Ryebank Fields is a wild, important and loved greenspace in the heart of Manchester, just a 15-minute bus ride from the MMU campus. It began its urban life as clay pits in the 17th century, providing material for the brickworks until they closed in the 1950s. They were subsequently filled with rubble and landfill, capped with topsoil and donated from the council to MMU to be used as a sports facility until 1996.
Since then, the fields have been left to rewild as the city grew around them, and a BioBlitz by MMU ecologists in 2015 revealed its incredible diversity: 64 plant species including the protected native bluebell, around 30 bird species using the habitat in spring with regular visits from a tawny owl and a whitethroat holding territory, and evidence of a fox earth and high-quality roosting and foraging potential for bat species.
Manchester Metropolitan University have been attempting to sell this site for several years. Local residents (#saveryebankfields) have been campaigning for the site the be returned to the community, arguing the proposals for ’70 executive homes’ do not address the lack affordable housing in Manchester, increase local flood risks by removing the 1600+ trees on the field, and do not align with government or local council targets to reduce impacts on the climate and biodiversity crisis. The fields are adored and regularly used by dog walkers and locals, giving the community a sense of place and pride where they plant apple trees, collect litter and teach forest-school classes to local pupils.
Students and members of the People & Planet society at MMU have been campaigning against the development plans for around 14 months, yet the university’s complex bureaucracy has meant it has been difficult to get our voices heard. We created an informal proposal which we submitted to the MMU Board of Governors to encourage them to consider alternative options if they did not sell the land but kept it for the benefit of students and the community.
On the 15th of December and on regular occasions through January (dates TBC) we will be running actions, guided walks and events on the site to spread awareness of its beauty and value among the student population. Keep an eye out for posters in the Chatham lifts for further details, I would love to see you there.
- Jessica Peach