Northern Counties Housing Association
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
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Stockport's Hillgate conservation area is a termite hill of the past six centuries riddled with ginnels. Every now and again something teeters over, just like the medieval town wall did in the heart of this site before work began.
Townscape Heritage Initiative Grant and the yearning of a supportive local authority helps, but a developer needs something special to create a high quality mixed-use development from mostly derelict buildings on a 1:3 gradient. Time is one part of that and this submission of 8 shared ownership apartments and three retail units is part of 10-year programme which, one day, may get the chance to tackle the few outstanding buildings in the urban block whose shocking disrepair demonstrates the extent of renovation already achieved. A quick tour taking in the earlier Mealhouse Brow phase impresses how much locals owe this development team.
The second phase is the renovation of a tobacco warehouse as one retail unit on the Lower Hillgate high street with 4 flats over. The first three of these are relatively conventional with double-height living spaces common to conversions. Unexpected is the three-bed apartment carved out of the second, third and floor floors which culminates with an open plan living/dining/kitchen space at fourth floor stretching up to the rafters and a balcony giving views over the area's patchwork roofscape.
The second phase overlooks, but does not access, a hard landscaped terrace built under the 15th century town wall which is accessed by a bridge. This bridge comes from a new block the space serves, a third phase consisting of 4 more two-bed apartments in a new-build with two retail units at ground floor. A security-gated ginnel leads from the high street to a lower courtyard where there is access to both the core for the flats and to the retail units. This space has atmosphere driven by the town wall acting as a dramatic landscape feature, especially when lit by night and which gives a sense of drama which overshadows the more prosaic use of the space for bin and recycling stores cut into the bedrock.
Flats in the new-build have comfortable plans but what impresses is the size and design of their huge balconies overlooking the internal courtyard. These are well screened from each other, so offer private outdoor space in a location which has all the geography of a medieval hill town but until now little of the serendipity.