It is impossible not to have noticed the scale of construction that has taken place in Manchester city centre this year.
The pace of development has been so fast, it has been hard to keep up.
So here’s our rundown of the biggest – and most significant projects – given the green light in 2017… and a couple that weren’t.
St John’s, The Factory
The anchor of the huge new St John’s neighbourhood earmarked for Quay Street’s old ITV site, the Factory arts centre, was among the first city centre developments to be approved this year.
Intended to become a huge flexible performance and exhibition space, the £110m venue is being almost entirely funded by a government grant agreed by former Chancellor George Osborne two years ago.
Factory will be a stone’s throw from the Museum of Science and Industry and will eventually be surrounded by thousands of new apartments – many of which were approved later in the year.
Its development hasn’t been without hiccups, however. In July, it emerged that the design of the centre’s glazed exterior would ruin its theatre’s acoustics, while the orchestra pit would not be big enough.
The council had to sign off a further £1.6m in borrowing to fix the designs.
Chester Road, Castlefield basin
January also saw a furious row over this 188-apartment waterside development on the edge of Castlefield.
Campaigners, including residents and ward councillors, argued the two blocks – of up to 21 storeys – would ‘dwarf’ the surrounding conservation area.
The planning committee put consideration back to February in order to hold a site visit, but in the end approved the development.
Questions were raised over why a ‘section 106’ contribution – money paid by developers towards public amenities or affordable housing – had initially been considered financially unviable by officers in January, but a month later had become possible.
Records show that in the end, developers Renaker agreed to pay around £282,000 towards affordable housing elsewhere in the city.
Tib Street, Northern Quarter
Plans for more than 180 apartments on the corner of Tib Street were notable, not only for what they would add to the skyline, but what they would take away.
Fred Done’s residential development resulted in a Northern Quarter landmark, The Big Horn sculpture next to Affleck’s, vanishing after nearly 20 years.
Despite an outcry from objectors – who argued it belonged where it was – planning officers argued it would be a ‘constraint’ on access to the new development.
Built in 1999 to symbolise the area’s blossoming creative identity, the lottery-funded landmark was ultimately dismantled and ‘gifted’ to Manchester council after planning was approved in February.
In August the council’s city centre spokesman Pat Karney said he wanted to see it relocated elsewhere in the Northern Quarter.
St John’s: Twin skyscrapers
Following the approval in January of the Factory, March saw the green light for a huge phase of residential development next door.
Two matching 36-storey skyscrapers – on each side of Water Street – will add, between them, more than 600 apartments to the city’s border with Salford.
Intended to be ‘read as an architectural pair’, one will be silver-glazed and the other copper-coloured, alongside a new public garden leading down to the river.
Approval represented another major step forward for the new St John’s neighbourhood, a joint venture between Allied London and the council.
Various former ITV buildings are being demolished to make way for the skyscrapers.
Former BBC site, Oxford Road
A vast, 10-year redevelopment of the BBC’s former Manchester headquarters, several phases of the Circle Square project had already received permission before this year.
In March, another wave was approved for nearly 400 serviced apartments on the Charles Street side of the site, aimed mainly at international students.
The latest 18-storey bronze-coloured block will join a huge cluster of other flats, largely student-focused, including a 37-storey residential skyscraper.
Offices and a new public square had also already received permission, with further commercial buildings still to come.
Neighbours objected that Circle Square is effectively creating a ‘student ghetto’, but the committee said the latest block is targeted ‘specifically at the post-graduate and international market’ and gave it the green light.
Former Origins site, Princess Street
Even before the financial crash, this site on the corner of Whitworth Street and Princess Street had been one of the city centre’s most prominent vacant plots.
Current developers Urban & Civic initially had permission granted for a hotel and flats last year, but subsequently re-submitted their application to make it entirely residential.
Further market testing had shown no demand for a hotel on the site, according to the revised application for 350 apartments agreed by councillors in March.
Later the same month the Manchester New Square development was – like Circle Square – also the beneficiary of Greater Manchester’s controversial housing investment fund, receiving a £43.3m loan.
That represented one of the biggest single pay-outs by the combined authority’s loan pot, which was set up under 2014’s devolution deal to kick-start brownfield development.
Dakota Hotel, Ducie Street
The first of two projects to get the green light in 2017 for this undeveloped strip of land in Piccadilly Basin, saw permission granted for a nine-storey Dakota hotel on Ducie Street.
