Twisted Wheel to be demolished

Article published: Saturday, July 28th 2012

Legends, one of the city’s major alternative LGBTQ venues and once home to the famous Northern Soul club Twisted Wheel, is to be demolished to make way for a hotel.

A sketch of the intended Motel One development

Plans to tear down the building in favour of a 330-bed ‘Motel One’ chain hotel will now go ahead after councillors and planning officers approved the scheme at a town hall meeting yesterday.

Northern Soul lovers, members of the LGBTQ community and city centre councillor Kevin Peel had joined a campaign to save the club.

Supporters argued Legends was a vital part of Manchester’s cultural life due to both its musical heritage and as an alternative to what some “Reclaim the Scene” campaigners see as an increasingly commercial and homogenised Canal Street. As the Twisted Wheel the club brought huge American acts to the UK including Ike and Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker and Edwin Starr.

Developers had previously considered keeping the basement area of the club, but rejected the idea on the grounds it would not be “compatible with the hotel use on the site”.

One club goer, Jack Broadbent, reacted with anger at the decision to allow permission for the development. “If there was one council in Great Britain that wouldn’t have put finance first I’d have hoped it’d be Manchester” he told the planning committee, and claimed scepticism at the need for further hotel spaces in the area.

Officers acknowledged that as the birth place of Northern Soul the Twisted Wheel “yields communal value associated with its perceived identity and social interaction”, adding that “in recent years the social value of the club complex has changed as a result of the focus on gay and lesbian club nights”.

The council’s planning committee supported the demolition on the grounds that the £25m – £30m scheme would “provide essential tourism infrastructure in the city centre” and receive 120,000 stays each year. Officers also argued the project would provide jobs and reinforce the “high quality regeneration and development that has already taken place in Piccadilly Place”.

Piccadilly Place is an adjoining “mixed use” hotel and office site owned by American private equity giants the Carlyle Group. The complex includes 300,000 square feet of grade A office space, of which 180,000 is available to let according to the area’s website. The development also enjoys a form of public subsidy through two existing public sector tenants, Transport for Greater Manchester and the NHS Strategic Health Authority.

The committee noted that the heritage values of Legends were “not considered to be of sufficient special interest to warrant statutory designation of the buildings”. A bid to grant the building listed status was rejected by the government on the grounds that it did not “possess special architectural interest within a national context”.

An advisory body to the council’s planning panel raised further concerns over demolishing “a good quality group of Victorian buildings” in favour of extending the prevalence of “over dominant, high-rise buildings” in the area near Piccadilly train station.

English Heritage also opposed the development on the grounds that the 14-story hotel would cause “substantial harm to the setting” of the nearby London Road Fire Station, a grade II listed building. Planning officers claimed the hotel would act as an “understated foil” in comparison to the Fire Station’s “sheer architectural scale” and “dominance” of the surrounding area.

Richard Goulding


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  1. I’m upset about the more general destruction of Manchester redbrick Victorian buildings, especially the attractive Hotel Continental building. Once they’re gone, they gone; for all of us, for ever – and isn’t this history a big part of what people come to Manchester to see?

    Good on Monroes if they refused to sell.

    Comment by Jo N on July 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm
  2. It sill is home to the Twisted Wheel, now a thriving venue after being revived by Pete Roberts, and is visited by hundreds of people from all over the country several times a month.

    Shame on Manchester City Council for placing Mammon above history yet again.

    Comment by FT on July 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm
  3. A truly disgraceful decision made by people with obviously no musical affiliations or cultural heritage preservation interests, whatsoever.

    Shame on you and may you be voted out of office at the earliest opportunity

    Comment by Alan E on July 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm
  4. They may demolish the building in which the ‘Wheel’ was house but for thousands of us who flocked there in our teens in the 60s they’ll never be able to erase our memories. Queuing up late on a Saturday for the ‘All Nighters’. Standing in the drizzling rain after scoring your gear round the back of Piccadilly Station. Walking into the club entrance to be hit by that unique smell and heat. Heading downstairs to the sound of some of the greatest music ever played. Spending eight hours dancing. Sweat pouring from your body soaking your clothes. Jaws aching from chewing gum to prevent your mouth turning as arid as the Gobi Desert. Crushed against people you didn’t know but who where instantly your friends. Seeing some of the greatest soul acts ever. Being turfed out at 7.00 a.m. into the freezing cold of a Manchester morning. Wandering the deserted streets in search of a hot cup of tea before heading home on an early train. Memories never to be forgotten.

    Comment by Derek Clarke on July 31, 2012 at 10:00 am
  5. I was present at both the site visit and the application hearing on 26/7/12.
    The 5 main points for approval were as follows,
    1. It would promote cycling in the city.
    2. It would reduce crime.
    3. It would make it better for pedestrians.
    4. It would make it better for shoppers.
    5. It would mean less need for car parking.
    And so, regardless of the fact that here we have a mid 19th century
    warehouse on the site, the Labour council planning committee voted
    to build a 14 storey, 330 bedroom concrete and glass skyscraper on
    the site. No questions asked.
    Opposite lies the once grand London Road fire station, owned by
    Brittannia Hotels who, before the recession could not get the finance
    to re-develop the site. Due to lack of demand for further hotel rooms
    in Manchester.
    The owners or tenants of the high rise building just up London Road
    objected on various legal issues. One being that 75 per cent of
    natural light would be lost to their office block. Also, it would
    be built to near to allow necassary maintenance to be carried out.
    Alas, it fell on deaf ears.
    On 25/7/12, 3 major hotels withon 200 metres of the site had room
    for 1144 guests. At 2.00pm on that day only 396 of those spaces were
    taken. This was explained to the site visitors of the council.
    What was also explained was that the developers were prepared to put
    £25million into invsestment in Manchester. No contest.
    Legends bar, although on the outskirts of the village, as been one of
    the main venues for gay/lesbian nights for some years now. As well
    as being open during the day as a pub.
    Originally opened as The Twisted Wheel club in 1965 until 1971, it has
    seen numerous changes over the years obviously. Although the stage room
    remains almost the same as when Spencer Davis did the first night 47
    years ago.
    Still, what’s history? What’s culture? In the words of Dylan all
    those years ago, “money does’nt talk it swears”.
    May your palms well and truly be greased.
    And finally to the imbecile that put those 5 points forward at the
    top of this page, please do not insult the intelligence of Manchester
    people. Thanks, Jack.

    Comment by Jack Broadbent on August 1, 2012 at 3:31 am
  6. Great. More collosal, characterless boxes that look like giant tuperware containers. Just what we needed eh folks…
    Is there a petition going or something? That’s how we saved the fruit & veg stall and the chip van outside uni when the powers-that-be wanted to get rid of them for their gentrification schemes- though they weren’t planning on replacing it with a giant food chain or anything like that, as far as I’m aware…

    Comment by sarah on August 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm

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