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Killing Castlefield

Phil Griffin joins the Confidential writers and is dismayed by the dereliction in this vital city centre district

Published on July 11th 2007.

Killing Castlefield

Sherlock Holmes ran through smoggy Castlefield in pursuit of a dark villain armed with a blow-pipe. Day-to-day stuff in this derelict corner of Manchester in the early 1980s. It was a favourite Granada TV location. Abandoned by all but timber yards and car breakers, Castlefield was so Victorian you could smell the opium.

Jim Ramsbottom consistently commits to Castlefield. Without him the place is struggling. Even with him it’s on life-support. Why is it that on most days you will share Castlefield Basin with a few dedicated joggers and defecating Canada geese?

Then Castlefield was discovered, adopted and largely bought up by Salford bookmaker Jim Ramsbottom. Central Manchester Development Corporation took notice, spent money on public realm, historic reconstructions and signs, and oversaw the area’s designation as Britain’s first Urban Heritage Park. Jim opened Dukes 92. Hale Leisure and Mick Hucknall opened Barca. Followed in short order by Quay Bar, Box Bar and Jackson’s Wharf (plus a short stop over by the nice people from Corbierres). Attractive faces photographed on warm summer evenings. Castlefield became a key marketing tool for anybody involved in Manchester tourism.

Swooping white Merchants’ Bridge is by engineers Whitby Bird. Ian Simpson Architects carefully reconstructed Merchants’ Warehouse. Castle Quay is a dignified apartment conversion with the admirable Choice restaurant and Key 103 tucked in the ground floor. Dukes 92 sprouted Albert’s Shed and, most recently, the biggest outdoor designated smoking area in the world, with more to come at the back of the pub. As well as his heroic commitment to fellow smokers, Jim Ramsbottom consistently commits to Castlefield. Without him the place is struggling. Even with him it’s on life-support.

Why is it that on most days you will share Castlefield Basin with a few dedicated joggers and defecating Canada geese? People who live in the Castlefield Urban Splash annexe on Worsley Street use the tow path as a commuter route. Some people take coffee and sandwiches down here from Love Saves the Day. For the most part Castlefield is as popular as Chernobyl. The geography is attractive enough, with the outcrop of Collyhurst sand stone below Castle Street, and the gentle bend in the Bridgewater Canal. Not many places in the UK can outgun its history: Roman fort, first industrial canal, first passenger railway on the planet. Within 500 metres are the Museum of Science and Industry and the Coronation Street set. Walk west on this canal tow path and in less than 15 minutes you are at the biggest football club in the world. Steady on, this is a place maker’s wet dream.

Quay bar, designed by Manchester architect Stephenson-Bell, was never my favourite pub – or anybody’s. Surprisingly, in 1998 it was shortlisted for the Sterling Prize for UK Building of the Year. It is abandoned now, trashed and boarded up. Box Bar, in the undercroft of the Congregational Chapel never really felt right. It’s in a very pretty building from 1853, designed by Edward Walters, the man who did the Free Trade Hall. It’s been a Congregational Chapel, Mission Hall, Christian Science Church, auction room and recording studio for Kylie and Rick Astley. I’m not sure that Pete ‘the Hit Man’ Waterman doesn’t still own the building but just now it will be lucky to have any windows left in it by the end of the summer.

I guess Jackson’s Wharf is now marked for apartments, along with the vacant plot next door, and the one beyond Castle Gate that used to be a listed Georgian house occupied by a dentist - until it mysteriously blew up one night. Don’t worry if you can’t picture where I’m talking about. None of us will be able to picture Castlefield Basin soon, once it’s buried under apartments.

Next time you’re in Birmingham (seriously) I recommend a café on the Gas Street Basin tow path that offers home baked cakes and scones. It’s a bit of a crush down there, what with the kids and push-chairs. And the old people sitting shoulder to shoulder, looking out at the considerable world passing by. Very like Amsterdam. Back in the 1980’s Jim Ramsbottom had a vision for Castlefield not unlike London’s Camden Market; street traders, lots of multi-coloured candles, tie-dye and snide antiques. The Manchester Markets Department were having none of it. Shame. Had something like that happened back then we probably wouldn’t be looking at an utterly wasted opportunity now.

I hope with hindsight Deansgate Quay would not have been built to cut off the Medlock as it flows into the Castlefield Basin. I hope someone is persuaded to rescue the Congregational Chapel. I hope the redevelopment of Quay Bar is not the last nail in Castlefield’s all-enclosing coffin. And I wish Jim Ramsbottom, the Medici of Castlefield, hadn’t allowed the new entrance to Dukes to make his lovely pub resemble Next.

Why has the city abandoned its former showpiece area? Why is Castlefield collapsing into a dump? Should we care? Have your say below.

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100 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Andy MJuly 11th 2007.

Yes I agree without doubt, Castlefield basin has fallen into a grim neglected area. Just how Choice & Lava bar survive I don't know. I agree with all that's been said about Barca. Without Dukes the whole place would completely collapse.Why is there nothing ever going on these days down there?It is an ideal spot for occassional fairs / markets inc a Christmas market.There is space for open air concerts / gigs/ theatre. During the summer, there should be something happening down here every week.

jillJuly 11th 2007.

How right John Wilson and Davenjohn are, about the Dandara flats on St Georges Island. I lived 5 mins away from there in Water st and it was great to see a green island with a lot of swans before they were built.Then the horrible flats ruined an oasis of good design.Why does planning law allow it? What a brilliant debate (except for the class prejudice). Castlefield is a mess, partly because it has been a monocultural experience for 20 + 30 somethings who like particular sorts of music and alcohol.(no offence to you all but lack of a mix makes it boring).There should be tea shops and groceries, perhaps even a bakery and a bookshop...but it's the property market again and bad old capitalism which spoils things...Which indie cafe owner could afford rents or purchase price? It's a beautiful green part of the city...something needs doing...but does the city council have any power over landowners? Who owns all the land? Perhaps a market would be the answer... Great that you're organising a debate...

ToriJuly 11th 2007.

