Former Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have unveiled plans to redevelop a key part of central Manchester.
The ex-football players want to build a major mixed-use scheme, including two skyscrapers, a five-star hotel, flats and restaurants in Manchester city centre.
The 700,000 sq ft St Michael's scheme envisages building a 31-storey bronze skyscraper and a 21-storey neighbour.
The final submitted plans comprise a 201-bed five-star hotel, 159 flats, 138,000 sq ft of grade A office space and 49,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including two new sky bars and restaurants, as well as three public spaces.
But Historic England has slammed the proposal, claiming that the development would cause irreparable damage to the area.
The government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment has warned that the design, height and colour of the St Michael’s project proposed for Jackson’s Row would dwarf the nationally important grade II-listed Central Library and grade I-listed Manchester Town Hall.
The scheme would also involve the demolition of three locally important historic buildings; the Manchester Reform Synagogue, the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and the former Bootle Street Police Station.
Catherine Dewar, Historic England planning director in the North West, said: “We are deeply concerned about how this scheme would affect some of Manchester's most precious heritage. It would have an impact on people's appreciation and experience of the stunning town hall and library but it would also erase different layers of this area's history, irreparably damaging the special character of the surrounding conservation area.
“A dynamic city like ours needs to fully embrace development but this scheme is not good enough to justify the damage it would cause to the streets around the site and to the setting of the city's most important buildings and spaces. It threatens Manchester with the loss of historic places that have soul and tell important stories about our city's past.”
But Gary Neville defended the plans for the project, insisting that it would be “one of the biggest statements in architecture in modern times in Manchester”.
The former Manchester United stars, which were involved in the development of Hotel Football near their former club's Old Trafford stadium, said the scheme would create 1,000 jobs.
The pair are also currently turning the former Manchester Stock Exchange into a luxury hotel.
Before renovation work started earlier this year, they allowed homeless people to stay in the building.