THE push towards devolution, increasingly ambitious property schemes, major scientific investment, a thriving food and drink scene, and growing cultural enterprise... Manchester is a city in full throttle. But, in a whirlwind of skyscraper developments and new city complexes, one thing sadly remains lacking: green spaces.
City Forest Park will be bigger than London’s Hyde Park and Regent Park put together
That’s why City of Trees - a branch of Bruntwood’s Oglesby Charitable Trust, designed to ‘green up’ disused spaces throughout Manchester - is planning to transform 800 acres of land across Bury, Bolton and Salford into a ‘new green beating heart’ for the city.
Whilst boundaries may change, City Forest Park will match New York’s iconic Central Park in scale and be bigger than London’s Hyde Park and Regent Park put together.
Following a valley route along the rivers Croal and Irwell, the city’s new lung will be connected to the city centre via road, river and cycleway. Also a cultural hub, there are plans to partner with arts organisations like HOME and host events spanning pop-up theatre to markets and summer picnics.
As well as the Irwell Sculpture Trail, the park will additionally encompass several forestry commission sites, including: Prestwich Forest Park, Philips Park, Drinkwater Park, Waterdale, Prestwich Clough, Silverdale and Hurst Wood. Potential future expansions could include council-owned parks throughout Bury and Salford.
Already one of Manchester's biggest green spaces, the site - once home to coal mining and chemical works, with Agecroft Power Station dominating the skyline - was recipient of a government-funded regeneration project in 2007, under the Lower Irwell Valley Integrated Action Programme. It’s now home to over 250,000 trees and 300 species of wildlife; with habitats include woodland, meadow heath and wetland.
However, there is still much to be done and the space remains underutilised - which is why City of Trees is encouraging backers to invest in the ambitious new scheme. The organisation is hoping to secure around £1m of investment within the first three years, primarily through grants and sponsorships, but private funding will be also be needed to bring the vision to life.
Other partners behind the plans include local authorities, architect BDP and the Forestry Commission.
Tony Hothersall, from City of Trees, said: “With the right investment, we will be able to realise City Forest Park’s full potential and give the region the inspiring green space and culture hub it deserves and needs.
“We can transform the landscape by planting thousands of trees, bringing woodland back into use and creating wildflower meadows. Added to this we aspire to invest in new paths, cycle ways and picnic areas, signage and way-markers to ensure that it is visitor friendly site for communities to use and make their own.”
He added: “Nothing exists on this scale in Greater Manchester and we need to act now in order to create our City Forest Park for the future, truly cementing us at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.
“Make an investment today and realise the vision for Greater Manchester’s City Forest Park.”