Ancoats Dispensary: affordable
housing plan

Campaigners have admitted defeat in the battle to save Ancoats Dispensary after the Heritage Lottery Fund blocked their final bid for funding

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Manchester’s historic Ancoats Dispensary could be transformed into affordable housing after campaigners were forced to admit defeat in their battle to save the building.

The Victorian listed building on Old Mill Street has been at the centre of a seven-year battle on behalf of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust (ADT)  – a local group that tried to raise the funds needed to restore the building.

ADT raised £1.1 million in a bid to transform the dispensary – built in 1873 to provide medicine to the impoverished Ancoats community- into a new community hub. But the project failed to secure an extra £4.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Now campaigners have confirmed that the building has been handed back to its original developers Urban Splash, which will return it to Manchester City Council.

The council, which owns the freehold and will take the building back at the end of February, is now in the early stages of drawing up plans for affordable housing on the site with social landlord Great Places.

In a statement the Ancoats Dispensary Trust said: “For the trust to have come so far and to fall at the final hurdle has been extremely difficult to accept. We fought so hard because we believed that the Dispensary’s heritage was unique, and that the stories of people in its community deserved to be told. The Dispensary was an opportunity to save an irreplaceable piece of the city’s heritage for the people of Manchester.

“If you believe that something is right then you fight for it, and we are proud to have fought for so long.

“After five years, the dispensary still stands, and we consider this to be a testament to the community’s love for the building and people power.”

Conservationists first began fighting to save the dispensary in 2011, when Urban Splash applied to demolish the derelict building.

Previously it had been granted permission to redevelop the landmark into housing, but had failed to do so and the property deteriorated. By 2011 the Victorian Society had placed it on a list of the 10 most at-risk heritage buildings nationwide.

A campaign grew to save the site and in 2015 it was handed over to ADT, which vowed to raise funding for its restoration.

An initial lottery funding bid was successful and last summer ADT submitted plans to turn it into a community hub, including space for a café, fitness classes and a small community museum. But in October 2017 the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected its final bid for funding.

Manchester City Council’s deputy leader Bernard Priest confirmed the council’s plans to work with Great Places, but also praised ADT and stressed the importance of maintaining as much of the building’s 19th century architecture as possible.

He said: “The dedication of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust has been admirable throughout their fight to save the property. Our ambition is to partner Great Places to build affordable homes while maintaining as much of the fabric of the remaining building as possible.”

Peter Bojar, executive director of growth and assets at Great Places Housing Group, said: “We are pleased to be able to confirm that we are working closely with Manchester City Council to develop proposals for an affordable housing scheme at the Ancoats Dispensary site, retaining as much of the original building as possible, to celebrate the historic importance of the property.”

ADT said it would continue to be closely involved in the building’s future and will be archiving all its material and donating it to Manchester museum collections and community groups.

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Interact: Responses to Ancoats Dispensary: affordable housing plan

  • Liz Mac
    13 Feb 2018 18:44
    Devastating News for Ancoats - what will happen to the money ADT raised for conservation?

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