Manchester Metropolitan University’s controversial plans to sell 10 acres on the edge of Longford Park in Chorlton for housing development have hit a snag after a member of the public found “suspicious material”.
The material is believed to be asbestos according to Friends of Ryebank Fields, a local residents group campaigning against the development.
A statement from the group, said: “Recently a regular user of the fields discovered suspicious material on the field within areas of ground disturbance left by contractors.
“As his employment includes commissioning asbestos surveys and asbestos removal works, he took them away and had them analysed.
“A total of eight samples tested positive for samples including one which confirmed crocidolite asbestos, the most harmful and carcinogenic of all asbestos materials.”
The group added it was “alarmed that site investigations carried out by MMU contractors have unearthed asbestos and left it exposed.”
MMU said: “Although we have not seen the test results, we have acted at the earliest opportunity to put protection measures in place and conduct a detailed inspection.”
The university added that recent surveys did not find any asbestos at surface level but did find the material at a depth of “several metres” which “did not pose an immediate risk to the public.”
Ryebank Fields was gifted to the university by Manchester City Council in the 1970s for use as sports fields but the land was abandoned when MMU moved its sports facilities to Carrington in 1996.
A masterplan for the site, published in June 2019 and drawn up by 5plus Architects and Cushman & Wakefield alongside WYG and WSP, stated the land has become “a barrier between the existing surrounding residential communities and the recreational amenities of Longford Park.”
According to the framework adopted by the council in 2019, the site could accommodate up to 120 homes ranging from two to five bedrooms.
In March, MMU’s board of governors unanimously agreed to “proceed with plans to sell the site to an appropriate developer in line with the development framework.”
The university has not yet submitted a planning application to the council but a statement on its website said: “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 framework claims there are no landfills within 500 metres of the site but this is disputed by Friends of Ryebank Fields.
Campaigner, Tara Parry, claims that the whole area was an “unregistered tip for many years”. She added: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that the excavations of the Arndale Centre were dumped there amongst vats of oil and paint, asbestos roofs and other machinery.”