Manchester councillors cite Covid-19 concerns in refusing two co-living schemes

Manchester City Council members have refused plans for two city centre 'co-living' housing schemes against officer advice after members voiced concerns about whether they would be appropriate in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester Town Hall: city council to consult on restrictions on co-living schemes. Pic: Getty Images
Manchester Town Hall: city council to consult on restrictions on co-living schemes. Pic: Getty Images

At a planning committee meeing last week, Manchester City Council refused two city centre co-living schemes that officers had recommended to approve – a proposal by Downing Living for First Street and a development by Union Living on Water Street towers. 

Downing Living's application proposed four buildings ranging from 10 to 45 storeys, designed by SimpsonHaugh architects, comprising 1,349 units. 

Meanwhile, Union Living's scheme, designed by Denton Corker Marshall, would comprise a 32-storey building with comprising 390 "co-living apartments". 

Co-living is a form of shared accommodation that in the UK usually comprises private ensuite bedrooms with shared kitchen and living areas.

Co-living is “a relatively new concept to Manchester and the UK” according to the planning officers' committee report for both developments, which recommended approval.

But for both schemes, members said they wanted to see the city taking a more cautious approach to see how proposed co-living spaces would work in the city.

They raised concerns about the impact of Covid-19 and said it might difficult for future residents to self-isolate given the modest living spaces and the shared facilities. 

Councillors also voiced worries about the height of the First Street development, which would rise to 137m tall, as well as the adequacty of transport links to the Water Street scheme.

Members put forward a motion to refuse both applications, despite officers' backing.

Deloitte Real Estate is the planning consultant for both projects. 

In December, the city council announced that it is considering limiting the growth of co-living schemes in the city due to concerns over space standards and worries that some developments might not provide "appropriate" housing.

A feature looking at the potential impact of co-living on planning can be found here.

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