Community runs to the heart of this project, which completed in May 2014, and depended for its success on local businesses and residents alike. The Lapwing Lane Arcade sits on the edge of the Ballbrook Conservation Area, in a prominent site opposite the new Metrolink station. The parade including a glass canopy with ornate wrought-ironwork was originally designed by George Westcott and developed by Booth & Britten.
The story of demise is a familiar one across Britain's high streets - the arcade's cast-iron frame was rotting, cracks had appeared in the glass panes and ornate wrought iron brackets had fallen off. One part had to be removed entirely after a council van accidentally reversed into it.
In this instance though, through the considerable efforts of local people, the story has a happy ending. In 2012, residents set up the Friends of Lapwing Lane Arcade (FOLLA), which raised a staggering £91,000 in grants including £25,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £16,000 from Manchester council. The remainder, over £50,000 was raised by FOLLA, Mike Bath FOLLA's Chair, maintains that “Unless the local community had stepped in nothing would have been done.”
With funding in place, getting the project off the ground was still not a trivial matter. Earlier attempts to restore the arcade had become mired in local politics. Previous campaigners for this architecturally significant restoration include Warren Marshall, and former President Manchester Society of Architects Sidney Downs of Downs & Variava Architects.
Raynes Architecture came on board in March 2013 when estimates were blowing the budget and planning had not yet been approved. This local architecture practice brought to the project knowledge of community issues, expertise in delivering design solutions and a 100% success rate in achieving planning permission.
The challenge was to design a cost-effective solution, and one that planners would approve. Lisa Raynes, Raynes Architecture MD brought in John Flinn, another local architect, and together they engaged with the planners.
Lisa who has worked for Ian Simpson, Urban Splash as well as housebuilders Countryside, found similarities with this community project. In her experience, successful projects depend on developing trust with the client, the end user and the planners. 'Budget also has to be kept in mind to deliver realistic proposals. I was delighted to bring my 20 years' experience and skills into use here to deliver a community project in my area.’
The result of this community investment according to David Ellison, Labour Councillor for Didsbury West, is to bring a regenerating effect to the local economy. Since completing the project, feedback Lisa received from local businesses and residents has been overwhelmingly positive.
Architectural critic Phil Griffin says ‘Congratulations Lisa! The Lapwing Lane Arcade is a credit to all concerned. Well done, and thank you all.’