The Council’s executive will be asked to approve the Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) for the former retail site at a meeting last week (Weds 22 March).
The high-level development that sets out the principles for future planning applications for the site was originally agreed in 2020 and updated to inform a six-week consultation in January this year.
The SRF reacts to a range of opportunities for the site – each playing their own part in improving the area.
This includes supporting Manchester’s aim of becoming a zero carbon city by 2038, increasing the amount of greens space available to residents, creating sustainable economic growth and stimulating new employment opportunities.
Responses to the consultation were largely focused on the need to have usable green space and biodiversity, creating a welcoming area that should feel like a park – rather than a harder landscaped city centre space. Comments included a welcoming of the increased amount of new space compared to the previous SRF and respondents also raised the hope that the new green space would be created as a continuation of Cotton Field Park.
Following the consultation, the SRF has also been updated to include a new plan for how the development site will connect to wider walking and cycling routes. These will be well lit – reacting to responses in the consultation – along with accessible routes.
The key principles for future development include:
- The creation of a highly sustainable, commercially-led neighbourhood which also includes leisure uses and facilities for local people – diversifying the economy of the area and bringing brownfield land back into use
- Proposals to act as a catalyst for continued investment and innovation to boost sustainable economic growth
- Revised SRF has improved biodiversity and increased green space, extensive new public realm. The updated SRF increases the proposed green space compared to 2020 framework
- Improved connectivity aligns with aspirations to provide safe walking and cycling routes, and also encourages active travel
- The framework reacts to the need for quality office space in this part of the city centre, increasing employment opportunities
- Proposals could also create a new business hub providing opportunities for existing and new businesses to grow
The Government Property Agency (GPA) is also exploring options for delivering office solutions in Manchester, to meet the needs of various civil servant departments, which supports the Government’s commitment to locate more civil servants outside of London and support levelling up. Therefore, the framework also responds to potential interest from the GPA to locate government offices on the site.
The SRF proposes a phased approach to development, to allow the full potential of the site to be realised and to minimise disruption during construction. The exact timing of development will largely be driven by commercial office space and market requirements. The potential interest from the GPA to locate offices in the area gives a positive indication of current market demand.
The green space at the former retail park complements wider green investment elsewhere in Ancoats and New Islington, as well as the nearby, recently opened, Mayfield Park.
A planning application has now been submitted on a £30m public realm investment in Ancoats – including the new Ancoats Mobility Hub – which will create a new green heart to the city centre area.
The Council’s executive has also endorsed the Manchester Active Travel Strategy (Feb 2023), which supports our residents to make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys and encourages active travel and public transport to be part of our residents’ daily life.
Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:
“The development of the former Central Retail Park presents a number of key opportunities to deliver a really impactful programme of regeneration – increasing access to quality public green space, creating a green route to open up and celebrate Cotton Field Park, creating a highly sustainable office space that will support thousands of new jobs in an ecosystem that encourages business growth, and all while bringing an eyesore of a brownfield site back into constructive use. The feedback we received through the recent consultation has been a helpful guide in further developing the framework plan for bringing the former retail park back into use – and importantly the investment in a new public green space in our city centre, complementing Mayfield nearby, Electric Park, Cotton Field Park and the upcoming transformation of Ancoats Green.”