Gary Neville admits making ‘huge mistakes’ over plans for £400m Manchester development

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Gary Neville today admitted to making ‘huge mistakes’ while planning a £400million high-rise development in Manchester city centre – including an attempt to knock down a popular pub thought to be the inspiration for Life On Mars

The former Man United star’s St Michael’s scheme includes two towers containing a five-star hotel, luxury flats, offices and a rooftop restaurant, but today he conceded the 15-year battle to build it had been a ‘bumpy ride’. 

The original plans led to a backlash, with locals saying it would erase a part of Manchester’s ‘precious heritage’. Neville wanted to demolish the iconic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub and part of a historic police station, something he now admits was a ‘huge mistake.’ 

The football pundit and his business partners revised their plan and work began 18 months ago. He insists the project is back on track and will eventually create 2,200 jobs and an extra 700 jobs in construction. 

Discussing the project on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up To Money, Neville, 48, said the project had been challenging for ‘different reasons’ but he ‘took responsibility’ for the planning issues. 

Former footballer Gary Neville today admitted to making 'huge mistakes' while planning a £400million high-rise development in Manchester city centre

Former footballer Gary Neville today admitted to making ‘huge mistakes’ while planning a £400million high-rise development in Manchester city centre

The St Michael's scheme includes two towers containing a five-star hotel, luxury flats, offices and a rooftop restaurant

The St Michael’s scheme includes two towers containing a five-star hotel, luxury flats, offices and a rooftop restaurant

Neville wanted to demolish the iconic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, something he now admits was a 'huge mistake'

Neville wanted to demolish the iconic Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, something he now admits was a ‘huge mistake’ 

He said: ‘I love old buildings, I have always renovated old buildings, the idea that we looked at that pub and the front of Bootle Street police station and thought we should knock it down, that was a huge mistake.

‘I have openly admitted that we got it wrong but we have been corrected and we have owned up to our mistakes and we are now on site.’

The Sir Ralph Abercromby pub has stood in Manchester since the 18th century and is believed to be the inspiration for BBC TV drama Life on Mars.

Neville, who is appearing as a guest star on the next series of Dragons Den, said his plans for the development ‘came out of ambition and aspiration’ but he got ‘carried away’. 

He continued: ‘I had a couple of experiences around that time. You come out of Manchester United where you’ve won for 15, 20 years, you feel unbreakable.

‘You’re doing things, you’re excited about everything you do and you may get a bit carried away. 

‘I’ve said Valencia was a job I shouldn’t have taken on. I was sacked after four months. I didn’t have the capability to do it and it needed someone with vast experience. 

‘The St Michael’s project showed me that you can have a good idea, but if you don’t bring people along with you on the journey and don’t communicate with them you’re not going to succeed.’ 

Neville, a Labour party member who recently ruled out standing as an MP, also defended the lack of affordable housing in the St Michael’s development. 

He said: ‘Manchester needs all types of different properties. Do you think it’s right that an international city of Manchester’s quality only has one five star hotel?

The football pundit and his business partners revised their plan and work began 18 months ago. Pictured is an artist's impression from planning documents

The football pundit and his business partners revised their plan and work began 18 months ago. Pictured is an artist’s impression from planning documents 

Neville insists the project is back on track and will eventually create 2,200 jobs and an extra 700 jobs in construction

Neville insists the project is back on track and will eventually create 2,200 jobs and an extra 700 jobs in construction

The plan would have also done away with the front of the historic former Central Police Station

The plan would have also done away with the front of the historic former Central Police Station 

‘We absolutely need more affordable housing. And the development will make a payment worth millions to the council to contribute to more of it in Manchester. 

‘It’s not right that we don’t have enough affordable housing. But that doesn’t mean that when we build something that’s world class that we should blame that.

‘I always feel that when I build something that’s high quality people say ”You’re a Labour party member and you’re building a five-star hotel”. 

‘It seems to me that only Conservative voters are able to talk about excellence, high-quality and international world-class developments. ‘ 

Neville was criticised last year after it emerged his five-star Stock Exchange Hotel was advertising for waiters and waitresses on a minimum wage salary of £9.50 an hour.

Today he insisted staff were paid above the living wage and was paying ‘the maximum’ the business could afford. 

‘The sector is paying the maximum it can – trust me. It’s hard work to make money in hospitality with food costs and energy costs increasing,’ he said. 

‘You will see a lot of businesses shut down in the next 12 months. The reality is most bosses in Manchester want to pay people more.’ 

On Monday it emerged that celebrity chef Tom Kerridge’s Bull and Bear restaurant inside Neville’s Stock Exchange Hotel had closed just four months after opening

Addressing the issue today, the ex footballer candidly admitted the venture had been a flop.  

Neville was criticised last year after it emerged his five-star Stock Exchange Hotel was advertising for waiters and waitresses on a minimum wage salary of £9.50 an hour. Today he insisted staff received the living wage and he was paying them the maximum possible

Neville was criticised last year after it emerged his five-star Stock Exchange Hotel was advertising for waiters and waitresses on a minimum wage salary of £9.50 an hour. Today he insisted staff received the living wage and he was paying them the maximum possible 

Neville's other Manchester hotel, Hotel Football, which is located next to Old Trafford

 Neville’s other Manchester hotel, Hotel Football, which is located next to Old Trafford 

He said: ‘We don’t do food and beverage well. We run hotels really well. But the restaurants have struggled. The biggest lesson is to take on things you do well.

‘You think about the ups and downs of a football season – you do lose some matches. It happens in life.

‘We’ll just make sure that next time we open a restaurant there it works. But it won’t be us operating it this time.’ 

The interview came less than a week after it was announced that Neville would be joining the cast of business tycoons on BBC investment reality show Dragons’ Den as a guest investor.

The entrepreneur has ventures in everything from hospitality and property to digital marketing, which have netted millions of pounds.

However, he has also faced setbacks amid claims one of his high-end Manchester hotels lost £3.2million over the pandemic and owed ‘£10million in loans’.

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