I was pleasently suprised with my first visit to Castlefield some 7 years ago.More recently I felt disapointed i had trecked out on limb to discover the fact that the area wasn't enticing. Better lighting and signage is needed in the area, also something unique to encourage people to socialise in the area again, such as comedy nights or make it a choice for up and coming new talent to show case. The area shouldn't be over developed physically but left to evolve and build characteristics naturally.However it would need some contact for direction so the area has a specific purpose. Residence consultation is definately a first action.

eddy rheadJuly 11th 2007.

As usual Phil is on the money. You cant move for markets in the city centre. Spread some of the love (and exotic meats) to Castlefield, it is the obvious choice. D-Percussion seems to be one of the few saving graces but i hear even that isnt getting the support it needs. Some of the problems are simple negligence on the part of who ever is supposed to look after the public realm (we all know who that is!). The state of the Whitby Bird bridge is shameful. I am tempted to nip down B&Q myself and get some paint just to restore some civic pride if nothing else. Phil is right about Brum aswell. They know how to deal with public spaces and to keep them attractive. Castlefield is still marketed to the casual visitor as a place to visit yet there seems to be now on-going commitment and seems to be seen by the regenerators as last years model.

RoisinJuly 11th 2007.

wow - having read all the comments on Castlefield - I think we at last have some people who care about this issue and more importantly can do something about it. I used to go out in Castlefield all the time and cannot believe the demise that has taken place. If we could get some more upmarket restaurants and bars back - then the people with the cash will return. I agree with Barca's comments and my friends and i would never dream of going down there now. Northern quarter and Deansgate have taken our business - not because we want that but because we have no choice.

C FJuly 11th 2007.

I am getting a bit bored of reading... "back in the hey day"... Things move on. You only need to look at Manchester as a whole 10 years ago nobody stayed in town after 6.00pm. The city is evolving everywhere! Things don't happen instantly, I am a great optimist and I am certain that Castlefield will come to the forefront of city living. I live in Castlefield myself (in MOHO unfortunately) and have had the pleasure of making some great friends, I think the Castlefield community can develop and come together, a hello, a smile... Its easy. The only problem we have in Castlefield is: There aren't any places to practice your people skills with other residents! Other than the newly opened Store! on Ellesmere St. We need more units like these and less of the ground floor offices with frosted over fronts. Give us cafes, bars, boutiques, stores thats what builds a community. Maybe I'm off the ball here if so tell me

Susie StubbsJuly 11th 2007.

I’m up for it. Castlefield was my first introduction to Manchester – standing beneath the viaduct, dancing with the Dpercussion masses – and I was blown away by any city being able to pull off a party in such jaw-droppingly beautiful surroundings. It summed Manchester up for me: energy and life alongside a dark industrial past. It’s still my favourite part of Manchester – walking along the canal from Pomona into town – and I agree with everyone here that it needs some TLC. It needs to become a destination again – there’s currently too little there apart from a few boozers, and so there’s no street life and, ergo, a feeling of dereliction. Festivals, fairs, market stalls (my god, if we could get a Brick Lane/Spitalfields vibe going on it would be amazing…), music events, theatre, flexible rents to encourage creative businesses to move in, schools events, public talks… even sandwich shops would be a start – if you work round there you have to trek to Deansgate to get a butty. What with developments afoot on Liverpool road, this could be the start of something special. Yes, yes, let’s have a panel session and see what happens.

DarnJuly 11th 2007.

The fact of the matter is that Castlefield is rubbish!!! Well maybe rubbish is too strong a word but it really isnt all that good down there, otherwise we would go there... Maybe that's why it seems to be going down the pan... The bars are like Mulgie says.."too far removed from each other" and i my view really lack that soul and quality that you get in places in town... Lee Atkins best point on the page mate they should try and let things happen naturaly instead of this 'we know best mentality', you will never create a nice area from a top down aproach I wish Manchester planners realised this, grrrrr...

Steve ConnorJuly 11th 2007.

I can see a consensus emerging here! There's clearly a lot of passion about the place - why don't we have a Castlefield panel session (fancy chairing it, Pat?) where we all work together - including the Council - to come up with some ideas about how we could bring a bit more life to the area?

SpawnMeister666July 11th 2007.

I hate the comparison made to London. I have been unfortunate enough to have to go to London several times in recent months, and found that this so called vibrant night life is, in fact, non-existant.Being someone who owns a pub in Manchester city centre, and also someone who has a policy of not drinking whilst working, I regularly want to go for a drink to chill out once I have finished.This is not a problem, as 7 nights a week there are a whole plethora of places where I can go and relax, in whatever manner I choose. Not so in London, where, on a Tuesday night recently, when I had to hang around until 4am for a coach, there was NOWHERE I could go for a drink of ANY description in the entire city after 11pm!As for Castlefield, its not somewhere I've ever particularly enjoyed going personally, and perhaps this is one of the reasons nobody wants to go there any more.Castlefield always used to strike me as a place to go and drink overpriced drinks just so you could regale your friends at work with tales about which Manchester United footballer or Coronation Street star you propped the bar up with on Saturday night.The problem with something like that, is that it is a trend, and trends, as we all know, are fleeting and never last.Perhaps if more care had been taken to actually make Castlefield a warm, welcoming area from the start, instead of just trying to make as much money as possible from people before the trend moved on, it wouldn't be in the state it is today.Spawny

AndyJuly 11th 2007.

The spotlight has definitely been removed from this area, with a lot of focus from the council & developers now on Ancoats & East Manchester.Castlefield is looking shabby around the edges, with the problems with the derelict Quay Bar & Jacksons Wharf, and now the area opposite Jacksons Wharf, recently green space but now boarded off pending who knows what??? This area is slowly being fenced in by more & more apartments, developers definitely still seem happy selling the dream of Castlefield, just look at the marketing for the recently launched Potato Wharf flats: “Castlefields reign as Manchester City Centres most indisputably hot area is set to continue with the launch of Potato Wharf”There is a definite need to get a new draw for more visitors back into the area, down into the canal basin, other than the obviously seasonal bar/pub crowd.A response is needed from the council as to what the development framework is for this area, a debate would certainly be a good idea to get some focus back into this area & for ideas as to the best way forwards. With the history & setting of this area & its conservation area, proposed world heritage area status it deserves better.

ClaireJuly 11th 2007.

