The Grade II Listed White Lion has been unoccupied since circa 2008 with resultant deterioration of the fabric and structure. The disused building has also been subject to theft and vandalism. Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council acquired the five-storey building in late 2015 with the overarching objective to rescue and safeguard its future as a key part of the Council’s £7 million investment in the Underbanks and Market Place area.
The former White Lion Hotel is located in a strategically important site that bridges the retail core with the burgeoning Market Place and Underbank area, which is home to a growing food and beverage offer and independent retailers. The restoration of the White Lion Hotel was therefore deemed an essential milestone marking the area’s revival, with new levels of aspiration and ultimately setting the tone that future regeneration initiatives will follow.
The Council entered into an arrangement with THT Developments, part of Trafford Housing Trust and owner of Laurus Homes Brand, to permit them to convert the larger part of the building into residential units while retaining part of the ground floor and basement for an A3 Use under their control. Bowker Sadler Architecture worked closely with Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Conservation Officer to restore this building as faithfully as possible. Planning and Listed Building Consents were secured for its redevelopment and refurbishment and the works commenced on site in March 2018; completion was achieved in December 2019.
1. Affordable housing
“A Housing Needs Assessment was undertaken in 2011 and found a shortfall of 397 affordable units per annum in the Borough taking account of affordable housing need and supply. The number of units procured through the planning system or through procuring other resources since 2011 is significantly less than the annual requirements, meaning that there is still considerable affordable housing need in Stockport.”
2. Affordable Housing Requirement in Stockport (report)
Through the good design and management of a unique mixeduse residential development and a vibrant A3 unit at street level, we have delivered a high standard of affordable housing within the town centre as part of Stockport’s exciting transformation of the Market/Underbank area as a popular and attractive place to live.
3. Problem solving
Despite commercial pressures, collaboration between the Client, Local Authority, design team and contractor resulted in a faithful restoration of this Grade II Listed Building within the Conservation Area of Stockport to the original Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts design, typical of the Edwardian era. Detailed research ensured that the significant repairs throughout the building were cost effectively carried out using traditional techniques and materials. This not only safeguarded the building without adversely affecting the iconic character of the White Lion but also supported/promoted heritage skills which are in danger of disappearing. “Listed sites of great historic importance like the White Lion pub can be very challenging to convert successfully and many developers won’t undertake the work because of the potential financial risks. However, being part of a progressive housing association like Trafford Housing Trust, which is committed to regenerating neighborhoods rather than simply selling houses for a profit, we are able to work in partnership with local authorities and take on sensitive projects like these.” Graeme Scott, Development Director, Trafford Housing Trust Sustainability Having suffered from the predations of weather and vandalism for over a decade, the iconic White Lion fully deserved to be restored to its former glory. Embracing change is an important aspect of conservation. What better way to conserve a valuable building than to give it a new use to sustain its future and prevent it from falling into decay again! Long term benefits include the future safeguarding of a regionally important building. The new ground floor retail unit will contribute to the sustainability and regeneration of the town centre and provide a new lease of life to a much-loved building; supporting its long-term viability. “Injecting new life back into historic buildings is vital to ensuring Stockport is a vibrant and popular place to live, work, play and connect 24/7. As Stockport’s exciting transformation continues, the heart of our town is becoming a popular and attractive place to live. Creating new homes, like the new apartments in the White Lion, as well as improved public spaces for everyone to enjoy, is vital in making sure we fulfil our vision of Stockport becoming the town centre residential location of choice in South Manchester.” Caroline Simpson, Corporate Director for Place, Stockport Council.