In our last communication on Ryebank Fields we said that we would give members a more detailed update once the current stage of MMU’s developer selection process had been completed.
This stage of the process is taking longer than originally expected and is still ongoing. In the meantime, we can report that a group of board members have now met (virtually) with four shortlisted developers for a presentation on their early plans and an initial question and answer session. We have given some initial feedback on how well aligned the initial plans are with the CLT’s Expectations and Aspirations.
Chorlton Community Land Trust’s position re Ryebank Field has always been that should development go ahead, the CLT wishes to engage proactively with MMU and their selected development partner to ensure an exemplar development, with the best possible features reflecting the aspirations of local residents.
This should not be taken that the CLT’s position is pro-development. The CCLT is however preparing for the possibility that the development goes ahead and is aiming to ensure any proposed development is extensively consulted upon with meaningful local community involvement. The CCLT recognises that there is a strong anti-development opinion in the local community in relation to Ryebank Fields and in no way does the CCLT wish to detract from the efforts of campaigners to stop development on the site.
As promised in a previous post, we are pleased to share two documents intended largely to influence developers’ plans. They are: an updated Expectations and Aspirations document which replaces the one published last Autumn; and a new Environmental Protection and Enhancement report by a CLT working group which goes in to this area in more depth.
It’s been a few months since we last updated our members on our involvement in Ryebank Fields following Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) putting the land on the market in September last year.
We reported then that the CLT was expecting to engage more intensively in early spring 2021, when MMU had shortlisted a final cohort of prospective development partners. We can now confirm that while the timetable has shifted a little, we are now anticipating beginning detailed engagement with the shortlisted developers in May 2021.
The governors of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have now decided to progress with the sale of the Ryebank Fields site and has begun to market the site to developers through agents Cushman & Wakefield.
Should development go ahead, the CLT wishes to engage proactively with MMU and their selected development partner to achieve an exemplar scheme at Ryebank Fields.
We acknowledge that some people in our community, including some CLT members, are opposed to any development on Ryebank Fields. To ensure we have appropriate support, the CLT surveyed its members last month and has secured a mandate to engage in the process and to aim for a development that exceeds the Development Framework adopted for the site by Manchester City Council.
The CLT Board believe that a high-quality development on this site, building on the expectations of the Development Framework, can raise the bar for sustainable low carbon community living alongside nature within the City of Manchester.
To this end, we have captured the views of members from the Early Feedback Engagement Survey and fed these into an overarching Expectations and Aspirations Statement that sets out our broad position as we begin to engage in the development process, given the Development Framework’s commitment for developers to “work with a local community housing group to develop part, or all of the site” and to ensure there is “extensive engagement with the local community”.
As stated previously the CLT Board decided not to put a paper to the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) governing body who discussed the Fields at their meeting at the end of March, 2020 so as not to stand in the way of those campaigning against any development. Despite groups making submissions asking the governors not to sell the land for housing and presenting alternative uses, the governors decided to progress with the sale. Since then asbestos has been found on the site at surface level. MMU has commissioned more site investigations, installed fencing and urged local residents not to access the land.
Chorlton CLT has been invited, along with other community groups, to make written representations about Ryebank Fields to landowner MMU’s Board of Governors which meets in March. We have decided not to write in at this point. We don’t want our position to interpreted as simply being “pro development” and in opposition to groups who don’t want any development at all. If these groups are successful in convincing MMU not to sell the land the CLT will be happy to accept this position.
Ryebank Fields are a part of my life. For the last decade, I have run, picked blackberries, played with my son and walked my dog there. I have watched as the oaks have grown and the aspen grove has spread. Arriving today to find brambles cleared, a new steel gate, men in high vis jackets and geotechnical survey rigs at work was a shock and, I have to admit, felt like a violation. So why have I not opposed development on the site?