Manchester opens its first new park in 100 years, setting a new blueprint for sustainable development

Manchester’s first new public park in more than century has officially opened, transforming an area of the city that once gave birth to the industrial revolution into a lush, green urban oasis.

The 6.5-acre Mayfield Park is the first step in the £1.5bn Mayfield masterplan which is creating a new sustainable, mixed-use neighbourhood in the city centre – one of the UK’s largest urban regeneration projects.

Located next to the city’s Piccadilly train station, Mayfield Park provides Manchester city centre with a family-friendly, inclusive greenspace with major ecological and sustainability benefits, in an area that was the epicentre of the British textiles industry during the Industrial Revolution.

What was once a thriving network of print and dye works, breweries and bathhouses is now home to diverse range of 120 mature and semi-mature trees, 120,000 plants and shrubs, a vast public lawn, tranquil riverside walkways and the city’s largest play area. With future phases of development due to start imminently, the project will see jobs, communities and economic development return to previously forgotten part of Manchester’s industrial heritage.

At the heart of the park is the River Medlock – one of Manchester’s three founding rivers – which after more than 50 years under a concrete covering has been restored as a haven for nature. It has already attracted Kingfishers, Brown Trout, ducks and Canadian geese to populate previously derelict industrial land.

The park will act as a green lung for Manchester city centre, helping the city to meet its ambitious target of becoming net zero carbon by 2038. By recycling and reusing of materials during the construction, more than 240 tonnes of CO2 has already been saved. The park’s lawns and plants will benefit from a sustainable source of irrigation, thanks to a series of functioning Victorian wells which were discovered during construction, saving one tonne of carbon per year and up to three million litres of water.

Mayfield Park has been created by the public-private Mayfield Partnership which comprises regeneration specialist U+I, Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and LCR, the UK Government’s placemaking expert.

To mark its opening, 100 children from schools across the city were invited to be among the first to explore all it has to offer, experiencing yoga and mindfulness sessions, football masterclasses and history tours led by local experts.

Martyn Evans, Creative Director at U+I, said:

“After more than six years of planning, design and construction, working with our public partners and the local community, we are beyond thrilled to finally welcome the people of Manchester to their new park.

“Mayfield has always been an industrious part of this great city. In Victorian times it was a city within a city, powering Manchester’s role in the Industrial Revolution. As we look to the future it feels entirely appropriate that Mayfield will set a new blueprint for the creation of beautiful, progressive, sustainable neighbourhoods.

“All too often, green space is an afterthought in development. We wanted the city to feel an instant connection with this place, so we began with a park. As a new neighbourhood grows around the park, the stunning views and tranquil spaces the will be a key reason why people choose to live and work here.”

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council said:

“To see Mayfield come to life today has been a wonderful experience. And to see the park go from visualisation to reality –

and surpass our expectations – is a credit to the hard work that has gone into building and sculpting this former brownfield land into a world-class green space that this city, and local people, can be truly proud of.

“We believe in the power of this sort of space to be the green heart of our communities, which is why quality public areas should be considered a fundamental to development in Manchester. We know that access to green spaces have huge health and well-being benefits and I hope Mayfield Park becomes an oasis for our residents.

“This park marks the beginning of a long-term transformation for this part of Manchester – starting with the green space as a statement of intent about what we want to achieve as part of this highly sustainable, low carbon programme of regeneration. Along with the clear commitment we have to becoming a zero carbon city by 2038.”

Peter Hawthorne, CEO of LCR said:

“Mayfield Park is the culmination of years of hard work and planning. As the UK Government’s placemaking expert, LCR has been involved from the beginning helping to facilitate the collaborative effort between the public and private sectors and bringing together the shared vision to create long-term benefits for the city and people of Manchester.

“It’s been an immensely rewarding project to be a part of and it’s fantastic to finally be at the stage of being able to open the park to the public for the wider community to enjoy, placing Mayfield firmly on the map. Once complete, Mayfield will be an exceptional example of sustainably-led regeneration that showcases the potential of transport-linked land to create new public spaces that can be replicated across the UK’s towns and cities.”

For young visitors to the park, the star attraction will be a huge new public play area, featuring crawl tunnels, elevated rope bridges, wheelchair accessible play equipment and an 18m-long slide which crosses the River Medlock. Formed around six chimney-shaped towers reaching 10-metres high, the play area was designed and built by a local company and inspired by the area’s industrial heritage.

Mayfield Park sits alongside a range of historic buildings, including the landmark former station on Fairfield Street, which are being retained and redeveloped as part of the wider regeneration plans. The vast depot building has already been transformed into a new cultural venue, Depot Mayfield, which has helped to bring more than one million visitors to Mayfield since autumn 2019, following more than 30 years of decline.

Overall, the Mayfield regeneration scheme – one of the largest in the UK at 24-acres – is set to transform the gateway brownfield site next to the city’s mainline Piccadilly Station, into a stunning mixed used neighbourhood, delivering 1,500 homes, 1.6m sq ft of market-leading commercial space and 300,000 sq ft of retail and leisure facilities.

In 2020, the UK Government pledged £23m of investment from its Getting Building Fund – one of the largest investments in any single project – to Mayfield Park. This investment, delivered through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, is part of the Government’s strategy to support ‘shovel ready’ schemes that will help to drive economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis.