Updated: Sunday, 5th July 2020 @ 5:57am

Hulme residents' protests over Manchester Metropolitan University's 'super-campus' on their backdoor mount

Hulme residents' protests over Manchester Metropolitan University's 'super-campus' on their backdoor mount

By James Briscoe

Hulme residents are protesting Manchester Metropolitan University’s £70m plan for a campus at Birley Fields.

Residents from over 250 Hulme households are part of an unprecedented letter, ‘Places for People’, from Housing Trust sent to Manchester City Council.

Residents’ fears include: height and massing of buildings, neighbour and amenity issues, loss of open spaces, access to community facilities and employment and training opportunities for local residents.

The letter states: “Residents feel that unless the issues raised above are addressed, the current application for development should be refused”.

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) submitted details of their super campus plan in February.

This submission, containing over 80 documents, is currently available on the City Council website.

Nigel Woodcock, a 48-year-old lecturer from Stretford, said: “I think the Birley Fields MMU plan will be a disaster for Hulme.

“In no way is this good for Manchester as a whole, it'll just turn Hulme into a divided ghetto, the students and the rest.

“This is also an aspect of Manchester City Council's war on nature.”

Mr Woodcock added that job benefits are negligible and most staff will be relocated from Didsbury and also worries about the future of Grade II listed buildings in Manchester.

The Manchester Green Party has identified the prospective MMU Birley Fields development as key for the future of Hulme.

Hulme Green Party candidate Ruth Bergan said: "The Green Party thinks it's healthy to have a diverse community and students have a place in that, but the scale of this development is not justified.

“We need to preserve our green spaces for both the environmental and the health benefits they bring.”

The Birley Fields site has been ear-marked for commercial use since the early 1990s.

The plan is to relocate MMU’s Faculties of Education and Health from Rusholme and Didsbury.

The site will include new public open space, student residences, car parking and facilities for community use, as well as new teaching accommodation for the two faculties.

According to MMU proposals, there will be up to 1,200 student beds, 42,000m² of open space (6.5 football pitches) and a 400 space car park.

They say the “community campus” would create around 340 jobs, and the university £29m additional annual value to Hulme and neighbouring Moss Side.

MMU vice-chancellor John Brooks said: "A brand new campus is not only good news for students and staff but puts the university into the heart of the community it serves”.

Manchester City Council say the new campus will bring new jobs and improved community and leisure activities.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of the City Council, said: “I’m particularly pleased to see the pledge that environmental sustainability will be at the heart of its design”.

One Manchester student said: “I found needles, saline pods, used condoms, ten empty whisky bottles, burnt foil and numerous beer cans and bottles under the footbridge and in bushes there [Birley Fields].  

“I visited over the course of two months, and none of it had been cleaned up.”

Despite the suggested benefits of MMU’s Birley Fields proposal, a study released in late 2009 said the large number of students in Britain’s university towns is a major problem.

"Students bring benefits to the places they live in, but too many residing in one area can impact negatively on a community, running down neighbourhoods and leaving places as ghost towns in the summer," said a government spokesperson.

PROPOSAL: What the proposed new Manchester Metropolitan campus in Hulme would look like if plans go ahead