Now under construction, the ‘deluxe’ 137-bed hotel will sit in an area council bosses are keen to regenerate ahead of HS2’s planned arrival over the road.
More than a dozen neighbours complained, including about the hotel’s height and design in an area historically made up of warehouses and Victorian industrial buildings.
Councillors raised concerns about cumulative loss of car parking in the city centre, but approved the plans.
Rental apartments, Ducie Street
Immediately adjacent to the Dakota hotel, on adjoining land also currently used as a surface car park, these plans for a further 128 homes in Piccadilly Basin were agreed in June.
Developers Belgravia Living intend to knock down the Linda’s Pantry cafe on the corner of Peak Street – a building that dates back to the 19th century – as part of their plans for nine townhouses and scores of apartments.
Planning officials said the cafe was ‘not considered to be of any heritage value’, however, arguing development will help reinstate the historic street pattern of the area and boost housing supply.
Originally the plot was taken up with the Eider office block, which demolished in the late 1990s.
Since then various planning permissions have been granted, but most of the land had remained as surface car parking.
Manchester Life: Vesta Street
The Manchester Life partnership between the council and Abu Dhabi United Group – which aims too build 10,000 new homes in the north east of the city over a decade – took several strides forward this year.
In June the vehicle received approval for 169 new apartments and three houses on Vesta Street in New Islington, next to the Ashton canal.
That followed the green light in 2015 for more than 300 flats on nearby New Union Street and another 201 at Weavers Quay, as well as a wave of approvals for nearby developments by both Manchester Life and other outfits.
Later in 2017 the council successfully bought the nearby Central Retail Park for residential development by the partnership.
Ultimately the vehicle intends to build right out to Eastlands, including through Holt Town along the canal.
Manchester Life: Lampwick
A month later another Manchester Life development was agreed for the site next door to Vesta Street.
The ‘Lampwick’ development – also bordered by the Chips building and Ancoats Dispensary – comprises 213 more waterside flats for ‘high quality private rental’ in a block of up to 10 storeys.
None of the apartments will be ‘affordable’, with planning officers arguing there are ‘an adequate supply of socially-rented accommodation’ in the surrounding area, adding that to include an affordable element would make the project unviable.
Manchester Conservation Panel, which is consulted on planning applications, felt the move to be a ‘substantial over-development’ of the site, particularly given the listed dispensary next door.
The planning committee welcomed the plans, however, and gave them the green light at July’s meeting.
Manchester Life: New Little Mill
At the same meeting, Manchester Life’s conversion of the nearby Edwardian New Little Mill, on Jersey Street in Ancoats, also got approval.
The redevelopment will create 68 apartments in an empty listed mill building next to one of the partnership’s other conversions, Murrays Mills – which is linked to it by a series of tunnels.
A 1960s block next door will be demolished for the project.
The conversion will not provide any ‘affordable’ housing under the council’s definition, partly – according to officers – because the cost of converting a listed building would make it unviable.
A few months after New Mill got its permission, the first apartments in next-door Murrays Mills went on the open market for sale, representing one of the first full completions in Manchester Life’s ambitious redevelopment plans.
London Road fire station
Few planning permissions in recent years have been as eagerly-awaited as this one.
After an epic battle to save the crumbling building culminated in its purchase by Allied London, plans for its future have moved forward at speed.
Several public consultations had outlined detailed plans for a series of linked attractions – including bars, shops, a boutique hotel, spa, cinema, restaurants and a market – throughout the sprawling landmark, as well as for offices and residential space.
Original Edwardian features in the building, which included not only a fire station but ambulance station, police cells and a courthouse, are being preserved amid ongoing restoration work, while the internal courtyard will be opened up for events.
The building could open by summer 2019.
Former Bauer Millett site, Albion Street
This site near to Deansgate Locks has been a tricky one to develop, thanks to its awkwardly-shaped footprint and proximity to the adjacent listed viaduct, electricity substation and tram line.
A series of options – including demolition of the Great Bridgewater Street bridge – were explored before Ian Simpson’s designs for a 40-storey residential skyscraper and adjacent 14-storey glazed office block eventually reached July’s planning meeting.
As well as 375 apartments, the development will include a staircase and lift connecting to the viaduct, plus a new service yard for the Manchester Central convention centre next door.
The development’s entrance will be through a new opening in the Great Bridgewater Street tunnel, which will also see new shops added in to its remaining arches.
Affordable housing is not included, as developers Ask argued the cost and complexity of the project would make it unviable.
St John’s: Trinity Island
This gigantic development is the biggest single residential scheme to be approved in Manchester this year, taking the city’s highest point up to a whopping 67 storeys – 20 storeys higher than the Beetham.
In total Trinity Island will create a new community of up to 3,000 people in five separate blocks – at least three of them skyscrapers – on former surface car parks next to the River Irwell.
Part of the new St John’s neighbourhood, its approval followed that of the Factory and Water Street’s two twin skyscrapers earlier in the year.
The application, approved in July, included not just apartments, but a boat club, ‘education facility’, workspace and a riverside walkway – plus room for thousands of bikes and cars.
Meadowside: Angel Meadow
This cluster of tower blocks on the edge of historic Angel Meadow – including a 40-storey skyscraper at its corner – marks the beginning of the city centre’s expansion north towards Collyhurst.
Underpinned by £200m from investor-developers Far East Consortium, the blocks will add around 750 apartments to an area long in the sights of regeneration chiefs.
They will sit along the edge of the park and at its corner with Gould Street, representing the start of the ‘Northern Gateway’ masterplan – Manchester council’s partnership with FEC for 10,000 new homes stretching out along the Lower Irk valley.
Upgrades to the park, surrounding streets and the adjacent historic Chartered Ragged School are being paid for in lieu of affordable housing contributions.
New Wakefield Street
Another Simpson and Haugh design, this 30-storey skyscraper on Oxford Road will replace the nightclub Sound Control.
It will add nearly 600 student apartments to the area’s growing landscape of graduate and post-graduate accommodation, which is also surging forward across the road on the former BBC site at Circle Square.
Sound Control had already been planning to look for other premises, according to the council.
However the application by student accommodation giant Unite – which already runs the nearby New Medlock apartments, among others – still prompted dozens of complaints from neighbours concerned about its design quality, scale and effect on the streetscape in an area historically known as ‘Little Ireland’.
Manchester’s conservation panel said the plans were out of scale, but Historic England did not object and the application was passed at October’s planning meeting.
Dantzic Street, city centre border
Following on from FEC’s green light at Angel Meadows, this development of more than 400 apartments just down the road also forms part of the council’s wider Northern Gateway vision.
The cluster of flats – another designed by Simpson and Haugh – is earmarked for vacant brownfield land in the Irk Valley, in a largely undeveloped area between the city centre and Collyhurst.
Scores of nearby residents objected the plans, arguing the development’s 24-storey height was too tall and that the area lacks suitable infrastructure.
Nearby Marble Breweries also raised concerns about the impact of construction traffic, particularly given the relatively narrow surrounding roads.
However officers argued the development would provide a significant area of useable new public land with links to the city centre and it was given the green light by planners.
And finally… two that didn’t make it
In a rare display of obstinacy where major city centre development is concerned, the planning committee refused to let this development go through at December’s meeting.
Plans by Fred Done’s developer Salboy would have seen a new aparthotel stand at 13 storeys on Shudehill, running along Back Turner Street to its lowest four-storey point fronting the Northern Quarter.
But city centre councillors objected, arguing it was an over-development that would harm neighbouring residents and the character of the local area.
The committee, which had already deferred a decision the previous month for a site visit, deferred a second time.
Councillor Basil Curley led calls for a smaller scheme, reduced in height ‘by at least one storey’ at the Shudehill end.
Planners deferred again so that the application could be bounced back for further discussion between officers and the scheme’s developer.
St Michael’s, Jackson’s Row
Probably the most high-profile and contentious planning saga of 2017.
After Gary Neville – through a joint venture with the council – submitted plans for the St Michael’s development at the start of the year, outrage from both residents and Historic England forced a re-think.
With Historic England warning of ‘a high level of harm’ to nearby listed buildings, the application was ‘paused’, a new architect hired and a brand new design drawn up.
The final revised proposal was revealed towards in the summer, with the Sir Ralph Abercromby pub saved from demolition and the facade of Bootle Street police station retained, along with new designs for the project’s skyscraper.
The new application – which still incorporates a 5* hotel, luxury apartments, public roof garden, new synagogue, offices, shops and bars – was eventually submitted last week.
Manchester council’s planning committee is expected to consider the new plans in the spring.