This is a personal opinion and does not reflect the views of Hulme Green Party or Manchester Green Party.
It seems that these are the last days of Hulme’s Birley Fields. Though full planning permission for the proposed campus is yet to be granted to Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) the organisation has fenced off the fields and begun digging up some of the plant-life.
The reality of MMU’s actions has stirred an angry reaction in the Hulme community with talk of occupying the green space in protest.
MMU is touting itself as one of the greenest universities in the country and I expect the new 7 building campus will push it up the People and Planet’s‘Green university’ list.
As part of the ‘Save Birley Fields’ campaign, we argued that the fields, which have grown naturally from derelict land over the past 30 years, are teeming with biodiversity and as the most intense area of green space in Hulme, was of great benefit to the community.
MMU have argued that it was just a ‘brownfield site’. For myself I only see trees, bushes and wild flowers.
There are arguments backwards and forwards on the benefits the new campus will bring to the neighbourhood but MMU is already primarily based in Hulme which as a consequence already has oneof the highest student densities (p17) in the city. Along the quarter of a mile from Oxford Road to the landmark Hulme Bridge, the buildings are almost exclusively MMU related or student accommodation. The new campus would extend this.
My main issue is not with the main academic building as promoted nicely on the MMU website. It’s that of the 7 buildings in the proposal, 5 of them are 10 storey student accommodation blocks that will take up the majority of the green space.
The protests against the original planning permission got surprising little coverage in the local press despite
- It being a major local election issue for Hulme
- Local campaigners attempting to engage the MMU to negotiate on the size of the campus and to deal with the clear additional problems the new campus would bring to the area
- A reportfrom MMU’s own researchers criticizing the quality of consultation with the local community.
During this period ironically MMU was awarded a contract from the government to train ‘community champions’.
In its behaviour MMU are little different to Barclays Bank
- getting the local council to ‘donate’ Birley Fields, public land (estimated value at least £10m) to the University
- using its influence to push its vision for Manchester through the ‘Manchester Corridor’ group on whose board sits MMU Vice Chancellor John Brooks, responsible for pushing the MMU/ Birley Fields proposal, the Council’s Leader, Richard Leese and Chief Exec Howard Bernstein.
- having Eamonn O’Neill on the MMU board of governors. Mr O’Neill is the managing editor of the Manchester Evening News, the biggest circulation local paper in the city. (MMU hastily removed the page when it was point out on facebook but as you can see…)
Ultimately they say the case for the campus as proposed, is an economic argument.
For Hulme, I can’t see it. MMU seems to have enough of Hulme already and this is a lot to lose for very little gain.
So it seems likely that the new Eco-campus will be built on the Birley Fields grasslands when the majority of that space can be saved. The MMU, as its doing already, will use it as a marketing ploy to attract new students.
But an Eco-campus built on wild urban meadow and that damages a community is a lie.
So I have a marketing message of my own.
Congratulations to the students who have passed their 2012 A-Levels, it’s a difficult step to get over.
So now you are looking at University places.
MMU has some good facilities and some great people work there. BUT if within your selection criteria are a University’s environmental credentials, I can’t recommend MMU.
Go somewhere more honest and more prepared to work with the community its based in.