Yes - Cllr Pat Karney, its is that bad, and it is only going ti get worse. Whilst you and your fellow Council buddies do a alot of talking about improving Manchester. I don't actually see any evidence of you doing it. I heard your radio interview at Christmas about the councils' "living Christmas tree" and how that would be the beginning of making Manchester a greener place. Have you started planting any other trees yet?I suggest you take a stroll out of your town hall office and head down to Castlefield for a look. Then instead of listening to other people and giving your ill informed opinion you can actually have a look for yourself.

Miss MartinJuly 11th 2007.

I have lived in Castlefield for 2 years and I think it is still an amazing area. I do believe that Manchester City council should start to take the redevlopment of the area and forget about new apartments. This is one of the only areas in Manchester where you don't see any cars- on a sunny day you can sit on the banks of the canal and enjoy the views. Barca has gone to rack and ruin and I am sure if was injected with cash, the 1000's of residents in Castlefield would go to drink. There is a local shop now on Ellesmere Street and there is planned cafe bar. Come on people of Castlefield, lets get the area back on track!

philJuly 11th 2007.

Castlefield in 2000 had the bank holiday markets on liverpool road (disappeared suddenly, not a complaint from anyone?!), the Granada Studios tour (ditto?!), Manchester Jazz Festival, snowboarding festivals etc. It wasnt a community 4 the residents granted,but a space for manchester! It brought people to it.

tailcockJuly 11th 2007.

Castlefield needs to be a draw itself because there is very little passing trade. I've always found it a little inaccessible and quite a traipse from the city, especially if you're only to be disappointed. There are not enough bridges either, which doesn't help when you're trying to get about (a ferry would suffice). And advertising somewhere as the world's biggest outdoor smoking space is guaranteed to turn many people's stomachs (or was that ironic?). I do like a summer pint in Dukes but I can't recall it ever being a favourite winter destination perhaps it's a summer place. I got lost in Castlefield one evening in February at about 8pm and it was a haunting, desolate place. But basically, I think it's the fact that it's out on a limb that has made it a little gangrenous. And yes, that bridge needs a jet-wash or a lick of paint, before it becomes emblematic of the state of the area. For anyone arriving on a train, that's one of the first things you see, and it ain't pretty.

insiderJuly 11th 2007.

Whilst the property developers have been getting rich from building over-priced and under-quality devlopments, the City Council forgot to make sure there was an infrastructure to support, for example, a family in the City Centre.it's a rubbish place to live.and where do the guys from urnban Splash live: Leafy Bowden. What does that tell all the mugs who have forked out a fortune for a trendy city pad.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

Kirsty from Glasgow... Go back if you don't like Manchester!!!!... Oh sorry, you probably can't find a job there!!! You quote Glasgow in the same statement as Berlin and Barcelona??? I've been to Glasgow afew times, you should be ashamed!!

Jo LangtonJuly 11th 2007.

I used to live in Birmingham and the canal basin scene there is fantastic. Castlefield area is such a massive waste. When we do have sunny days in Manhester there is practically no nice areas to site outside and drink. Who wants to sit on Deansgate watching buses & scallies go past, breathing in dirt!?I wonder if it's not the residents that have led to its failure as a bar/café area? Whatever it is it's rubbish at the moment and reminds me of why Manchester can never really compete with London!

Thnking of moving away...July 11th 2007.

having bought a flat here 10yrs ago I have become rather saddened at the deterioration of Castlefield. I am inclined to agree that Castlefield lacks a feeling of community. It's full of young people in their flats-with more pending thanks to the 'fabulous' planning dept of our esteemed city council (Re: Potato Wharf, the proposed Water St&Jacksons wharf developement,) with no where to really hang out apart from the reliable Dukes, instead they all drift to NQ or Deansgate locks. Perhaps the developers should be expected as part of the deal, to put their hands into their pockets and contribute to restoring the area. Start with Security cameras, better lighting, cleaning up the canal ways, planting more trees ( come on Pat Karney, what are we paying our council taxes for?!!). The council could make it easier for local businesses to get approval for new corner shops/delis/bakers/chemists/teashops -look at Chorlton & Didsbury. There is huge potential for this open space to be a great place to spend a sunday afternoon as well as a saturday night. Perhaps the Burberry cap posse will be less likely to congregate around here if there is a higher presence from the castlefieldians. look forward to tomorrows debate.

AndyJuly 11th 2007.

And excuse the grammar. This comment section apparently thinks semicolons are too new-fangled.

JanieJuly 11th 2007.

I hate to admit it but Barca is so right about the need to clear out the trashy scrotes that have flooded into the Castlefield area. They have driven away a lot of repeat custom from the bars currently in this location and if this carries on there will be nobody half decent wanting to venture into what was once a lovely place to meet with friends for a drink and a bite to eat. I for one don't want to subject myself to sharing breathing space with these people as I often find it's a case of taking your life into your hands when all you want is a bit of peace and quiet to have a nice glass of wine with your friends and chill out.

City centre dwellerJuly 11th 2007.

The drink and party culture in Manchester is going to spell disaster for the city. The regeneration is not sustainable, as it has has been built on the back of boozing, easy credit, businesses that deal in fluff that people don't really need (lattes and luxuries) and of course poorly-constructed over-priced apartments that really are going to be the city centre slum dwellings of 2020. Those of you who bought in Castlefield have been conned. The developers and council have moved onto pastures new, where they would do the same to a new group of buyers, if the credit crunch hadn't stopped all of this in its tracks. The council has spent the last 10-15 years driving out all of the interesting small shops, killing off market stalls and taking the easy, lazy and highly-profitable option of giving permission for endless bars, clubs and chain stores. It's alcohol with everything: even Christmas markets. But it's all about to collapse in a way that will make 1980's Manchester seem nothing by comparison. At least in those days the city was full of tough sustainable businesses. I have lived in Manchester on and off for more than 25 years. Remember the pre-IRA Corn Exchange with the little shops? All the fruit and veg stalls there used to be along Church Street? Heck we very nearly lost Afflecks Palace recently. Despite all the hype, the city has lost a lot of its charm and character. This era will be looked back on as having been far worse than the 1960's. Much of the really valuable heritage has been destroyed in the rush to 'regenerate' via tacky apartments that no one will want to live in. The truth is that there are too many people in Manchester (and Britain) who just want to sit in a pub -- as shown by all the comments about drinking above. Get a life and some real interests. But sadly there are not enough who will actually get off their backsides, organise and do something. Yes there is a problem with low-lifes in the city, which is a legacy of the industrial revolution, but the office-working boozers and 'party people' are just as much of a blight in my opinion.

John WilsonJuly 11th 2007.

It is a shame as Castlefield in the summer is without doubt the best place in Manchester. There should be more places like Choice bar & restaurant to sit outside with table service and glasses. Urban Splash should do more and Manchester Council should never give Dandara permission to build again after the St Georges island eye sore. Manchester is crying out for a summer venue and castlefield should be invested in.

Mark TraffordJuly 11th 2007.

I'm absolutely gobsmacked by these comments people are making about Castlefield. I haven't been there for a long time and the last visit I had was a really good one, my impression being that it had been developed in a very quaint and beautiful way with class and charm. I'd be interested in helping out in any way I could. I might not have the ideas at the moment but i do tend to bounce off other's ideas initially and then get some from them if you see what I mean. I really must take a walk around the place and go for a drink in some of the bars there to see how their coping. Whenever I take the tram into town, especially at night, it always looks brilliant I must say. Anyway, if you, or anyone would like to contact me so that I can help out in anway way, please feel free and I will do my best. Mark

Castlefield ResidentJuly 11th 2007.

As a castlefield resident I walk along canal each day into centre of town. Only yesterday as I walked back down the canal for the first time in ages I was hit by the ever growing seediness of the area. The ex-methodist chapel with boared and broken window panes, ex-Rain bar which despite being boarded up is regularly broken into by kids and drug additcs (as witnessed by myself on a busy saturday afternoon) and the burnt out Jackson's wharf which is an appalling eyesore. I think that the City Councili should apply masses of pressure to the owners of these 3 eye-sore buildings and force them to do something with them. There is massess of potential and not JUST for apartments - and even nthhough hI object to more they would be preferable to the current squalor and dereeliction. Come on all you planners in the town hall - DO SOMETHING!!!

GMJuly 11th 2007.

Why are bars mentioned in so many of these posts as if they're the only things needed to guarantee the success of an area? I agree with earlier posts that mention independent bookshops, small cafes, galleries, clothes shops...there should be a mix in all areas like in cities across Europe. Bars and M.D.F boxes glued together and billed as flats (sorry "apartments") aren't enough on their own. Mix of people, mix of business, mix of industries. Manchester's 100th Starbucks, Subway or Caffe Nero - which one will invade Castlefield first?

KerenzaJuly 11th 2007.

I would agree with a lot of what is being said in this forum. Manchester did lead the way in a lot of its urban redevelopment however what is it now finding that other cities are doing a whole lot better when it comes to inspired, well designed public realm as illustrated by Birmingham. Much of Manchester'd redevelopment lacks soul, in that I mean a deep understanding of what people want to see, feel and experience in their public spaces. Too much emphasis is put on the retailer or corporate sector to create the atmosphere in the city whether its the bars, clubs or restaurants. These are important services to support public spaces but without visionaly designers or artists invited to create dialogues and make sense of our built environement, areas like castlefield are left looking very shallow when bar culture moves else where.

treeJuly 11th 2007.

As a castlefield resident I am proud of where I live, I love to stroll along the canal and observe the wildlife that comes with it... however my main concern is the green area next to Jacksons Wharf before the famous bridge... how has this area been given to property developers.... for a start its small so they will be building high, this in turn will mean the likes of slate wharf etc will be put in the dark, do we really need to cut out any more light, isnt this the reason people like this area of castlefield... we have space and nice things to looks at... do we need to see more flats? I think not....

Glyn RobertsJuly 11th 2007.

As the former Chief Planner of the Central Manchester Development Corporation returning to see Castlefield after an absence of several years I was surprised and disappointed by what has happened to this wonderful area. I worked for CMDC from 1989-1996. It proved necessary to 'shape' the private sector interest and draw together the best development proposals by refusing a number of inappropriate schemes and supporting the positive ones, including the Merchants Warehouse, Eastgate, Dukes 92 and many of the schemes that restored and converted the old warehouses. We set up the Castlefield Management Company to ensure maintenance and coordinate events and developed the arena as a low key focus for outdoor entertainment activity. The Development Corporation had a small very focussed team and a reasonable capital budget to spend on environmental works, bridges and signage. We were careful to try to get the balance of development right - not a straightforward or easy jugement call. This was due in large measure to the investment and commitment of Jim Ramsbottom and some of the architects that one or two contributors have criticised. I suggest some principles for consideration:1) Resist over-scaled and poorly detailed buildings2) Ensure a POSITIVE mix of COMPLEMENTARY uses and activities to generate the life and warmth that most people want to see and feel.3) Secure effective repair and maintenance of the public realm - many of the materials the Development Corporation used were of quality and if maintained well will last. A new effort is needed to reinstate an area-based management and events company with an adequate budget to 'make things happen'. 4) Diversify the housing, leisure and support services offer in the area. Too many small flats with short-term tenancies and high turnover mitigates against any kind of community-building.5) Take another look at the opportunities that remain to be exploited. The Development Corporation was would up before we could address a couple of key projects - using the space under the rail viaducts to link the area to Deansgate/Deansgate Lock. A really exciting footbridge is needed here but it could provide a high profile pedestrian gateway into the area. The second opportunity is the unused viaduct running parallel to the Metrolink line. I'd really welcome ideas for some kind of Castlefield Partnership - all power to your elbow and all credit to Phil Gratton for stimulating what appears to be an overdue debate!

Adam WinshipJuly 11th 2007.

