Mayfield: ‘Amid concrete and clay and general decay nature must still find a way’
Mayfield is a regeneration scheme unlike any other, providing real, positive economic, environmental and social impact to the city and people of Manchester.
The Mayfield Partnership – a public-private partnership comprising regeneration specialist U+I, Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and LCR – is transforming a huge swathe of derelict brownfield land in the city centre into a distinctive, imaginative and diverse mixed-use neighbourhood. With a £1.4bn gross development value and spanning 24 acres, it is the largest and most significant regeneration scheme in Manchester right now.
Over the next ten years, Mayfield will deliver 1,500 homes, 1.6m-sq-ft commercial space, 300,000-sq-ft retail and leisure facilities and 11 acres of public realm, including a 6.5-acre park – the city centre’s first new public park in over 100 years.
Creating a new green lung for Manchester
A beautiful and safe urban oasis, designed by Studio Egret West, Mayfield Park will be a transformative and sustainable public amenity for the people of the city and Greater Manchester, turning a derelict wasteland into a lush, biodiverse and healthy amenity for the whole community. An independent ecological report concluded that the provision of the park alone provides a net gain in biodiversity for the entire Mayfield Strategic Regeneration Framework.
Mayfield Park will provide a range of facilities, including a running track, play areas, riverside walkway, wetland boardwalk, terraced garden, open lawns and a variety of seating options, ensuring all members of the community are catered for and have spaces they can visit and enjoy.
Over 11,000-sq-m of soft landscape – of which 5,000-sq-m is riverside habitat – will create environments to support bird, fish, pollinating insect and bat populations. A diverse planting strategy, including 146 new trees of 43 different species, wildflower lawns, shrubs and flowering plants, will also add to the richness of the experience for human visitors.
Manchester city centre's first new park in over 100 years sits on the banks of the River Medlock, which meanders through the 6.5 acres of open space.
The approach is to create planting communities similar to that found in nature: a ‘designed ecology’, where art and science combine to create richly-vegetated and floral landscapes that boost ecosystem services and seasonal interest, all the while creating a more sensory experience.
Six planting character areas will be integrated across Mayfield: street planting; wildflower meadow; grassland; wetland mosaic; scrub; woodland and groves. Each of these is a response to its microclimate and morphological context to ensure its longevity and visual appeal.
Trees will be strategically located to frame views across the park, creating a sequential experience where the scale of each space varies between enclosed and open. This will form a sense of exploration and in key moments communicate a greater sense of scale.
These robust trees, in a mix of native and non-native species, have been specified to stand up to a changing climate and the range of activities that will take place across the park. Notably, a variety of mature trees are set to be planted before the park’s opening to provide immediate environmental and aesthetic benefits. They are now establishing in Knutsford Nursery before making their final journey to the site later this year.
Mayfield will feature a huge range of plant species to create a lush environment and support biodiversity. The trees are now establishing in a local nursery before being planted on site later this year.
Conditions in the park vary: waterside locations will be damper and subject to occasional flooding whereas elevated, banked, south facing positions will have much drier ground conditions. A mixture of trees will be plated to suit these micro-climates, which will result in a rich range of species with different leaf types, colour and blossoms. Mayfield Park will become an urban arboretum where this variety can be celebrated and communicated to visitors.
Across the wider 24-acre Mayfield site, the significant green infrastructure (more than 11 acres) will provide a range of considerable social and environmental benefits for the people and city of Manchester:
• Providing increased access to natural space
• Improving long-term air pollution through substantial tree planting
• Helping to regulate the local climate through increased tree canopy coverage and shading
• Reducing long-term noise pollution from nearby roads and railway
• Creating new habitats for wildlife
Importantly, the Mayfield Partnership has committed to creating an estate management strategy in consultation with the community and industry experts that ensures Mayfield Park becomes an exemplar urban green space that endures as a safe, stimulating and sustainable place for everyone in the city. A ‘Friends of Mayfield Park’ group is also being launched to ensure full community involvement and kickstart meanwhile activities with local groups as work progresses on site.
Resurrecting a forgotten river
The Rivers Irk, Irwell and Medlock run through Manchester City Centre mostly behind or below buildings, covered by culverts.
At Mayfield, the River Medlock, which has been buried under a concrete culvert for the past five decades, will be resurrected, replanted and restored to flow through the centre of the park. 365m of newly-revealed river will create a new habitat to encourage wildlife and allow people to connect with a wilder type of landscape in the city centre, whilst setting a new benchmark for riverside environments.
Rock weirs and pools within the river channel will also create additional habitat and enhance the sounds of flowing water, creating a calming environment for visitors.
The River Medlock is one of Manchester’s founding rivers. Having lay hidden beneath concrete culverts for 50 years, it is now being uncovered to create allow sunlight to hit vegetation, creating a lush green space and new habitats for wildlife and plant species.
A sustainable future
In line with Manchester’s Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, Mayfield will be part of a new era that transforms the industrialised watercourses back into wildlife corridors, weaving nature back into the city and connecting out to the surrounding countryside.
The archaeology team from Salford University has discovered 13 wells across the site since construction work started in late 2020. The structural integrity and water of each of these have been subject to stringent tests, and three have been found to be safe for irrigation use. This means that 20-cu-m of water per day can be pumped from each well to nourish the plants and trees on site, reducing the burden on the mains supply and providing significant sustainability benefits.
The park has been designed for a long-term sustainable future, accommodating a number of flooding scenarios – day-to-day and for 1-in-100-year climate change flooding – to ensure that there will be no upstream or downstream impact. This strategy, which uses the site topography and incorporates a designated ‘dry’ edge at the site’s perimeter, will allow the park to remain fully operational and open during infrequent flooding events, providing resilience and confidence. Consultations have also taken place to ensure that the park will be enjoyed in all weathers and seasons, with shade offered in the summer or shelter in the winter.
Mayfield Park will be an attractive, flexible and resilient space, able to cater for a range of events and climate scenarios in the heart of the city centre
Providing spaces for everyone
The Mayfield Partnership’s aspiration is to create an inclusive public park providing access to nature for all kinds of age groups and people. It will be accessible to all for a variety of uses.
A range of flexible, landscaped and informal spaces will attract children to play, young people to meet with friends and adults and older people to engage in physical activities. However, opportunities to play in the park will not be limited to the designated playground. The approach has been to create all-age play, with the opportunity to play and exercise throughout the park but with ‘Play Island’ as a destination play space.
As well as offering a calm and natural resource in which people can relax and unwind, Mayfield Park will also support more active uses. The open ‘May Field’ will provide a flexible space for group sports and informal exercise such as ball games and frisbee. New bridge connections create walking and running loops, whilst dedicated areas within the park have been designated for skateboarding.
Similarly, Mayfield has been designed to play host to a range of arts and cultural events. The ‘May Field’ will create a blank canvas for a variety of programmed uses; large seating terraces can be used as auditoria space and a number of other areas provide flexible space for exhibitions or pop-ups.
Creating inclusive and accessible environments starts with the simple premise that inclusion is embedded in the design process – to remove barriers and continuously challenge and interrogate the design. The strategic approach to access, inclusion and delivering a scheme that exceeds minimum requirements, means that in developing Mayfield, people will be able to use the scheme safely, with dignity, comfort, convenience and confidence.
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment’s inclusive design principles have been incorporated, putting people at the heart of the park’s design and offering choice when a single design solution will not meet everyone’s needs without undue separation. From the outset, the following five principles have been embedded as part of design deliberations and output to ensure that all parts of the built environment:
• Can be used safely, easily and with dignity by all regardless of disability, age, gender, culture or ethnicity
• Are convenient and welcoming with no disabling barriers, so everyone can use them independently without undue effort, separation or special treatment
• Are flexible and responsive taking account of what different people say they need and want, so people can use them in different ways
• Are realistic, offering more than one solution to help balance everyone’s needs, recognising that one solution may not work for all.
• At a minimum, the design should be welcoming to the wider community and accommodate those who have specific requirements.
The urban neighbourhood will be accessible, open and welcoming to all, allowing anyone to enjoy access nature and engage in physical activity.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester:
“Mayfield is one of the most important regeneration projects in Manchester, with the potential to completely transform this corner of the city. The scheme will deliver a new park in Manchester city centre, the first to be created here in 100 years. It is available for everyone to use and an example of building back better and greener following the pandemic.
“I commend the Partnership’s progress during such a difficult year, which is testament to its ambition and commitment to making Mayfield an exemplary place for people to live, work and play.”
Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council:
"The Mayfield scheme will deliver real improvements and opportunities for Manchester people. Not only will it see the creation of a significant new city centre green space for people to enjoy – something which was integral to the masterplanning of this development – but it will also create thousands of new jobs, transforming an unloved and largely underused part of the city centre into a world-class gateway."
Site plan of Mayfield showing the scale and range of amenities available within the park.