially, we happened upon a letter being enthusiastically distributed around the city centre. Here it is:
Ignoring the geographical inaccuracies (Mayfield is not in the Northern Quarter), double M in ‘vommiting’, suspicious application of ‘FACT’ and gross misuse of hyperbole, our attention was caught.
We grabbed our finest spades and did some digging.
It is a move that Warehouse Project founder, Sacha Lord, is not very keen to discuss at present:
"We are aware of a very slanderous letter, which was distributed regarding The Warehouse Project and Mayfield Depot last week."
The slander Sacha is upset about are the wild crime figures the poster states resulted from Warehouse Project nights in the city centre.
“It was distributed to try and cause public outrage for an application on the premises, submitted by The Addy Group, Liverpool," continues Sacha.
“The Warehouse Project has previously operated at the Mayfield Depot, staffing all the bars for Manchester International Festival season, when it had its residency in there for the acclaimed Massive Attack shows.
“The Warehouse Project, unlike this slanderous letter states, have no plans to put on shows at Mayfield Depot, and are currently looking forward to another season at Victoria Warehouse.”
That's that then. Well no, maybe it isn’t.
Speaking with an employee of The Warehouse Project working at the recent National Youth Music Theatre production of West Side Story at Victoria Warehouse, I casually dropped in that I'd heard about the proposed move. He subsequently informed me that he'd got wind of a move to Mayfield from a number of Warehouse colleagues, but that it was all very "hush-hush".
Despite the "hush-hush", it seems to be fairly common knowledge in and around Mayfield’s surrounding area that the move is taking place.
“Yeah it’s going to be the Warehouse Project moving in,” said an employee of Fed Ex, located right behind the depot on Baring Street. “I know there’s been a slight objection but I don’t think it will really affect us.”
How about the UNITE student halls, a hop, skip and jump away from the depot. Had they been notified? “Yeah we've heard about it,” an employee in the throes of being heckled by a group of confuddled Chinese students told us. “I don't think our security are too pleased."
With dozens of rooms overlooking the main Baring Street entrance and rents reaching £200 per week, trepidation over the proposed move is understandable.
Attempts to reach the Unhappy Security have as yet proved unfruitful.
As with many situations of this nature, people's reluctance to come forward or desire to remain unnamed are indicative of the sensitivity of the issue. Are they fearing employer reprisal? It would seem that way.
And what of the prominent 338-room Macdonald Hotel on London Road, less than 500ft from the proposed site, they must have been informed of the planning application.
“We’ve spoken to a number of different people regarding the move. Any regeneration taking place at this end of the city needs to be encouraged,” I’m told by a hotel spokesperson, who - guess what? - refuses to be named.
I informed the official that in actual fact, there are no plans to renovate the exterior of the building whatsoever, it will remain exactly as it is from the outside. Knackered with a smattering of post-industrialised blues. Hardly regeneration.
It was all beginning to feel a tad clandestine.
The application by the Addy group, initially due to have been determined by Friday 16 August, has now been reset for the 16 September. Currently, the standard consultation expiry date ends on the 5 September, this is the date by which comments in response to consultation actions must be received.
That's all seemingly well, good and fairly unsuspicious. That is until you look at the proposed timing of the events in the application.
The Addy group states on the application, that the vast majority of events would take place in the months of October, November and December, closing at 5am.
For this 2013 season the Warehouse Project opens on Friday 27 September, continues throughout October, November and December with the closing party on 1 January. All kicking-out at 5am.
In which case, why would The Warehouse Project be so covert about the whole thing?
For a number of reasons, primarily that the new season is but a month away from kicking off. These rumours would certainly destabilise proceedings and damage relations with the current owners of Victoria Warehouse.
When The Warehouse previously unveiled their intent to leave Store Street, Project devotees were positively rabid about a potential move out of Manchester to London, Bristol, Scotland or even South Wales. Not what they want before their grand season opening.
So what about the capacity?
