The area is situated on ground which is mostly flat, although there is a gentle slope down Peter Street in a westerly direction towards the river. Deansgate is the longest and straightest street in the city centre and consequently there is a distant view to the north showing the tower of the cathedral framed by buildings on either side. To the south, railway viaducts in Castlefield cross Deansgate and terminate the view.
Peter Street, and its continuation into Quay Street, is the most important junction in the area. There is a slight change of direction in these two streets, neither of them forming an exact right angle with Deansgate. Although the Deansgate junction with John Dalton Street is a right angle, its continuation to Bridge Street is not.
These slight changes of direction mean that most sites in the conservation area are not exactly rectangular. Acute and oblique angles affect the plan form of buildings; since land in the city centre is at a premium, buildings totally cover their site and as a result more interesting buildings occur, many with corner entrances which are typical of Manchester.