Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts Smithfield Conservation Area

Improvement and enhancement

The south-west part of the Conservation Area is composed of large buildings, and any new development here is likely to be designed on a substantial scale. Conversely, the remainder of the Conservation Area is composed of relatively small buildings of one to four storeys, and new proposals here will need to be scaled appropriately.

The small scale of the older 18th century buildings is especially noticeable around Turner Street, Back Turner Street and Thomas Street. They represent the remains of the buildings originally constructed on greenfield sites. These streets and the buildings defining them create a rich tapestry of spaces and built form located hard up to the back of pavement. One of the aims of improvement will be to restore this characteristic where it has been eroded.

A number of sites have been left vacant where buildings have been demolished. Many of these are used as temporary car parks, which detract from the visual appeal of the area. Most of these sites should be developed with buildings which contribute to the character of the conservation area. A mix of uses would be appropriate, with housing being especially welcome.

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 should relate to the existing high quality buildings and also complement their character.

Both the larger and smaller buildings within the conservation area exhibit a great variety in style, but also a common unity which designers of new and refurbished buildings should acknowledge. However, superficial copies of historic buildings do not make a positive contribution to the historic 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.

Although there is great variety in building materials used in Smithfield, such as brick, stone and stucco, brick with stone dressings predominates. These solid, traditional materials should be used in preference to large expanses of cladding, concrete and glass.

Most windows are of the sliding sash type and are 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 buildings, windows should be set back from the wall faces in order to create deep modelling on the facades.

The corner emphasis characteristic of Manchester buildings is evident in Smithfield, and its use in new developments will therefore be encouraged.

Signs and canopies should be carefully designed so as not to compete with or cancel the architectural details of buildings.

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