Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts Didsbury St James Conservation Area

Improvement and enhancement

Didsbury St James is an ancient settlement where commercial development has not overpoweringly altered its character. Although shops do exist it is at the junction of Barlow Moor Road and Wilmslow Road, a kilometre to the north, that the nineteenth century shops have developed into the new centre of Didsbury, leaving the older Didsbury St James as a place where wealthy merchants and professional people could build their houses in relative quietness. The few commercial buildings here include two public houses and a restaurant. Increasing this commercial base is unlikely to be seen as an enhancement of the conservation area.

The Shirley Institute has long been established in the conservation area, and its use has been scientific or institutional rather than commercial. The development of offices within its grounds has been a contentious decision. Although the glass and metal structures are not in the style of the older buildings in the conservation area they quite clearly represent the age in which they were built and to some extent replace 1950s buildings of far less character or interest. This is preferable to producing a debased copy of an historical architectural form, but designs should relate to other buildings in height, massing, proportions and scale.

A considerable degree of sympathy with older buildings can be achieved in the appropriate siting of a new building, in its massing, scale, proportion, rhythm and materials used in its construction while still allowing it to demonstrate the vitality of the present day.

In comparison with other conservation areas in Manchester, Didsbury St. James covers a large area, and the style and form of its buildings varies, giving great scope for the generation of appropriate architecture for the future. Notice should be taken of these characteristics when preparing new schemes. The features mentioned previously, such as garden walls, hedges, gate posts, porches, styles and colours of window frames and roofing materials should all be taken into consideration, their form analysed and new buildings designed to harmonise with them.

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