To: Manchester City Council

Give Ryebank Fields back to the people

Give Ryebank Fields back to the people

We, the undersigned, call upon Manchester City Council formally to request the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to return to the people the land known as Ryebank Fields (also known locally as the “clay pits”) – that is, to give it back to the Council, at no cost, to be used for the benefit of the local communities of Chorlton, Firswood, and Stretford, as a Local Green Space. [1]

Why is this important?

Additional information:
1. The land was given to MMU by the Council in the 1950s/70s, to be used for sports and recreation (as per the terms that it was bequeathed to the people earlier in the 20th Century). MMU now has no moral right to profit from this land now that they don’t require it, having neglected it for many years.

2. The fields were claypits in the early 1900s and then used as an uncontrolled landfill site. Any development will risk un-earthing capped contamination which may cause gas leakage and particles would be distributed in the air in the locality. Anecdotal evidence notes WWII air-raid shelters and possibly asbestos on the site. There is Japanese Knotweed on the site that makes it unsuitable for property development and creates a risk of water-borne Japanese Knotweed spread into the surrounding residential area. When Peverill Crescent was built in the 1950s it was noted then that Ryebank Fields was not suitable for building due to the landfill area. It is also a flood risk area and the removal of over 1,000 trees would increase this risk for local properties.

3. There is an ancient ditch – the Nico Ditch – that is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, which runs through Ryebank Fields, and which deserves Ancient Monument status. The Friends of Ryebank Fields are in the process of applying for this protected status. The area around this ditch should be protected and left untouched. The Friends group wishes to restore the ditch into a biodiverse corridor.

4. There are irresolvable traffic problems associated with the building of 70 or more homes, which make it an unworkable proposition. There is already evidence of serious traffic problems on Longford Road and Ryebank Road. Any increased traffic in this area would create an unacceptable risk for families and young children who need to access the local schools. During peak hours, it is virtually impossible for emergency vehicles to use these roads.

The Trafford side of the site has busy roads – especially on MUFC match days – and would not support increased vehicular access.

5. Chorlton has little open green space when compared to other areas of similar population density, and the areas neighbouring Ryebank Fields suffer from poor air quality, with commensurate negative impacts on health.[2] The large number of trees on the fields serves to clean the air of pollutants, especially micro-particles. This is particularly important for anyone bringing up children in the area, since it has now been proven that there is a link between intelligence and air pollution, and that pollution also increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.[3]

6. Furthermore, the fields have developed considerable biodiversity of nature and wildlife, and are a home to foxes, badgers, bats and over 30 bird species including Tawny Owl, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.[4] This would all be destroyed. There are also over 1,400 trees on the fields, according to an audit carried out by the Friends group's volunteers in August 2018.

7. The local community have formed a group called the Friends of Ryebank Fields, and are developing plans to further boost the biodiversity of the area, and to promote the use of the area for educational purposes (e.g., forest schools). We believe that the community would be served best by allowing the to realise these plans.

8. MMU claim to be a “green university” with laudable sustainability policies. Indeed, in 2017 MMU was awarded 1st Place in the “People & Planet University League” based on “ethical and environmental performance”.[5] In MMU’s Environmental Sustainability Statement (2017) the Vice-Chancellor, Malcolm Press states, “Manchester Met is in an exceptionally strong position to help drive a more sustainable society and economy. We contribute to this through… our continued progress towards reducing the environmental impact of our business activities.” [emphasis added] The same document says of biodiversity:
The conservation of biodiversity is of global importance for many ecological and economic reasons. Biodiversity and green space is important to the health of our planet, and for the health and wellbeing of our communities. Our contribution to preserving and enhancing biodiversity and green spaces, particularly in densely populated urban areas such as Manchester, is vital.
[MMU Environmental Sustainability Statement, p.20]

*** Petition to be submitted 1st December 2018 ***

Footnotes:
[1] "Local Green Space" mentioned in this document: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework--2
See also the latest government guidance around planning, which includes the mitigation of flooding, which it's assumed will become an even more serious problem due to further climate change:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/open-space-sports-and-recreation-facilities-public-rights-of-way-and-local-green-space
[2] Air pollution reduces life expectancy by six months on average in Greater Manchester, and Manchester Council ranks as the second worst in England for PM10 particulate pollution, which is linked to conditions such as lung cancer and asthma.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/14/people-in-manchester-exposed-to-dangerous-levels-of-air-pollution
[3] “Air pollution may harm cognitive intelligence, study says” (BBC News). https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45326598
Air pollution causes a "huge" reduction in intelligence: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/27/air-pollution-causes-huge-reduction-in-intelligence-study-reveals
[4] Manchester Metropolitan University BioBlitz of Ryebank Fields: https://stuartmarsden.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-history-and-natural-history-of-mmus.html
[5] Tweet from @MMUEnvironment (14th Nov, 2017): https://twitter.com/MMUEnvironment/status/930352103024922624
[6] MMU's Environmental Sustainability Strategy (2014-20): https://issuu.com/mmuenvironment/docs/final_mmu_ess_issuu

How it will be delivered

We have decided to extend our petition into 2019, whilst the campaign continues to gain momentum. MMU have been forced to undertake further "consultations" - or at least to employ developers that will (?!) - so this means we have more time before formal plans are submitted.

We will deliver the petition to the Town Hall when the time is right. We will ask Sir Richard Leese to receive them in person.

Ryebank Playing Fields, Manchester

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


Reasons for signing

  • And MMU were voted the greenest university in the UK! I know this area, fairly well, and it would be a crime if it were to be developed. Please sign and share.
  • Time to stop building on green field sites. I know it costs more to build on brownfield, but Manchester is full of wasteland and has hardly a tree. Building housing is clearly massively profitable, so time the builders absorbed those costs.
  • This seems like a no-brainer

Updates

2018-09-17 22:16:57 +0100

500 signatures reached

2018-09-02 22:43:06 +0100

100 signatures reached

2018-09-02 16:49:35 +0100

50 signatures reached

2018-09-02 12:55:16 +0100

25 signatures reached

2018-09-02 11:40:40 +0100

10 signatures reached