Parks, leisure and the arts Parsonage Gardens Conservation Area

Improvement and enhancement

The principal characteristic of Parsonage Gardens is one of a tranquil square hidden away from the noise and bustle of the city centre. The conservation area also includes properties on one side of the busy shopping streets of Deansgate and Bridge Street as well as the whole of King Street West.

In the latter, Victorian and Georgian buildings give an intimate feel to the street, a diversion from the straight, rectilinear grid pattern which dominates so much of Manchester.

Another open space occurs at the junction of Bridge Street and St Mary's Parsonage. This has recently benefited from a paving and planting scheme, but would be improved further by the construction of a street frontage of appropriately scaled and detailed buildings along the west side of St Mary's Parsonage. The buildings currently on the site (actually outside the conservation area) are too large in scale and do not relate to the surrounding streets.

Though partly parallel to the River Irwell, the buildings do not provide much scope for the development of a riverside walk. New developments should take this into account and acknowledge that the length of walkway already constructed from Bridge Street will hopefully one day provide access as far as Blackfriars Street. Some buildings already have a terrace or parking deck which could provide part of the walk.

The square of Parsonage Gardens itself is surrounded by a rich mixture of buildings of various ages and styles which are relatively harmonious in their relationships with one another. Where redevelopment proposals are put forward the City Council would be seeking designs which reinforce the harmony rather than reduce it.

This would involve buildings which are predominantly solid material such as brick, stone and terra cotta, fenestrated by small vertically-proportioned openings. Bland copies of historic buildings would make no positive contribution to the historic character of the area. Each building should have a vitality of its own.

The designers of buildings must be aware of proportion and rhythm in their buildings and differentiate ground floor, a middle portion which may be fairly repetitive and a top part which creates a varied skyline. Materials such as concrete and cladding should be avoided, as should large expanses of glass, in preference for solid traditional materials.

Most windows are vertically-proportioned and of the sliding-sash type. If deteriorated beyond repair, replacements should be set in the same plane and be of similar type and materials to the originals. In new buildings, windows should be well set back from wall faces to create deep modelling on the facades.

The characteristic corner emphasis of Manchester buildings may take the form of entrances or towers and turrets, and such details proposed for developments in Parsonage Gardens will be encouraged.

Shop signs and canopies are generally additions to the original design, and care should be taken to ensure that they do not conceal or compete with the architectural details of buildings.

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