Well, the ‘slanderous letter’ suggests numbers of between 8000 to 10,000 Warehouse goers. A hopeful number, given that Privilege in Ibiza, ‘the largest nightclub in the world’, can only just hold a capacity of 10,000.
It's optimistic, but not an entirely unfeasible number.
Store Street held 1800 people. Victoria Warehouse, with 3000 sq metres of floor space can hold up to 5000.
According to Addy’s application, Mayfield has 11,000 sq metres of gross internal floorspace. Making it nearly four times the size of Victoria Warehouse. May as well give them all sombreros and Majorette batons in that case.
One thing's for sure, having that amount of party-goers in the city centre is sure to have an impact.
One major city centre investor is particularly worried: "It'll suck the life out of the other bars and clubs in the city. There is no way that you could draw up to 10,000 people out of other city centre venues and it not have a detrimental effect on businesses.
"The other issue is crime. There's the potential for major problems here. I'm aware that they have many problems with theft at these Warehouse events, but the other more worrying aspect is the amount of drug pushers these types of events attract."
Crime in the area is not high in relation to other areas of the city centre. The Crime Impact Statement produced by Greater Manchester Police for The Addy Consultancy suggests that 'disorder is less likely in areas where premises are isolated and when customers are not forced out of premises in large numbers.'
Isolated the depot is, but conveniently close to Piccadilly. First trains out of the station from 5am could be a sight to behold. Reminiscent of scenes from The Walking Dead.
Less convincing though is the GMPs suggestion that rampant mobile phone theft during these events could be remedied through the use of small lockers. Clearly the police have never lost their friends 47 times during a Warehouse event.
Any large gathering of this kind is going to attract undesirable elements by it's nature. Parklife, for example, has it's fair share of drug pushers and front-garden urinators, but the vast majority of festival goers turn up, have a good day and head home all the happier.
Police presence at Warehouse events has always been conspicuous.
Pushing anti-social issues aside (for sick in the streets and pee on the doorstep are but minor by-products of free westernised culture, and mostly the fault of a few imbeciles), it would be difficult to argue that drawing thousands of people in to the city centre, all with money to burn, is a negative thing.
If the idea to congregate nearly 80,000 football fans but ten minutes from the city centre was a newlyfangled concept, why there'd be uproar. It wouldn't be allowed.
Yet, it was recently estimated that football nets Greater Manchester's economy around £330m a year, the equivalent of staging the Olympics every four years.
And the former Manchester, now Phones4U Arena, regularly maintain crowds of up to 23,000 slap-bang in the city centre without major incident.
For the Star and Garter pub, positioned right next to the depot, the arrival could potentially be a Godsend. A statement from the pub declares: "The redevelopment of the Mayfield Goods Warehouse for the Manchester International Festival and the shows held there, especially Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack, enabled us to open like an actual pub for the first time and continue trading for at least another three months.
"The application for Mayfield had been made by The Addy Consultancy Company, who may well be acting on behalf of the Warehouse Project, but given how much rubbish makes up the rest of the letter, don't assume it's true."
We met with city centre Councillor Joan Davies to discuss the potential move: "The planning and licence applications made by Liverpool-based Addy Consultancy for the use of Mayfield Depot for conferences and dance events have raised some questions.
"There’s a rumour-mill at work.
"Of course facts are the best antidote to rumour. My colleague, Councillor Kevin Peel, and I both appreciate developers and would-be licensees contacting local residents to explain their intentions and hear their future neighbours’ views.
"So far I’ve seen no evidence that the businesses behind these applications has been talking to local people. .
"With any such application I look for three things: is it going to be a safe environment for its staff and customers, does it add to rather than detract from its environment, and have the organisations behind the application established a dialogue with the local population?
"The larger the development the greater the potential impact, and this could be huge, therefore I’d be interested to hear from more residents."
Cllr Joan Davies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
All the details and related documents for the planning application can be found via the Manchester City Council's public access website here.
Follow David Blake on Twitter @david8blake
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