I think a lot of valid points have been raised already but I wanted to throw my view into the mix anyway at something that has yet to be raised. Essentially there are 2 points. Just to outline my background, I have lived and worked in Manchester all my life, apart from 3 years at Birmingham, it is a great place to live and work and I now walk through Castlefield daily as I live near to the 5 huge Dandara (St Georges Island Development). Anyway...Firstly, yes it is a crying shame that Castlefield is in its currrent state - Quay Bar/Canteena were great places to go, Jacksons Wharf also. My point is this, regeneration only works if money keeps coming into the area after the initial investment has been made this clearly hasn't happened for one reason or another. Although JW and Quay bar have been long gone, the offices opposite Dukes on the canal side now also appear to be vacant. Something needs to be done.Second point. It is outside the core centre of the city and if people are going to meet then there are plenty of good places close to Castlefield but not as far out (Atlas, Rain Bar, Cask and Knott for example). Dukes is excellent but one of the few to prosper in the area. In many ways it could be argued that Jacksons Wharf and Quay bar came along too soon. Today there are thousands of newly built apartments right in that area and so more people are about and could socialise around the area. I include myself in this. Apart from Dukes and the consistently poor Barca - there is little else now in Castlefield. I live in a development of 270 flats, Dandara must have over 1000 and Timber wharf, Lamba court in the regenerated Ordsall Region now all exist to be services by the Castlefield area. The residents are now there.May be it is now the time to give Castlefield another lease of life...the only time in recent years it sees any people is the brilliant Dpercussion. The rest of the year it resembles the baron 'waste'land we see today. A shame, a crying shame

Johnny's BitchJuly 11th 2007.

Actually Insider, I think you'll find that some of the guy's from Urban Splash do actually live in Castlefield............? As for those who live in Bowdon, they have a right not to want to live over the shop, so to speak.

mattJuly 11th 2007.

Apartments and a couple of bars might make a nice summer day out drinking, and in castlefield it does. It doesn't make a community, or draw anyone in. A shops? cash machine? newsagent? cafes? It was never going to work out long term.

No more SlickChesterJuly 11th 2007.

Might be a good thing it becoming a dump, perhaps it might give the place some soul again!!! In fact I wish the rest of Manchester could claw back some soul rather that all thess slick ****e new builds and sandblasted warehouses that seem to be everywhere these days… And I wouldn’t say its fantastic place to go and eat and drink in the summer at best its errrrr OK!!

BrianJuly 11th 2007.

Phil Griffin has prompted a very important and interesting debate, because what is occurring in Castlefield is a threat to other areas in the City. I have worked in the City for over 25 years, having spent previous years working in London. 25 years ago, the City was a bit of a mess. Great Victorian buildings were despoilt by their tatty surroundings. The litter problem has never been propoerly solved. So, I was not impressed with the fabric of the City, but the people were fabulous and it is their warmth and humour that has kept me here. I love the place and feel like an adopted son. As a result of the success of our great airport and the IRA, the fabric of the City has improved immensely, almost beyond recognition. But, what has been created must be maintained and enhanced further. The success of this depends upon many ingredients, of which financial investment is only one. My daughter is a florist in the town and serves much of the bar and restaurant trade in the City. It is a very volatile sector of her clientele. Analysis of the cause of the volatility helps us in identifying the problems at Castlefield. Some of the City's bars and restaurants are very well established and enjoy very healthy and regular custom 7 days a week. They are based on innovative ideas and quality. We will always support these businesses. Other premises come and go because they think they will automatically be successful on the backs of the quality operations. They have not investigated what Mancunians want and they have not provided the appropriate balance of innovation and quality. Only Dukes with Albert's Shed and Choice meet the criteria in Castlefield. Barca used to, but clearly they no longer provide what their early clientele cherished. My daughter suffers terribly from bankruptcy in the bar and restaurant trade. It is all too easy to start a business, go bankrupt owing thousands of pounds and then they can start up again to do the same thing under a different guise, having creamed off the income from the failed venture. So, my recipe is to try and ensure we promote investment where there is evidence of innovation, inventiveness and most of all desirable qualities in quality-seeking areas. We need to be more selective as to where a need for new restaurants and bars exists and the virtues of future proposals need to be fully evaluated before they go ahead. This is a difficulty, but unless we solve it, there will continue to be too many bars and restaurants for the population to support. Hence failures and the resulting eyesores will continue.

AndyJuly 11th 2007.

Come on Manchester City Council, get your act together and get the place cleaned up before its to late and you lose the good work that has been put in over the years.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

adjoining Castlefield is Granada tv what will happen to the area when they move out? Will the whole area decay? the apartmets at castlefield when they were being built promised a lot. I eventually bought an apartment near the tv studios and even now the apartments in castlefield are still at a premium (espescially with key103 there)

GillianJuly 11th 2007.

This is so right, Castlefield's shocking at the moment, broken and beaten up when it should be the green, airy public space of central Manchester

Jonathan Schofield - Editor Manchester ConfidentialJuly 11th 2007.

Pat, Steve we do need a collective response. It's interesting the work the Piccadilly Partnership have done - but then they do have major developers and money to work with. Still their ideas of working together with the Council and private enterprise and interested individuals is a solid one and has produced results. It might be used as a model to make the most of Castlefield - after all this is the only area of central Manchester that could become a beautifully managed and maintained gardens with hard surfacing, waterways and other features. It's thinking imaginatively as well, that disused viaduct could be rose garden, other areas could be other types of gardens. Think of the Promenade Plantee in Paris and the compartmentalised garden areas in Walkden Gardens. I feel a Confidential debate coming on. Anyone interested?

McGillycuddy_for_mayorJuly 11th 2007.

I am a resident and have always loved Castlefield, I wouldn't live anywhere else in the city. However, some excellent points have been made and I hope this article really does spark some people into action. The towpath needs more lighting and CCTV to make it safer for residents walking into the basin from the St George's Island area. Lava was great when it opened and is a positive addition to the area, but unless the residents come out and support it I fear it may also suffer the same fate as other bars in the area. Its up to the residents and people who have investments in the area to ensure Castlefield become more than "a nice place to have a pint on the few days a year when the sun comes out"!

JodieJuly 11th 2007.

Cllr. Pat Karney, I'm just curious as to why you need someone to show you around Castlefield, why don't you just go and have a look for yourself??!I went for a stroll down there one Sunday a few months back and was shocked at what a mess this place has become, it was scruffy (empty bulidings with broken windows and graffiti)and deserted. What a shame!

NeilJuly 11th 2007.

