Ryebank Fields

Manchester Metropolitan University has now published a Development Framework for the Ryebank Road site in Chorlton, Manchester, as an important step to evaluating whether the land is able to make a contribution to the housing needs of the community of Chorlton and of Manchester as a whole.

In the Framework, the University will require a development partner to engage with local residents by working with a community housing group (one which is appropriately legally constituted) to bring forward development. Any development must be a comprehensive housing development that could meet a range of requirements, of different tenures, sizes and values, including affordable housing.

Our commitment to the site also requires any developer to provide a number of commitments consistent with the University’s strategy, and which were articulated by the local community in the previous consultation, these include:

The University has a strong track record of working closely with Manchester City Council on the development of the University estate and of the sustainable development of assets it is deemed are no longer required for the pursuit of educational objectives.

The University will now commission further exploration of the site in order to assess the viability of the land for development.

The Development Framework can be viewed on the Manchester City Council website.

Further answers to questions about the project and the Development Framework are available below.

Why does the University own Ryebank Fields?

The history of the University is of a coming together of institutions at different key points since 1824 when the Mechanics Institute was formed. At different times, different sites have come under the governance of the institution and in many cases have changed use – the site where All Saints Park now is was a church, now it is a park. The land around Brooks Building in Hulme was high density housing deemed no longer fit for habitation, now it is green space, a place of learning and much improved social housing.

Shouldn’t the University give the site back to the Council?

As a charity, the University is required to comply with charity legislation and to protect and safeguard its assets, which includes ensuring the best financial position reasonable in the circumstances when disposing of assets.

In addition, as a registered provider of higher education, the University is required to meet the requirements of its regulator, the Office for Students (OfS). One of the OfS requirements is ensuring that the University provides value for money for students. These requirements are incompatible with the notion of giving Ryebank Fields to Manchester City Council

Is a plan to develop on the site a done deal?

There are no deals in place, but the University has begun a process to develop the site.

A consultation in November and December 2017 took place, led by Manchester City Council, as a holistic discussion about this site and two others in Chorlton, the former Chorlton Leisure Centre site and Chorlton Precinct.

A report in July 2018 recommended that a Strategic Development Framework (SDF) for Chorlton be drawn up and that due attention be given to Chorlton’s need for housing, public services and that the process is genuinely participatory.

In consultation with the community in Chorlton, the original proposals were withdrawn and a new development framework has been drafted.

The introduction to the new framework emphasises this.

Manchester Metropolitan University is committed to ensure that the Ryebank Fields site makes a valuable contribution to the needs of the community of Chorlton and of Manchester as a whole. This means delivering a comprehensive housing development to meet a range of requirements, of different tenures, sizes and values, including affordable housing. Uniquely, the University will require a development partner to work with a local community housing group (one which is appropriately legally constituted) to bring forward development on part of the site, specifically meeting identified local needs for downsizing accommodation.

Our commitment is to provide a significant amount of public open space, enhancing the relationship to Longford Park and respecting and improving the key environmental features of the site. It also means ensuring that development meets high levels of environmental sustainability and that a positive contribution is made to some of the traffic and transport challenges that the surrounding area currently faces.

In appointing a development partner, the University will insist that the principles in the Development Framework are followed and that there is extensive consultation with the local community leading to the submission of a planning application.

The University has a strong track record of working closely with Manchester City Council on the development of the University estate and of sustainable development of assets it is deemed are no longer required for the pursuit of educational objectives.

Ryebank Fields site has been identified as being suitable for providing much needed new homes as part of the Council’s plan for Chorlton. The University will continue to work collaboratively with the Council to help it deliver the most appropriate framework locally.

Will local people have a say in what happens at Ryebank Fields?

All local development schemes present an opportunity for local resident groups to make a robust case to ensure the use of the land meets their objectives. Already a report into the site has taken on board input from local people and requires any future development framework to “protect, enhance and create a parkland setting for the new homes”. It also said the “quality of the public realm on-site along with new developments on the site relates to and responds to the surrounding area, including the physical relationship with Longford Park.”

The University has also committed to select a development partner who will engage with local residents groups to bring forward a participatory based approach to the development of any planning application for the site

Does the plan for the site fly in the face of the University’s commitment to sustainability?

No, the University is committed to sustainability as one of the five pillars of our strategy. That is expressed in a range of actions, including how we develop the estate.

What is more, the City Council has signalled its intention to ensure ambitious housing plans play a major role in creating a zero carbon Manchester by 2038, including in how new homes are built.

Will the plans destroy the historic Nico Ditch?

No, currently there is no link to Longford Park, the overgrowth has created a barrier, and the historic Nico Ditch that runs East to West across the site is difficult to identify. The framework will require a new usage of the land to protect, enhance and create a parkland. New trees, new habitats and a high quality public realm are all going to be requirements of any developments on the site.