Stayin’ Alive: Swinging Back Into Action

Chorlton Community Land Trust held a community meeting at the Edge Theatre on 29th May to share news on about our campaign to bring the Chorlton Co-op Picture House in Chorlton back to life. We had 70+ attendees and we have 300 members plus ~1000 people who have pledged financial support to the project. The rest of this post sets out the latest state of play for those of you who couldn’t attend the meeting.

We are still negotiating the details of the project and investment needed with Southway Housing Trust and our development partners Brook Finch, so things could yet change. But we have made progress and have the outlines of a viable way forward that should save the building.

Our aim is for The Picture House to become a new landmark venue to revitalise the heart of Chorlton and boost local community ownership. We want to save the building from demolition and secure its future as a multi-purpose, accessible meeting place for our community, by blending commercial principles with community values.

A Quick Potted History

  • 1920s Gaumont Cinema building was opened in Chorlton.
  • 1957 The Bee Gees brothers made their live debut at the Picture House as The Rattlesnakes.
  • 1960s Co-op acquire the site and it begins operation as Co-op Funeralcare.
  • 2019 Co-op puts the site on market for sale. Chorlton CLT begin discussion to acquire the Picture House and launched a campaign that secured pledges of £320k from local investors to help save the building.
  • 2022 Co-op sells the site to Southway Housing Trust with a view to demolishing the building for flats. Chorlton CLT re-commences discussions, this time with Southway.


We have had support from our local councillors, Jeff Smith MP (currently our candidate for the upcoming election) and senior officers in Manchester City Council. And we have just received backing from Barry Gibb for our plans.

Letter of support from Bee Gee Barry Gibb

Our Objectives

Our plans have three objectives in order of importance:

  1. To save a landmark, historic building to create:
    a) an open and welcoming place where residents and visitors can enjoy time together
    b) jobs and businesses to help the Chorlton district centre thrive
  2. To provide the community with:
    a) a chance to rebalance the focus of development in Chorlton
    b) a real financial stake in their district centre that will generate a return
  3. To secure a space for community activity, managed by the community.

The Plan & The Opportunity

artists impression of the redeveloped site

The cost of acquiring and redeveloping the site is significant and so requires a collaborative approach between the community and a private developer who can bring essential investment and expertise to help drive the project forward. The community will be a junior investor and our development partner will need to secure a financial return for their investment. We will work in partnership however the scheme will need to operate on commercial lines in order to be financially viable.

This project will be a partnership between:

  • Chorlton Community Land Trust: CCLT is community-based, registered not for profit group set up to maximise the community, social and environmental benefits of development projects in Chorlton. The CLT has been instrumental in influencing development in Chorlton through the Chorlton Vision and led the original Stayin Alive campaign to seek to save the Picture House. We aim to give the community a meaningful say and a stake in the future of Chorlton and have designed the Picture House scheme to help realise our ambitions for the community.
  • Brook Finch Farmer:  Martin Brook and Garry Finch created Brook Finch Developments Ltd to undertake interesting building projects in Manchester. They have successfully renovated Victorian-era housing including Grade 1 listed building refurbishments, luxury apartments, contemporary offices and the delivery of 12 high specification homes in Chorlton-cum-Hardy which involved an extensive façade retention element. Brook Finch have been joined at Alex Famer to help further their track-record of delivering high-quality developments that enhance their surroundings and build a reputation they are proud to hold. For more information visit

What is The Alternative?

Without this community-led scheme, an asset of significant heritage interest with a long future ahead of it will be lost. The Picture House building and land at the rear will be put back on the market and almost certainly demolished with apartments built across the whole site. The carbon tied up in the building would be lost and the potential to have a significant sized venue for events and gatherings would fall through our hands. Development in Chorlton would continue to be driven largely by private developer interests with only a limited voice for local residents. And, wider efforts to create an attractive district centre for residents and visitors with accessible public spaces for leisure, events and markets will not materialise.

Structure of The Deal

Sketch of what Picture House might look like with a big green wall and funky mural

The acquisition and redevelopment of the site has five elements:

  1. Acquiring the freehold/land: Chorlton Community Land Trust will acquire the freehold which will be retained on behalf of the community into perpetuity which will allow us to prevent the building from being demolished and have a say in how it is used. The CLT will grant a long-term lease to BFF to take forward the other elements.
  2. Redevelop the Picture House: BFF will refurbish the building to bring it up to a state where it can be brought back into use. The building will be redeveloped to create a flexible space that maximises our scope to find commercially viable uses:
    a) First Floor: flexible market-style food with occasional performance space
    b) Ground Floor:  3 x 1000 sq ft units for commercial/retail
  3. Redevelop the Garages: BFF will redevelop the garage area to the rear with a five storey block of 36 apartments for commercial sale. This is a financially crucial element of the scheme that will allow the Picture House to be redeveloped.
  4. Letting The Space: an operator will be competitively appointed to run the building and let the space to occupiers. Chorlton Community Land Trust aims to secure enough investment to acquire one of the ground-floor units.
  5. Upgrading the Public Realm: BFF and CLT will work with Manchester City Council and the developers of the neighbouring precinct to ensure quality public realm is in place around the Picture House. This should include improved pedestrian connections from Four Banks to the Library and to Oswald Road School, which will include exploring scope to create a new public square between the Precinct and Picture House.

