A consultation on the development framework for the 10.5-acre plot on the edge of Ancoats and New Islington has shown clear desire for a public park, but the council said it has no plans to incorporate one into its vision for the site.
A perceived lack of green space in Manchester City Council’s proposals for the site was one of the key concerns voiced by members of the public in a consultation staged by Piccadilly Ward councillors in parallel to a council-run consultation.
Collating responses from 245 residents, the ward consultation found that 99% of respondents thought the redevelopment of Central Retail Park, which the council bought in 2017, should include public green space.
The proposed framework sets out the city council’s vision for an “exemplary net zero carbon commercial district” in featuring 1m sq ft of office space that could house up to 10,000 jobs, but no new park is included in the proposals.
However, the council instead intends to revamp Cotton Field Park, located between the retail park and New Islington marina, next to the site on the edge of Manchester city centre, as part of the redevelopment.
Manchester City Council cited the public park that is being built as part of the £1bn Mayfield development near Piccadilly station as evidence of its commitment to providing green space in the city centre.
Mayfield is being delivered by a consortium comprising developer U+I, Government-owned railway land developer LCR, Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester.
“The council is acutely aware of the importance of public spaces…however, we should also be cognisant of the importance of our economic recovery and the vital role developments such as the former Central Retail Park will play in bringing jobs and growth to the city,” a Manchester City Council report said.
During the council-run consultation, respondents raised questions about the state of the office market in relation to the impact of Covid-19, which has seen a large proportion of the city’s workers encouraged to work from home.
Housing association Northwards Housing questioned whether the demand for office space apparent before the pandemic would endure in the coming years and recommended that the amount of office space proposed could be scaled back in favour of more affordable homes.
Under the current framework, land next to Butler Street, land next to Downley Drive and the former Ancoats Dispensary building, are all earmarked for up to 145 affordable homes.
Manchester City Council said: “The impacts of Covid-19 are being closely monitored. The growth of the city centre will be important to the economic recovery of the city following the pandemic.
“Although there may be a short-term slowdown in demand and delivery [of offices], it is expected, based on indications from property agents, that growth will resume in the medium-long term.”
As well as offices and residential, the framework also provides scope for a hotel.
In total, the framework, drawn up for the council by architect Bennetts Associates, engineer Buro Happold, cost consultant Faithful+Gould and landscape architect Exterior Architecture, proposes the construction of 10 blocks, the majority of which are earmarked for offices with floorplates ranging from 15,700 sq ft to 27,000 sq ft.
Of the eight office blocks, five have been earmarked for a pre-let to a commercial occupier.
There is also “potential for a building of significant height to form a ‘set piece’ with the Oxygen Tower at the junction of Old Mill and Great Ancoats Street”, according to the masterplan.
The tower would reach 30 storeys, mirroring Property Alliance Group’s Oxygen Tower opposite, which is planned to reach 32 storeys.