Why Manchester needs a new city park

Think of all of the world's great cities and then think about their green spaces. Central Park, New York; The Royal Parks, London; Park Güell, Barcelona; Golden Gate Park, San Francisco; Lumphini Park, Bangkok; Stanley Park, Vancouver; Centennial Park, Sydney – they all stand out. These are the spaces where city-life, sport and recreation collide to become the focus of social interaction in the city.

These green spaces supply health and wellbeing and biodiversity benefits in busy, often grey cities, whilst also becoming major visitor destinations, generating significant economic benefit. They provide important places to play and learn, socialise and exercise, and are the tranquil places people can become lost within and enjoy in an otherwise frantic working day. These spaces put cities on the world map. They are visited by tourists and proudly cherished by residents.

So let's look at Manchester. Where is it that you take the family at the weekend for a picnic in the park or a stroll after Sunday lunch? Where are the tranquil, green spaces in the city? Whilst there are a few hidden gems (I'm not telling you where!), you have to hunt these out. Manchester has its fair share of public spaces in the City. Piccadilly Gardens, St Ann's Square, Cathedral Gardens, Lincoln Square and the more recent Spinningfields all provide good amenity space, but these are hard urbanised areas, often heavily managed and maintained. They are certainly not green spaces and would struggle in themselves to be defined as city parks.

Heaton Park is perhaps Manchester's closest answer to a proper city park. But it's on the fringe of the city and is it really enough of a destination in its own right?

Manchester is a city of growth and ambition. It has a strategy to drive further economic growth and business creation and seeks to capitalise on its science and research capabilities. With ever increasing connectivity and access to information, workers and residents will soon demand greater access to proper green spaces and the traditional lines between live, work and play will become even more blurred. A new city park should therefore be an equivalently important piece of Manchester's infrastructure as new rail connectivity.

So where could it be? What could it look like?

Well unless we think about mass demolition, it's unlikely that the City will find space large enough for a new city park next to the Arndale Centre. But there are opportunities and we must have an ambitious and deliberate plan for Manchester's green spaces going forward.

River corridors spring to mind as the starting point, these could be opened up and a consistent signage strategy could link them to the city's public buildings, public squares and museums. New buildings should allow public access along green leafy waterfronts, with iconic bridges. As the City grows there is a also a real opportunity to redesign our existing spaces as green pocket parks, why shouldn't squares and gardens be rediscovered as green oasis' in the heart of the city – take Lincoln Square for example, an ignored space in the heart of the city.

We could throw in some innovation? The High Line in New York has successfully transformed a disused and elevated freight railway into an amazing public space. With year-round activities such as dance and street performances to children's art workshops, cafés and public art, it is a hive of social activity. It even has its own website and shop.

We'd call it 'Manchester's Maze', it would include cafés, cycle hubs, public art trail, water, natural play and a community garden but I'm sure together we could get even more creative! We can have our own City Park to love and be proud of, a park that puts Manchester on the map. What do you think?

This post was written by Dan Mitchell and John Haxworth in collaboration.

Your Comments

Spinningfields did have lovely green areas to take family to at the weekends or sit on your lunch hour and escape the office but unfortunately they have plonked unsightly offic blokes on two of the green patches and keep shoving the ice rink on the other! As they say, green areas dont bring in the money that bland, grey office blokes do!

By MancLass

Peel park is the best centrally located, sizeable green space or the area around the Medlock off Ashton Old Road.

By Parky

The old UMIST campus is a real hidden gem combining some superb modernist buildings, mature trees and plenty of well maintained green space. It’s also surprisingly tranquil considering its city centre location. Developed and promoted in the right way, this could become a real asset for city centre dwellers.

By Parky

I’d love to see a fantastic urban pocket park on the site of the Major Street carpark. Just imagine friends (rather than cars) basking in the sunshine, or relaxing under the statuesque planes. How about a green oasis for an urban picnic surrounded by a mass of coloured flowers humming with insects? Wouldn’t it be good to hear the shrieks of excited children playing rather than the passing trams….all presided over by the Crown Court Tower.

By Naomi Burl

Perfect spot is the Oxford Rd old BBC site. But I guess that’s going to be some lovely new office block

By Ever Hopeful

Pomona Docks – see the Skyliner blog, amongst other calls for it to become public space

By James Thorp

The river Irwell corridor and Peel Park are the best spots in Manchester and should become its green lungs. Peel Park is beautifully located on a bend of the River Irwell and has the potential to act as Manchester’s central park. Chapel Street is one of the most characterful streets in Manchester, with much more potential than the Northern Quarter. Now that Manchester is increasingly acting, and being seen, as one, the two authorities should work together to signpost and promote Peel Park as Manchester’s central park. Plans for the restoration of the park are, I believe, are now well advanced. Signposting across the Irwell should direct visitors along Chapel Street to this riverside park in the heart of the city.

By Paul Blackburn

2 words…. Pomona Island.

It has Size, Location, Transport links and would have a knock on affect in linking Salford’s new city centre (Media City) to Central Manchester.

By Dan

our canals are a wonderful asset with huge potential for improvement / greening / revitalisation – and we have plans – manchester and pennine waterway partnership top priority

By walter menzies

The Irwell Corridor and Pomona Strand, almost ready made for it. A linear park linking towns and districts of Greater Manchester should be a long term goal!

By Wellesley

A great headline but what are the chances of achieving anything under the auspices of this local government, the one that sacrificed half of Piccadilly Gardens on the alter of commercialism? Our city ‘fathers’, past and present, have no understanding of what it takes to make a city great. Their myopic view,most of the time, seems to be limited to how much they will make out of selling or granting planning permission on every square metre of the city.

By Ian Jones

More of a Trafford Park man myself

By Anonymous

I’ve often thought that we might be able to replicate, in part, something of the High Line along that disused section of track between Deansgate-Castlefield and Cornbrook. That would link some of the residential area to the southwest in with the city better, too.

By Josh Owens

Reclaiming Stevenson Square as urban oasis or pocket park is a fantastic city centre opportunity. An urban garden, cafe quarter, city orchard, outdoor cinema or performance space instead of roads and bus lay-bys please!

By Naomi Burl

There’s a key component missing from this worthy discussion piece. Quality urban green space must be underpinned by a strategic approach to funding and management. Without effective revenue there’s no point building a ‘great park’ or any worthy greenspace for that matter. We’re talking plants not bricks. A great park has something for everyone. The German ‘Volkspark’ is a good example of a park with a program – whilst its roots were firmly in the modern movement, it offers up valuable lessons in social, environmental and economic good manners. But does Manchester really need a new urban public park? Should it not just sort out the urban spaces it already has? I’m looking at you Piccadilly Gardens! There’s certainly mileage in rejuvenating existing networks and spaces – pushing a ‘landscape urbanism’ approach to urban planning. (it’s how the great garden cities were designed – see Raymond Unwin). For all its ‘gated community’ critics Liverpool One has a fantastic greenspace in Chavasse Park. It always looks good – why? Because it’s privately maintained by Grosvenor. LCC could never afford this level of landscape maintenance with its diminishing funds. Its clear Local Authorities need to think differently and there are a number of non-traditional funding models emerging (multi-agency, additional taxation, bonds and commercial finance, endowments, community sector). They offer exciting opportunities for new and reworked open space – this should be the focus of our green infrastructure revolution. Once we have the governance sorted we can spend with confidence. Space before buildings !!

By B.Bethall

The Land Trust seems to be a good model for involving communities and has a track record for involving communities now

By Paul Blackburn

Pomona docks is already used as an urban park, with stunning wildlife and views of the city.

By Mr C

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