Financing The Deal

BFF will bring forward the lion-share of the investment (development finance) needed, however there is a real opportunity of the community to have stake in the development by acquiring the freehold and a space in the building which can be let out for community uses. To secure our stake, the CLT is looking at two potential sources of investment:

1: Community Ownership Fund: the final window for applications was due to open on the 20th May however this has now been frozen due to the General Election and we will review the scope to proceed once we hear more from government Community Ownership Fund: prospectus – GOV.UK (

2: Community Shares: the remaining investment will be secured through a Community Share Offer which will ask local residents and interested stakeholders to buy a share in the scheme. We undertook an initial pledge drive in 2019 which secured over £300k and we will be returning to that to translate pledges into actual investments. This will likely be in the Autumn. You can find out more here  Invest in local enterprises – GOV.UK (

Making It Happen: The Way Ahead

  • July ‘24: agree Heads of Terms with Southway Housing Trust
  • Autumn ‘24 launch Community Share Offer
  • Jan ‘25: apply for planning consent
  • June ‘25: planning approval
  • Sept ‘25: start on site
  • Autumn ‘26: opening

We will be progressing grant applications and preparatory work for a share offer over the coming weeks, please do keep an eye out for news from us. If you want to get more involved:

  • Be ready to volunteer, especially by promoting our plans now among friends, family and on social media.
  • Please write letters of support to CLT that we can use to show investors the strength of support we have.
  • Keep eye out for future events including the Chorlton CLT AGM and Board Election in Autumn.
  • And, be ready to invest.

The last few years have been tough and Chorlton needs an injection of community-led investment to generate a fresh burst of pride in our district centre and provide new reasons to spend time and money locally. New residents will be moving to Chorlton and nearby district centres are providing strong competition as they receive major investment. We need to make sure Chorlton is a place that we are proud to live in and which meets the needs of the people who live here.

The Stayin’ Alive Campaign To Save Chorlton Picture House Is Swinging Back Into Action

Dates for Chorlton Precinct consultation drop ins

PJ Livesey the developers for Chorlton Precinct have written to CCLT to ask us to publicise details of their next round of public consultation.   You may have already had a newsletter though your door or picked up one locally.  This gives details of the developers’ proposals including consultation drop-in events being held at a vacant unit in the precinct. 

Their website has also been updated with details of the drop ins and how to feed back any comments.

Although CCLT don’t have a formal role in the precinct plans, we wish to continue staying involved to ensure the ideas in the Chorlton Vision are embraced and CCLT plans for the Picture House are taken into account in their precinct plans.

In particular, we have been keen to impress upon the developers, the idea of closing Nicolas Road (at least as a temporary measure) to explore the concept of a new public square at the heart of the district centre and to provide a larger pedestrianised zone that connects the proposed development with the Picture House, library, school and the health centre.

If you agree, it would be helpful to refer to this idea in any individual responses.

Redevelopment of the Precinct

The first round of public engagement has just ended on the redevelopment of the shopping precinct and a follow up is planned for the autumn. The information available at the moment can be found here:

We encouraged our members (if they agreed) to include under the questionnaire’s Other Suggestions the idea of creating a much more connected pedestrianised public space by promoting the idea of creating a new square at the end of Nicolas Road with the two sites developed in tandem.

Work to Secure the Picture House Continues

The CLT Board remain strongly committed to its plans to secure the Picture House (formerly Coop funeral care), and work with a developer to create a food and market hall.  We are keen to save the building as an anchor destination at the heart of our district centre. 

The Board believe that alongside the precinct, the Picture House would give Chorlton a better-connected townscape that encourages more people to spend more time and money locally, as well provide a space for new businesses to trade from, and for other activities with a social value purpose.  

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Supporting the Chorlton Vision

We have been supporting the Vision steering group whose work can be found at

The group paused for a few months whilst its recommendations were being considered by Manchester Council. 

We are pleased to report that as a result of our activity, Manchester City Council is now working on a study to establish a Local Infrastructure Framework for the district centre.

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MMU Ryebank Fields Developer Selection Process: CCLT Feedback Report July 2022

We promised you an update on our involvement in the MMU selection process once a decision had been made on a preferred developer for Ryebank Fields. MMU has recently announced its decision to appoint Step Places and Southway. You can read more about their decision here.

I want to update you with a bit more information on the process and some reflections. In May 2021 we set our general thinking here. The approach involved a sub-group of the CLT Board meeting online with each of the short-listed developers for two hour-long sessions:

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MMU select preferred developers


MMU have announced today that their preferred developers for Ryebank Fields are Step Places/Southway Housing Trust.

Chorlton Community Land Trust’s position on Ryebank Fields is that should development go ahead, we wish to engage proactively with MMU and their selected development partners to ensure an exemplar development which, amongst other features, maximises affordable housing and has high levels of environmental sustainability. 

Last year, through MMU, our Board engaged with the shortlisted developers including Step Places/Southway Housing Trust to challenge them on how far they would comply with the broad range of expectations and aspirations that we developed with members. We will be providing a further update to our members on our involvement in this process.

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The Picture House is still Stayin’ Alive

In March, we learnt that the Co-op had agreed an outline deal with Southway Housing to acquire the Picture House site. Since then, the CLT has been talking to Southway to make the case for our vision to revitalise the Chorlton High Street by retaining the Picture House building for commercial use with a community stake in its future. Southway is an established social housing provider with many properties in South Manchester and a commitment to its future.

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Communities in Control event at Stretford Public Hall  Weds 6 July 10-1.00pm

We have teamed up with Greater Manchester Community Led Homes to host an event to celebrate community ownership which secures the future of community assets, creates homes that people can afford, and regenerates our high streets. Find out about practical guidance, sources of support and opportunities to meet others working towards similar goals.

We will have a stall at the event that promotes our ongoing work to secure the Picture House.  We also be sharing our work on the Chorlton Vision. 

Its free to attend. Please book on