Campaigners protest against plans for new homes on Ryebank Fields in South Manchester

Granada Reports journalist Andrew Fletcher went to meet those protesting.

Residents are fighting proposals to build 120 homes on a green space close to where they live - through fears it will destroy the local wildlife.

Campaigners say Ryebank Fields between Chorlton and Old Trafford in South Manchester, is a precious habitat for birds and wildlife, and have been campaigning for years to stop it being built on.

The land is owned by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), and in 2023, Step Places and Southway Housing launched a consultation over the land to bring forward plans to build a residential development.

The plans include keeping 1.3 hectares of the parkland, as well as a large central community hub surrounded by a market square and growing spaces, a nature path walkway, new habitats, a planting policy across the whole site and 2.1 hectares of green space across the development to support local biodiversity.

Campaigners have been at the gates of the land for over two weeks Credit: ITV News

However, residents have called the plans "greenwashing" and are accusing MMU of "crimes against nature".

They claim say Ryebank Fields was gifted to the university under covenant for educational purposes only, but have now accused the university of making money "at the expense of residents and wildlife".

Tom, who has lived in the area for 40 years, said: "When I first came here I used to play football on the fields, and I've watched it as I've aged, turn into this beautiful re-wilded space, and it would be such a shame to lose it.

"Once it's gone it will be gone forever".

Campaigners say they will not give up the fight to stop Ryebank Fields being built on Credit: ITV Granada

Campaigners have been protesting at the gates to the site for a number of weeks, and on Wednesday 3 July, gathered as contractors arrived to survey the land and carry out investigation work, to ask them not to go through.

The contractors did get onto the land but the campaigners say they will not give up.

In a statement Save Ryebank Fields Campaign group said: "We are acting to protect the Chorlton and Stretford communities, especially our children and our local wildlife and natural reserve."

Ryebank Fields is public land that was gifted to Manchester Metropolitan University as a sports facility in the mid 1970s.

The area was formerly a clay pit for Jackson’s Brickworks, which then became an unregistered tip and was remediated in 1972 under the publicly funded ‘Operation Eyesore’ to make it safe to walk and play on.

The university say the plans are "pioneering in their approach to sustainable development" and it has listened to residents concerns and fears.

A Manchester Metropolitan University spokesman said: "Manchester Metropolitan University appreciates that some local residents may disagree with the plans for the Ryebank site.

"The proposals are pioneering in their approach to sustainable development, hopefully becoming one of the first Passivhaus-certified residential developments in south Manchester, with significant community benefit in the form of publicly accessible green spaces, co-housing provision, affordability, and environmental stewardship.

"It will also open up new walking and cycling routes, connecting the Manchester and Trafford boroughs, as well as stitching seamlessly into the adjoining Longford Park."

Manchester Metropolitan University has given ITV Granada this statement Credit: MMU

The statement continues: "A significant amount of consideration has gone into preparing for the current site investigation works and as responsible landowners, Manchester Metropolitan University has listened to local concerns and worked with the developers and their contractors to ensure that all precautions, guidance, and legislation are adhered to.

"Prior to starting the investigative works, ecological, topographical, and botanical surveys have been carried out and the relevant authorities are aware and happy for works to proceed.

"We are aware of the generally peaceful protests at the site, but also aware that a small group has chosen to disrupt site investigation works and harass contractors on some days.

"Manchester Metropolitan University will if necessary explore its options to ensure there is clear and unobstructed access onto the site and that the works can be completed safely.

"We would also like to remind people of our previous request that the site should not be accessed by the general public at any time due to the discovery of potentially harmful materials which would appear to form some of the backfill used when the site closed operations as a clay pit for a local brickworks".

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