Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts Withington Conservation Area

Improvement and enhancement

Wilmslow Road is a major route from the city centre, and the density of traffic has a damaging effect on the environment of the village shopping area. It is hoped that some measures might be taken which will reduce the harmful effect and improve the area's environment.

It is likely that much of the development taking place in the Withington conservation area will be the refitting and refurbishment of shops, although some buildings may be replaced in their entirety. Such buildings would need to be scaled approximately to harmonise with the character of their surroundings.

There is a tendency for occupants to install shopfronts with fascia-signs which are unrelated both to the building and to other shopfronts. This results in visual confusion, destroying what could be a very pleasant and interesting environment. One of the aims within the conservation area will be to encourage designs which relate to original styles of shop fronts and fascias. These in turn will relate to the buildings and to one another. This does not mean they all have to be identical, or follow a historical pattern, but they should conform to a design discipline which enables them to comfortably fit into the village scene.

For example, a Victorian shopfront would have been contained within a frame composed of fascia above and pilasters on either side. Pilasters would be topped by mouldings which supported a cornice above the fascia. The shopfront itself would usually be subdivided into windows on either side of a recessed entrance, and a further entrance to one side provided access to flats above the shop. There would be a stallriser below shop window level which comprised fielded or framed panels, whilst the signage was limited to the not very deep fascia above. Modern versions of this can be very successful.

Mixed commercial with some residential use on the floors above ground floor level would be appropriate within the main shopping area along Wilmslow Road, whilst residential use is envisaged behind the shopping frontage.

It is important that the narrow-fronted character of the older buildings is retained in any new development. This will ensure a vertical rhythm in the street wall when viewed in perspective. The height, scale, colour, form, massing and materials of new buildings and renewed parts of existing buildings should relate to the retained high-quality buildings, and also complement their character. Superficial copies of historic buildings, however, do not make a positive contribution to the character of the area. Each building should have a vitality of its own.

Designers should be aware of proportion and rhythm in their buildings and also differentiate a ground floor, middle portion (where there is sufficient height to do so) and a top part which creates a varied skyline in order to enhance the area. In the case of shops, designers should resist the tendency to neglect all that occurs above the fascia.

Most windows are of the sliding-sash type, and vertically-proportioned - i.e. taller than they are wide. In cases where they have deteriorated beyond repair, replacement windows should be set in the same plane and be of similar kind and material to the originals. In new construction work, windows should be set back from the wall faces in order to create deep modelling on the facades.

There is a variety building materials used in Withington Village, such as brick, stone, and brick with stone dressings. Roofs are usually of slate. These solid, traditional materials should be used in preference to cladding, concrete, glass and plastic. However, limited use of plastic in signage may sometimes be acceptable. Signs and canopies should be carefully designed so as not to compete with or conceal the architectural details of buildings.

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