Paul hits the nail on the head above - I live in Castlefield (above Key 103 in the historic Castle Quay) and have seen the area go to rack and ruin. Surprisingly, the area is still rather busy contradicting the article, with many tourists still visiting the area. Alberts Shed is arguably one of the busiest restaurants in Manchester whilst Choice and Lava do a fair amount of trade. The main problem - and something that will be hard for the council to sort out - is that wealthy landowners (often from outside Manchester) have been sat on plots such as the aforementioned grassed area next to the white bridge, Quay Bar, Dukes and the old chapel waiting for property prices to rise. It's in their interest to let their buildings go to ruin, so that whoever buys the land of them can then get special permission to demolish and build what they like - something not normally allowed in a conservation area.Urban Splash originally proposed a horrible tower (half the size of the Beetham Tower) to replace Quay Bar (and dward the chapel). Jacksons Wharf, owned by Peel who seem too preoccupied with congestion charging to care, is currently under plans for more luxury apartments - with Ian Simpson promising to design something quote, "good to live in" (as opposed to 'good to look at'). There's going to be around 40 more flats squeezed into the once grassed area next to it - which can mean only building upwards! And if you thought the city's architecture couldn't get any worse, Potato Wharf is also to be home to the ugliest development in Manchester (again more high rise apartments are promised!). Somebody in the council needs to put pressure on architects to come up with something more attractve - especially in a heritage area - put pressure on Peel to turn Dukes 92 to a new home for the BBC Philharmonic for example or something else that will benefit the city. Unfortunately money talks and there's little the council can do bar sack their planning officer and spend money on buying back private land. Can you really see that?

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

Oh for gods sake its not that bad and no different to other areas of Manchester. The whole city is being turned in to a bunch of (mostly) crappy flats which wouldn't be such a bad thing if it wasn't for the fact that there is no real infrastructure in place to support these flats. If the new blocks in Castlefield had all offered a high number of small and affordable ground-level units for local, independent-types to give a business a shot then perhaps the area would have been sustainable. Dukes, Barca and a few other big-buck bars aside, there is not a lot of commerical space for anything else to keep the area ticking over. And as for the rants about 'scallies' at Barca...they're as much as part of Manchester as anyone else. Why shouldn't they enjoy Castlefield too.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

All many of us can do is to voice our opinions on what we think should/could happen with the area, if any of it is taken into account by the planners, developers, or anyone with an inch of power to make things happen, then that’s great.A lot of people do want to get involved practically and play their part in supporting & developing the area, however, there appears to be at present no central point for organising this, clearly this is needed. Not everyone is aware of the planning process & the true nature of developers i.e. supply/demand & profit maximisation at all cost, but there are definitely improvement/additions that can be made, that do not involve the usual contentious plots & people should have the chance to put their ideas into the process.

Miss MartinJuly 11th 2007.

I have lived in Castlefield for 2 years and I think it is still an amazing area. I do believe that Manchester City council should start to take the redevlopment of the area and forget about new apartments. This is one of the only areas in Manchester where you don't see any cars- on a sunny day you can sit on the banks of the canal and enjoy the views. Barca has gone to rack and ruin and I am sure if was injected with cash, the 1000's of residents in Castlefield would go to drink. There is a local shop now on Ellesmere Street and there is planned cafe bar. Come on people of Castlefield, lets get the area back on track!

CFMJuly 11th 2007.

I may be ill informed but i guess that planning restrictions, because of its heritage status, prevent the moguls from developing ugly eyesore tower blocks in this fabulous urban space, and long may that continue. If we are to keep Manchester at the forefront of urban regeneration in the UK we must levy the developers across the city to invest in the open urban spaces and city living infrastructure. Most city centre inhabitants pay maintenance fee's, well lets charge the developers maintenance fee's to keep places like Castlefield beautiful. And if they are are being charged, charge more or spend it more effectively. There are those in ivory towers getting rich off Manchester's inovative regeneration plan, get them to pay for its continuous clean up and not the council tax payers!

BocaJuly 11th 2007.

I have lived in Castlefield for four years and am selling up and moving out.It was such a good place to be but with the vandalism at Quay Bar, broken paving stones, slipping on the paving stones near Choice every time there is a bit of moisture on them, new development on green land near Jakson's Wharf, developing Jackson's Wharf, the new Crosby Homes monstrosity near the YM Club etc. It is a dump and will be even more so once it turns into a building site again.The reasons why I moved here are diminishing by the week.Dukes is the only good thing about the placve now.Quite how Choice is still going is beyond me. I used to go twice a week but stopped going last summer. The reason being that I couldn't eat food from the menu whilst sat outside. i da to order from the barbecue. As there was nothing I fancied from the barbecue (cheap sausage and burgers) I again asked if I could order from the menu (and pay more money) but was again told 'no'.Two people outside on the table next to me were eating food off the menu whilst outside but I was told thta they had special dispensation from the manager!They lost £100 per week from me and my partner.

AndyJuly 11th 2007.

In response to the comments regarding the siting of permanent enterprises/shops/facilities in the area it seems to me there is limited space for such new enterprise without compromising the green/open space & with the apparent problems with overdevelopment, certainly more temporary fairs/markets might work. The most obvious plot for any cultural arts based venue/visitors centre development in the area would have to be the old Jacksons Wharf pub site & adjacent plot(previously green space now disappointingly boarded off), right in the heart of the canal basin, drawing people right into the area, combining some new well landscaped green public space together with a new piece of considered low scale architecture for a much needed focal point for the area, this is such a prominent site and as such it needs a well thought out sympathetic solution, not another large scale apartment block.

LauraJuly 11th 2007.

I live and work in Castlefield, I've worked here for about eight years and moved in a few months ago, thus seen the area change through years. To be honest, I don't think its that bad, Dukes is absolutely rammed on a sunny day as is Barca (the choice of the Subaru Scally Gansta wannabe- granted). It is a peaceful green area of town hence why I moved here. Its nice to walk by the canal and watch the wild life and canal boats. I don't want any markets or a nightlife scene on my doorstep. I moved here because it was quite and green. I can go to NQ for bars, then leave it and not be kept awake by drunks. Also I'm sure less canal boats would come if more bars opened with fear of their boats getting vandalised.If regeneration is anything like Picadilly Gardens you can keep it....

barcaJuly 11th 2007.

