Saving Ryebank Fields - The fight continues
Greater Manchester Lib Dems have campaigned against development of Ryebank Fields for many years. I fully support the Friends of Ryebank Fields in resisting plans to build on them.
Ryebank Fields, as a former landfill site, is completely unsuitable for development. It is 'made ground', meaning a thin layer of clay has been overlaid on top of the landfill to reclaim the land.
Such sites can really only be used as nature reserves and wild spaces. The ground is so unstable that MMU had to stop using it as a sports field decades ago. Building on the land would be unbelievably expensive, accident-prone and dangerous. It would release toxic heavy metals and asbestos currently locked away under the clay. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)'s inept contractors already left lumps of asbestos lying around onthe Fields after a botched survey in 2020. They then took months to clean it up after being informed by the public.
- MMU has proposed to build 120 homes on the Fields. The plans are for a mix of 'executive homes' and what is termed 'affordable' housing – but without ANY truly affordable social housing.
- No social housing goes against Labour-run Manchester City Council's own rules and is the complete opposite of what Chorlton and Manchester need.
- The local road network is already overburdened on both the Trafford and Manchester sides of the Fields.
- The Fields are likely to conceal WW2-era unexploded bombs well below the surface which could detonate if disturbed.
The fields have become a valuable ecological asset and 'accidental' nature reserve since MMU ceased active use of the Fields in the 1990s. The 1400+ trees on site include a rare primary aspen thicket, historic Manchester Black Poplar trees, ancient hedgerows and dozens of threatened native plant species. Since 2000 these have been joined by new oak trees and a community orchard. Animals such as endangered bats, bees and butterflies, rare birds and even deer have been spotted on the Fields, which form part of a vital natural corridor across Greater Manchester.
Local Lib Dems are working with the Friends of Ryebank Fields to have it recognised as a site of Special Biological Interest (SBI). As if that wasn't enough, Ryebank Fields also boasts a visible section of the ancient Anglo-Saxon earthwork known as the Nico Ditch. Across Manchester, Historic England has already protected other remnants of this ancient monument.
An application to protect the section in Ryebank Fields is underway. Lib Dems on both sides of the city boundary are closely involved in the campaign to save Ryebank Fields, including Dr Anna Fryer in Stretford and geologist Robin Grayson FGS in Chorlton. Former Chorlton Lib Dem Councillor Victor Chamberlain also opposed an earlier proposal to build on the Fields.
I am proud that the Friends of Ryebank Fields have such strong community support. I couldn't be more fully behind the campaign to preserve this vital wild space and the biodiversity it nurtures, which is such an important bulwark against devastating climate change.