Chorlton CLT has the opportunity to embark on a project to set priorities for the regeneration of the commercial areas, principally along Wilbraham and Barlow Moor Roads. We have some funding from the Council’s Neighbourhood Investment Fund to kick start a process in partnership with other groups and councillors.
There has been a lot of press coverage recently highlighting the challenges faced by commercial and retail centres across the country. Like other places, Chorlton has seen many changes to local business and building use over recent years, but not seen a lot of investment. As we emerge from the Covid epidemic we foresee opportunities to do things differently and want to shape the future of Chorlton in line with the aspirations of people who live, work, and visit the area.
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.
We have now submitted a formal offer to the Co-op alongside our development partner Brook Finch and are awaiting a response. It is taking time, but there are ongoing discussions and things are moving forward.
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.
On the 26th May 2021, Chorlton Community Land Trust hosted an online Q&A session which was attended by 33 members. We provided an initial summary of recent developments internally in the CLT and an update on the Picture House and the Ryebank Fields process.
It was a lively session and we covered a lot of ground. The session was recorded for members who couldn’t attend, so please listen to the recording below to hear what we covered and get up to speed with the latest news.
Thanks again to everyone who joined us. We may be about to enter into a busy period and suspect there will be plenty of opportunities to engage with the projects we are working on.
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.
At the beginning of the year, we reported a number of positive developments on our plans for the Co-operative Funeralcare site, which we are referring to as The Picture House. In particular, our constructive discussion with the planning team at Manchester City Council who were broadly supportive of our scheme, recognising that it retains the original Gaumont Cinema building which is now classed as a “non-designated heritage asset”.
On this basis, we submitted our final bid to Co-operative Group, with our development partners Brook Finch, hopeful that it would be taken forward. However, the initial response from the Group is that the commercial terms we have proposed are not sufficient for them to accept. However, they have kept the door open for us to revise the offer.
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 Chorlton CLT Board met to discuss our position on the question of closing Longford Road as part of the Cycle Lane plans. The CLT has a direct interest in the Co-op Funeralcare building and has floated the idea previously of closing Nicolas Road in order to extend the outdoor space and to create a larger pedestrianised area linking into the precinct. Below is an illustration which gives a sense of our vision.
We believe the closure of Nicolas Road would create a bigger dividend for more people as it would create a genuinely valuable space that connects the school and library to the precinct in a car free zone and could be used for markets, outdoor gatherings and on street eating/drinking, and open up public realm improvement opportunities which could enhance the local environment and attract more footfall to the heart of Chorlton.
Our proposal would be to experiment with an initial closure of Nicolas Road using planters from the junction of Manchester Road to the car park entrance as shown. This would quickly create a new public space at the heart of Chorlton that we would like to encourage local businesses, groups and residents to use as the weather improves and we await widespread vaccine in the first part of 2021. Three immediate opportunities could then be explored:
The monthly Makers Market would immediately have a more socially distanced space to operate within.
Oswald Road School’s distanced queueing arrangement at school start up time could have more space to work with.
New meanwhile uses that test the market for food stalls and occasional performances that are proposed for the future redevelopment of the Picture House.
If successful, we would aim longer term for a permanent solution in the context of the wider redevelopment of the precinct and access requirements of the medical centre.
We appreciate that part of the rationale for selecting Longford Road may be to reduce cars doing school runs to St Johns, however we cannot see that the closure will materially reduce the number of trips; parents concerned about their children’s safety are not likely to drop their children outside the library to walk the last part. They are instead likely to drive up one of the other roads to get to the school gates. To help ease this ongoing challenge, one of the emerging use ideas for The Picture House could be a breakfast club and drop off for the two schools. This would allow children to be safely dropped off in the morning and walked into school by volunteer parents and staff; we believe this could have a much bigger material impact on car journeys in the morning.
Ultimately there may be a case to close both Nicolas and Longford Road, however the plan right now is to experiment with one closure and to learn lessons on its impact. Our strong preference is to experiment with Nicolas Road in the first instance and to then consider Longford Road once lessons have been learnt.