I worked in barca in the restaurant during the hey day and it was a fantastic place to go and eat and drink in the summer months. Then it got popular and all of the scallies from salford/cheetham hill ruined it. If you go there now, its full of wanna bee gangsters and none of the decent people feel like they can have a good time there, without some idiot bringing his pit bulls down (burbery caps at the ready of course and painfully rough bird in tow."brrrrrrrrrrrandy and coke, kid" - you kinda get sick of these scum bags and they seem to be quite happy to make sure that everyone knows they have just bought the second most cheapest bottle of fizzy wine.I dont work there anymore because I was sick of people coming into the food area expecting chip barms, but then again, its typical for manchester bearing in mind there are no nice areas unless you want to travel 40 miles out of the city centre.The problem lies with the bars, they need to get together and kick these subaru driving, fake bling wearing toe rags away from the nice places to go.If I hear another dump valve down in castlefield, Im going to scream......... The same has happend to deansgate locks, loaf used to be ok, but now its full of toe rags (bouncers fault) and the rest of the bars are full of scallys.Its looking grim for manchester when the only decent night out in town is one central, and thats getting ropey of late.Best bet is to go Leeds, liverpool or the likes of that. At least the people are friendly?

John S. LockeJuly 11th 2007.

I lived in Castlefield for over 3 years...I actually had the pleasure to live in Jim Ramsbottom's fabulous Lockeeper's cottage for 12 months of my tenure as a local resident. I loved Castlefield at the time (just around the Commonwealth games)...Dukes was as alway a fabulous pub and James Ramsbottom was and is a great landlord!... I now live in The Northern Quarter and have to admit that I prefer this part of The City due to one main reason - a real sense of community. The Northern Quarter has developed almost organically over the past 5 years. Although Castlefield has its grand sweeping bridge, and the beautiful Industrial architecture and possibly the most underused performance space in the country! What it always seemed to lack where any 'real' amenities - very few shops for the size of the residential area, nothing other than the few quick eateries (admittedly a great chippy and a cafe but they both used to close very early) by the White Lion and the Sainsburys that is over toward Salford (which is a bit of a a hike if you want a quick pint of milk). I think one of the problems may have been the lack of thought and imagination to develop and provide such simple and community based businesses in the area during early planning - or over gentrification of the area that has actually resulted in turning the whole space into a yuppie ghetto. There is definitely a woeful lack of imagination in utilising this area for performance, or as mentioned a destination attraction such as the big wheel. Whilst I lived there, other than D-Percussion, or occasional one off events or the irregular use as a backdrop for filming, it was often completely empty and devoid of life other than on sunny summer weekends. If it wasn't for Key 103, The wonderful OX, Choice, Dukes and more recently Lava bar the whole area would have been a no go zone at night time, and could actually be a very dangerous spot for muggings and fighting as I experienced first hand on a couple of occasions. Manchester has a habit of moving its hotspot 'places to be' too regularly. The idea of a beach was recently mooted (but died a death due to the dreadful weather recently)surely a beach would have been far more suited to Castlefield?...The seemingly indistructible kids that throw themselves into the canal every summer would have definitely loved it!

Rob Adlard - Conservative Candidate for Manchester City CentreJuly 11th 2007.

Your original article hits the nail on the head when it describes the key players on making this unique and important part of our city work - private individuals, plus the last Conservative Government's Development Corporations. This initiative some would credit with creating the sparks, along with certain individuals, for residential life in the city centre. The development corporations were extremely successful, but didn't do anything that council couldn't have done - they simply didn't. The truth is that Manchester City Council doesn't actually seem very interested in city life in Manchester, just so long as they do enough to get apartments built to generate revenue, which must have added hugely to the coffers at the town hall.Some people here are right that the focus has gone to Ancoats, however areas like Castlefield need attention even long after swanky apartments have been built, there needs to be more collaboration between developers and the council in not only building apartments, but making sure that the area is then desirable enough to sustain an interest in potential residents and buyers.The Northern Quarter is suffering in the same way, after initial attention the pavements are long overdue being replaced, poor street lights, crime and graffitti, no new trees....whereas Ancoats is acquiring new well lit tree lined cobbled streets - which it deserves, but if this trend continues our city will soon have patches that will seem to have peaked a few years ago and then begin to decline, and that would be a tragedy, not least because it will lead to a crash in property prices for everyone who bought into the dream of our residential city.

KeithJuly 11th 2007.

Unfortunatly it appears to be a symptom of Manchester in general that things are improved then left to go back to rack and ruin while the spotlight turns to another thing. It happens in all aspects of life here from restaurants to redevelopment. Perhaps everyone is so rapped up in 'moving forward' that new things are required to occupy us rather than appreciating what we have got.

cllr.pat karneyJuly 11th 2007.

Surely it can't be that bad---I would be interested in what others have to say.Thought Steve's post had some good ideas--If people want to show me around I am up for it.Don't forget its not just council/developers who jump about journos do it as well PAT

knowitallJuly 11th 2007.

ANDi lived in the original flats in St johns gardens over ten years ago. there was loads of hype about developing castlefield and i went off in search of some investment flats...but there were rats everywhere. it's still the same. Manchetsr.sort your sewers out!!

EnzoJuly 11th 2007.

It is doubtless fair to assume there are some big developers and bigger kickbacks involved.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

Yawn, Yawn, Yawn, god i was bored after the first 30 seconds of all the nonsense on this subject. lets just think about what has happened here and how this area has changed, for the better. When most of you lot were still in nappies, the only reason you would go into Castlefield was either for a quick one with a prostitute you had enticed into your car, or if you were a police officer looking for a murder victim. As for any other reason, you would stay away. Yes, of course there are lots of things that can be done to improve an area, any area, but lets look at the positives and work for more of them. Lots of you are complaining about the number of people in the area, at the bars etc. Sorry i didn't realise that it was exclusive to the chosen few. Get You!!! Castlefield has had and continues to need development from all sectors, bars, restaurnats, galleries, museums, gardens, places to sit, places to think. But it also needs permanent people, residents, or else it will be deserted when the office workers, shoppers and tourists go home. yes, i do know what i'm talikng about, i've been a resident in the location for over 7 years and had close connections with it for a lot longer. Dukes and Alberts Shed are popular and work, because the owners know what they are doing ( the place has nothing to do with me) and they look after the environment. Barca has failed because the owners don't care. Just look at the environment around the bar. I think that everyone should remember that it's up to us all to make a contribution to looking after the place. Castlefield isn't a museum piece, it's a living, working, breathing area and isn't just to look at. Yes, MCC have made some mistakes. Yes, some members of the public don't care and yes we do need to keep it balanced. If it wasn't for private enterprise the place would still be only used for a quickie, so don't knock the people who have put the place on the map whilst making some money. I don't see any apologies from you lot taking advantage of the place for your own personal gratification, whatever guise that may take. And as for Mr griffin, be careful, you mentioned Mr Simpson and then nearly objected to a development that he is involved with. Jacksons Wharf. Gosh he'll never invite you for champagne again and you'd miss his flat warming at the top of BT. Which, thinking about it, actually isn't that far from the area in question. Funny that it wasn't mentioned hey??!!!!

