Plans for the future of a former retail park in Manchester city centre are set to be given the green light today after years of fighting to turn it into a park. Central Retail Park on Great Ancoats Street – which was home to Toys R Us and Argos – was flattened after Manchester council bought for £37m in 2017.
Since then, the site has been at the centre of a bitter dispute over its use which saw the local authority lose a legal battle to temporarily turn it into a car park. Last year, the town hall published plans for a huge new office complex on the land which include a new green space which would be open to the public.
But Trees Not Cars – the campaign group which has called for the 10.5-acre site to become a green space – said the new plan is ‘a good start, but not enough’. Councillors are now set to approve the revised masterplan on Wednesday (March 22) following a six-week public consultation this year.
Manchester city council leader Bev Craig 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.”
The public consultation on the revised Strategic Regeneration Framework for the former Central Retail Park received 574 responses. According to a council report, one of the largest groups of comments were about the current use of the site by skateboarders, with some calling for this to be allowed to continue.
Many respondents supported the increase in publicly accessible green space on the site, the report said, but some said it should all be used as a public park. Concerns were also raised about the development planned for the site which neighbours a school, resulting in increased levels of air pollution in the area.
Responding to the comments in the report, the council said it recognises that the communities of Ancoats and New Islington want more green space and highlighted ‘significant new public realm investment’ across the city centre. This includes a £34m plan which involves making Ancoats Green ‘the green heart to the neighbourhood’ in the next phase of development for the area.
Following the consultation, the document 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 and be accessible, the council has said.
The exact timing of development will largely be driven by commercial office space and market requirements, according to the council. The local authority also said it has taken into account interest from the government to locate more civil service offices outside of London when designing the masterplan.