The clamour for a city centre park in Manchester is growing louder, but a redesign of the Mancunian Way could provide the opportunity to make Hulme Park just that, writes an urban planner.
With over 50,000 residents and counting, calls for a park and additional green space in Manchester City centre have never been more pertinent.
We often talk about Manchester City centre’s lack of parks, but rarely give any attention to the plethora of incredible existing parks which surround the city centre but which may as well be on a different planet due to the concrete collar of roads, motorways and overpasses which currently choke our city centre, and prevent free-flowing pedestrian movement from the city core and into the parks and neighbourhoods which surround it.
One such example is Hulme Park, which in any ordinary situation would be a mere five-minute walk from the bottom of Deansgate.
On the other side of the thundering Mancunian Way from Hulme Park is Great Jackson Street, one of the city’s fastest-growing development zones.
Here, over 6,000 new homes are proposed over the coming decade in a series of huge new skyscrapers, as well as improved public realm, shops, bars and restaurants. Sometime in the next ten years, well over 10,000 people will live in this neighbourhood.
They could all have easy access to the huge 15-acre Hulme Park on their doorstep – with all the health and wellbeing benefits that would bring. However, this opportunity is squandered by the Mancunian Way motorway, a wall made of concrete, tarmac and exhaust fumes.
At this location, the motorway is not elevated or tunnelled – but runs at ground level – forcing pedestrians and cyclists to use a dogleg bridge, adding at least an extra eight minutes to what should be a simple crossing.
Perhaps it is time we looked at converting the Mancunian Way from a severing, grey motorway to a great avenue befitting of the centre of a major European city. Further round the Ring Road, Great Ancoats Street is receiving a similar treatment, with pedestrian crossings and tree-lined pavements installed.
The Mancunian Way at the section where it severs Hulme Park from Great Jackson Street should be traffic-calmed, becoming a tree-lined boulevard – “Mancunian Avenue” – with controlled pedestrian and cycle crossings installed to cut the time taken to walk and cycle between Hulme and the city centre.
This would enable us to blur the boundaries between the central and inner south Manchester, and finally try and address some of the chronic contrasts which take place in the fortunes of neighbourhoods sitting either side of the Ring Road.
The result is that we create a strong grid-style network which extends the walkable core of central Manchester significantly. These cells can then be used to encourage new developments – high-rise towards the city centre and Great Jackson Street, transitioning into lower-rise and townhouses towards the park.
There are already pedestrian crossings at multiple locations around the Inner Ring Road – at Angel Square, Springfield Street, Regent Road and Ancoats.
While slowing down the Mancunian Way may cause some disruption to motorists, it is time we asked ourselves who Manchester is for.
Is it to be designed for the tens of thousands of people who live, visit and work in the city centre, compelling us to create a walkable, attractive core with clean air, a cohesive cycle network and vibrant public spaces in which people want to spend time?
Or should it be designed to be made easy for people to drive through, without stopping, polluting our air; cutting our neighbourhoods in half; and taking us further and further away from our ambitions to become a truly global city?
The author of this article has opted to remain anonymous.