Jonathan Schofield salutes a wonderful scheme for Manchester

People get excited. I am. We are to get a 6.5 acre park in the city centre for definite. This is not conjecture, this is real. 

Mayfield Partnership’s dream of a walk in the park for everyone by the bonny banks of a revivified River Medlock has been boosted by £23m. This is part of the government’s Getting Building Fund. 

The new park, designed by Studio Egret, will be a huge boost for the city centre and for residents and visitors

The press statement reads: 'The UK Government is to invest £23 million in Mayfield – the progressive, mixed-use urban neighbourhood being created in the heart of Manchester and anchored by the city centre’s first new public park in 100 years. 

'The investment – part of UK’s strategy to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic – will fund the creation of the 6.5-acre Mayfield Park and other infrastructure and public realm works necessary for the delivery of one of the most significant and catalytic regeneration projects in the UK.  

'A beautifully-designed and safe urban oasis, Mayfield Park will be a transformative and sustainable public amenity for the people of Greater Manchester, created along the rejuvenated banks of the River Medlock which winds through the 24-acre site next to Piccadilly Station.

'Providing much needed city centre green space, the park will also enable the delivery of the first phase of commercial development at Mayfield, which includes 320,000 sq ft of commercial space across two buildings.'

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What Mayfield Park should look like

If you want to know how big 6.5 acres is then think Piccadilly Gardens but the whole area from the 1960s City Tower and Piccadilly Plaza side right to Oldham Street and from Primark to the Ibis Styles Hotel on Portland Street. That’s the scale, more or less. 

The new park, designed by Studio Egret, will be a huge boost for the city centre and for residents and visitors. It will go part way to meeting the aspiration of many who feel the central Manchester area has too few green spaces. This will sort the eastern side of the city centre.

When the green spaces around the cathedral are completed along the defunct Victoria Street the north western side will be perked up, especially as the footbridges there will connect with a new pocket park at Greengate, Salford. 

Part of the Mayfield park site is presently occupied by the excellent Freight Island food and drink extravaganza. It also once hosted Mayfield Baths which was part of this remarkable story.

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The Freight Island site from the former station platforms

Mayfield is a £1.4bn regeneration project 'transforming a previously derelict part of Manchester’s industrial heritage into a distinctive and imaginative mixed-use neighbourhood. Over the next ten years, Mayfield will provide 1500 homes, 1.6m sq ft of market-leading commercial space and restaurants, bars, cafés, shops, cultural spaces and a hotel.

'It is envisaged Mayfield will create opportunities for more than 10,000 office, retail, leisure jobs, in addition to over 630 FTE construction jobs, up to 2500 supply chain roles and 25 apprenticeships annually. Over the next decade the project is forecast to deliver over £7.4bn of GVA to the local economy.

'The plans are being delivered by the public-private Mayfield Partnership, a joint venture of regeneration specialist U+I Plc and Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and developer LCR.

'In addition to the park and enabling works, the investment will support the creation of between four and 6km of roads, cycleways and walkways across Mayfield.'

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A guided tour of the Mayfield site on the former station platform level

James Heather, development director at U+I, said: “This investment recognises the catalytic economic and social contribution that Mayfield will make to the heart of one of the UK’s most progressive, competitive and open-minded cities. 

“We’ve always believed that the public park will be among the most important things we deliver at Mayfield. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into focus just how important accessible public spaces are to our collective wellbeing and Mayfield Park will become a place of significant mental health benefits, reduced stress, improved activity and fitness levels – while fulfilling Manchester's need for more green and pedestrianised areas. 

“Mayfield is without doubt one of the most significant and best-connected strategic regeneration opportunities in the UK – a place of spectacular architecture and new jobs, growth and open space. We are thrilled that the government shares our belief in the many benefits - economic, social and lifestyle - that it will deliver to the people of Manchester.” 

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Mayfield abandoned station adjacent to the new park site

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "The truly transformative potential of the Mayfield project should not be underestimated - and this funding will not just unlock the opportunity to bring forward the new city park, but in reality paves the way for the entire Mayfield project to be delivered over the next decade - which is without doubt one of the best connected sites in the region, directly adjacent to Piccadilly Train Station.    

"To provide a new green space in the city centre at the scale proposed is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring life back to an underused part of the city centre, and create a real destination of choice. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to consider the Mayfield site as a 24-acre new urban landscape, providing a green environment that accommodates significant buildings planned for the site - rather than the traditional idea of green space sitting adjacent to new development. This is the sort of ambition we should be pitching for when we consider how we use urban space differently in the future to develop new green spaces for the benefit of our communities. 

"This investment is particularly welcome at a time when Manchester is focused on economic recovery following the pandemic. The Mayfield project illustrates a city determined to continue to grow and be successful for our residents, while generating significant employment opportunities."

Mayfield tours

The writer of this piece, Jonathan Schofield, runs popular tours around Mayfield. The tours explore the vast and incredibly impressive former station and the commentary is alive with fascinating stories. People even get to do something weird. The picture shows Mayfield in the 1920s with the present Mayfield Park site just south of Mayfield Station, which in turn is just south-east of London Road Station, now Piccadilly Station. You can book the tours here.

One guest on Saturday 1st August tweeted: 'Wonderful tour at the weekend of the 24-acre brownfield site for Manchester's new urban neighbourhood Mayfield... with Jonathan Schofield.'

Aa Mayfield