Ryebank MMU
The site is earmarked for 70 homes according to a development framework

MMU pushes ahead with Ryebank Fields sale despite asbestos discovery 

Dan Whelan

Manchester Metropolitan University, which owns the fields and wants to sell the land for development, has confirmed that asbestos was found on the site, located next to Longford Park in Chorlton, after a member of the public found a suspicious material in May but that plans to sell the land to a developer are still very much alive. 

In a statement MMU said the discovery of asbestos at the 10-acre site “means there is a risk to public health until the land is made safe as part of the future development”.  As a result the university will now erect fencing to close the area off to the public until it has been redeveloped. 

Speaking to Place North West, the university confirmed it still plans to sell the site for development and will start marketing the opportunity through agent Cushman & Wakefield this month. 

MMU will not seek to remediate the land or obtain planning consent before the sale, preferring instead to leave those issues in the hands of the developer. 

A statement on MMU’s website said: “The costs associated with cleaning up a site of this size are significant and can only be funded by the university from the proceeds of its sale. This is not therefore a solution that the university can afford at this stage.”

In May, Save Ryebank Fields, a group campaigning against the redevelopment of the site, claimed a member of the public had discovered asbestos on the field and that the material had been exposed following site investigations commissioned by MMU. 

Ryebank Fields

The site was closed in May pending further investigation

However, the university claims the asbestos was found “away from areas where testing bore holes were dug” and said the material had been unearthed by “erosion, caused by a combination of wet weather, followed by dry weather, and by the everyday wear and tear of people walking over the site.” 

In May, when the suspicious material was found, the member of the public who discovered it took samples away to test. 

Eight of the samples tested positive for asbestos, including one which confirmed crocidolite asbestos, the most harmful and carcinogenic of all asbestos materials, according to Save Ryebank Fields.

At the time, MMU said it had not seen the results of the tests but it had acted to make the site safe and conducted a detailed inspection.

The results of the university’s inspections, carried out by environment consultancies e3p, Environmental Essentials and OPS Environmental, confirmed the presence of asbestos at surface level in four locations across the site, something that MMU said it had not found during previous surveys.

However, in its statement, MMU said: “Before we owned it, Ryebank Fields was a clay pit for a nearby brickworks. When this use stopped, it was backfilled.  

“Surveys conducted for us recently indicate that some of the backfill materials are potentially hazardous.” 

While Save Ryebank Fields is against the redevelopment of the site, another group, Chorlton Community Land Trust, is hoping to influence the direction of development, which it considers is the most likely outcome for the site. 

The focus of CLT, which has almost 300 members, is to ensure that any proposed development contains ample provision for affordable housing, the protection of community space, and a commitment to low carbon development, according to chairman Steve Goslyn. 

The development framework, adopted last year, describes provision for up to 120 homes.

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LET’S HAVE IT RIGHT, THIS LAND IS WORTHLESS. 10ACRES FULL OF ASBESTOS THAT HAS TO BE REMOVED BEFORE ANY BUILDING WORK ALLOWED. MU HAS TO PAY FOR IT, THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT UNTIL THEY GET MONEY FROM THE SALE, AND NO ONE IS GOING TO BUY, BLIND, NOT EVEN WITH ASSURITY IF THE LAND CAN BE MADE SAFE 100%

By Tt

Given that a former asbestos factory site in Rochdale can be remediated and houses for private sale be developed and sold, I do not think this is a big hurdle for any decent developer.

By Bradford

Really looking forward to this site being developed. It’s a perfect housing site (brownfield, sustainable location) and in an area of high demand. Hopeful of a really high quality design and a good number of family houses to help meet the critical shortage across the city.

By YIMBY

I really hope someone decent comes on board to deliver this site to the benefit of the wider area. It’s perfect for an RP group like Jigsaw, etc.

By Anonymous

The Save Ryebank Fields group are a bit, well… see first shouty comment as a good example. Most of them live immediately next to the fields and are typical NIMBYs dressing up their campaign as community spirited.

The fields have been fenced off repeatedly over the last few months on safety grounds, but the group keep removing them. Unfortunately this means the site is usually open to all, including kids, who now have the freedom to dig around in crocidolite, which is very nasty stuff.

Housing is needed and is definitely the most likely outcome for this site but as a Chorltonite I hope they do it properly and make this an exemplar of how to live more sustainably.

By Cheeky Joe

@Tt – “worthless” lol.

By LET'S HAVE IT RIGHT

Completely agree Cheeky Joe, Nimbyism at it’s finest. Not like there is a need for recreational space (not that you can call it that!) when it is right next to Longford Park.

By TSB

Toxic land such as this should not be built on. Yes builders can but at high costs and if short cuts are taken then at a detriment to the wider community. Where is the spoil going as if it is not taken care of safely then elsewhere will become polluted. Leave it to nature, there are plenty of other sites more suitable!!

By BC

Mmu claim charity status but are only interested cash the land has become green and pleasant sale waterpark was built after a road was dug out now its a nature park corporate greed

By Andy Wigley

Cheeky Joe are these the same Chorlton Nibbys who stopped the redevelopment of the Stretford fields into a much needed community facility for the local Stretford residents?

By Anonymous

From MMU’s survey report “the south of the site has been assessed as being Amber 2 / CS3 and Red/CS4. The gas source is deemed to be associated with the underlying Made Ground deposits. As WS102 and WS103 have been assessed as being Red/ CS4 this would suggest this area is not suitable for residential development. It is suggested that additional monitoring wells are placed in the south of the site to fully delineate the zone of gas risk along with a phase of continuous ground gas monitoring.Full ground gas protection measures to be confirmed following completion of monitoring regime. A provision for the installation of ground gas protection measures adhering to Amber 2 / CS3 with VOC vapour membranes should be put in place.” and “Consideration must also be given to the fact that the site has been classified as moderate to high risk from possible Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) resulting from the Second World War. The site will therefore require clearance prior to the installation of any foundation solution.”

By Paul Harnett