Council's flagship venue blasted for "fundamental lapse in design oversight"


Manchester Council has been blasted for a what appears to be a complete oversight in plans for disabled access within the flagship Factory arts centre.

The brand new £112 million venue, which will be home to Manchester International Festival, was granted planning approval for a second time today.

This is despite a number of concerns surrounding wheelchair accessibility being publicly addressed.

In a letter to the council, the Theatres Trust, who is being consulted in its capacity as the national advisory body for theatres, said revised designs raised serious concerns over the standard of wheelchair access.

When the revised planning application went to Committee today, the Liberal Democrat opposition were not permitted to ask questions.

Liberal Democrat Communities and Planning Spokesperson Greg Stanton, said the council must address the issues "publicly and urgently."

He said:

"It's great to see this level of investment in Manchester's arts and culture scene but there is no room for this kind of fundamental lapse in design oversight and these concerns must be addressed publicly and urgently.

"These are not minor details - these are serious design flaws that developers must be held to account on.

"Not allowing us to question and commit developers on these critical issues is really worrying - we need a cast-iron guarantee that these concerns have been addressed."


Worryingly, concerns were also raised over how wheelchair users and people who need assistance would be evacuated in an emergency.

Plans also reveal that there is only one wheelchair-accessible toilet within the entire theatre.

In a letter to the council, the Theatres Trust, who is being consulted in its capacity as the national advisory body for theatres, said the revised designs raised serious concerns over the standard of wheelchair access.

It said: “We would expect access provision within a new build theatre of such high profile to reflect current best practice.

“We would also expect a new theatre to provide inclusive access for wheelchair users allowing them the same journey from entrance to seat as ambulant members of the audience, but this is not reflected within current plans.”


However, when the second planning proposal was presented to the council today, it overlooked the severity of the issues raised, instead stating that The Theatres Trust "gives overall support" only "raising a number of detailed comments about design and operation that it would like to the design team to consider."

The board overseeing the new development drew criticism after failing to feature a single qualified architect and as a result the project has been hit by a number of push-backs including a £1.65m redesign to rectify acoustics problems.

The Factory is due to open in September 2020, a year later than originally planned.


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