Ryebank Fields
The site was closed due to the discovery of asbestos

MMU’s Ryebank Fields closed after asbestos discovery

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.” Asbestos Report 2 Pg 1

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.”

Ryebank Fields Closed

The fields are currently closed to the public

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.”

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Well that complicates things a bit!!
I understood that the crux of the Save Ryebank Fields campaign was that the land was a greenfield site.
Now it can be redesignated as brownfield and be developed. May add time and cost to the development timeline but a bit of an own goal for the campaign!

By Muddy Waters

Interesting article – thank you. A few further points of clarification. MCC gave this patch of public land to MMU for playing fileds (not for housing development). MMU is now behaving like any self respecting multinational and trying to cash in – it is believed to be worth over £10 million to them. It is a greenfield site and cannot be redesignated Muddy Waters. Manchester has the least greenfield sites within the GMC. MMU were informed in 2019 that the site wasa landfill and that asbestos had been dumped there. Instead of treating this information with the seriousness it deserved and commissioned an asbestos survey, it went ahead with a regular survey and disturbed the asbestos, thereby creating an unecessary public health hazard. All, presumably iwith the intention of realising as much profit as possible. The longer time goes on the less likely MCC are to grant planning permission for this green site. MCC has declared a Climate Emergencyd the Campaign to save the site has grown under the lockdown as people appreciate more the value of green space

By Woody Guthrie

I recently saw contractors on the site with no protective clothing on filling in the places that had been disturbed be the previous contractors. Why are the fences still up. If there is no immediate risk to the public?

By Sheila Evans

MCC gave the land to MMU, did not lease it to them, gave it. It is surely then up to MMU how to dispose of it now it is redundant? A scrubby bit of land next to a well kept park to have low density housing built on it? I would much rather we filled in these small pockets rather than ever spreading outwards.

By Bradford

Just to clarify Ryebank Fields is not only biodiverse it is also a carbon, pollution and flood sink. To the unenlightened it may seem to be nothing more than a scrubby bit of land but to those with vision it offers climate change mitigation and so many more benefits for the wildlife that inhabit it.

By Blue Sky