NeilJuly 11th 2007.

READING THESE COMMENTS IS WINDING ME UP - Yes! We all know how Castlefield could be improved and there are brave people out there who could turn the old chapel (box bar) or Quay Bar into a pretty good jazz, blues, folk, classical bar etc. or a nice restaurant. However the problem is this - approach the owners of Quay Bar (was Urban Splash at one point), Dukes 92 (Peel) or the G-Plot (the grassed area until a few weeks ago) and make them an offer to set up a new restaurant/bar/hotel/shop whatever - you won't be able to - they're all happy to see the buildings go to wrack and ruin so that they can then get permission to demolish them and replace them with tower block apartments where the big money is. No point discussing what can or can not be done with the area unless you're planning on having a restaurant or bar on a barge - that's the only land down there not owned by somebody wanting to maximise returns.

Peter O'GradyJuly 11th 2007.

Phil Griffin - wottastar you are. One article may not change the world, but it could help Castlefield. Looking forward to your next piece already

Ben CJuly 11th 2007.

I find it very difficult to understand why such a unique area has been left to ruin. For a city so proud of its industrial heritage and boastful of its regeneration achievements, it is unforgiveable to let this continue. We need sensitive masterplanning and long term thinking before committing to further development. This is not the place for high rise (and I cannot believe how St George's Island was ever permitted). The city doesn't have enough parks or green space and this area provides a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of deansgate. Castlefield should be a focal point for local planning and redevelopment consultants in order to maximise its potential and use by mancunians and tourists alike. It needs year round use, rather than the seasonal "the sun's out, let's head to dukes for a pint" trade. How is it that the once beloved Quay Bar has been abused, covered in camouflage and left to rot. Meanwhile Castlefield Church looks like a horror film set. I did see someone rooting around in the wreckage of Quay Bar recently for scrap metal to sell on...!That isn't the kind of regeneration I had in mind.Come on Manchester, get it together. It isn't all about commercial viability and quick turn around for high profits, its about careful consideration, long term thinking, respecting our roots and providing safe enjoyable space for families and children to visit, learn and enjoy. Get on with it.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

Well now we know why the Council are in such a rush with the Harry Ramsden's planning application. It would seem that the Council have failed to disclose that they own a substantial part of the site. Maybe it's just my cynicism but the Council's land will be worth a lot more if permission for a huge buiding is granted...

Lee AtkinsJuly 11th 2007.

"I think the majority of rants are missing the point here..Manchester seems to be obsessed with turning every available area into some mixed bag of concrete eating and watering houses.why cant we just see some natural stuff for a change..I think manchester architects and councillors need to stop thinking about their image and loosen their grip!

Steve ConnorJuly 11th 2007.

Phil - I remember the walk along the canal at the start of 90s to reach Dukes 92 and the revelation that rewarded you as you reached a small, cheese and pate-serving oasis that Jim R had managed to create. It was amazing. At the time we thought life ended at the Hacienda or the Boardwalk, but it all started to change... it would be amazing if we could start to reinvent Castelfield and return to it, recognising all that it offers. We should dream up new events and exhibitions. Publicise trails. Create installations... but this is the work of all of us in Manchester - not just the City Council - we should all get off our butts and do something about this...

Carolyn BlainJuly 11th 2007.

Please will Glynn Roberts contact Manchester Civic Society oninfo@mcrcs.co.ukthanks. Carolyn Blain, Chairman

DavenjonJuly 11th 2007.

John Willson comment is SO right on the money it needs repeating "... Manchester Council should never give Dandara permission to build again after the St Georges island eye sore". (I'll add Dandara's boring brick 'Base' building to the list, shutting in design led Timber Wharfe - but I digress). Of course, Manchester Council will be rubbing its hands thinking of all the new Council Tax payers squeezed into what was precious peice of waterways industrial landscape, lost forever under the 60's throwback which is St Georges Island. City planners should hang their heads in shame. Maybe the council will use some of the new money to properly light the tow path route into the Worsley St area from Castlefield basin, and CCTV to discourage vandalism and for residents saftey, but in spite of urgent requests, no deal! Castlefield is over developed with apartments, no local services, and now acts as grand example of developers/councils greed.

ColinJuly 11th 2007.

Gillian, are you kidding there's no way the Council will reply and if they do they'll make an excuse. Castlefield is a disgrace at the moment, the biggest wasted opportunity in city planning since just about ever.

GavinJuly 11th 2007.

I live in castlefield and still think its great, however it is a real shame a little time and effort isn't put into the area. I'm from birmingham and castlefield has far more potential to outshine brindley place, and it really wouldn't take much either.I would agree with Barca's comments in the past, but its obvious they haven't been there for a while. Barca is ALWAYS empty, maybe half a dozen people on a saturday if they are lucky. The only times its busy are when they have functions or get the sunny day overspill from dukes. I'm not surprised either, the drinks are rubbish and overpriced.Dukes however is a great bar, possibley the least scally place in manchester.I just hope the city council take notice and start giving the area some more love and attention.

Castlefield residentJuly 11th 2007.

What a long article, and what a sad tale.As a new resident of Castlefield, I had been aware of the attractions and I am now aware off the sad decline of some of the interesting buildings that attracted me to the area. There are important elemnets of our industrial and other heritage here that should be preserved, shame that the very informative sign boards are now very faded and in some cases unreadable.But who is doing anything about it?And can any of us help?

Dave forshawJuly 11th 2007.


an agentJuly 11th 2007.

castlefield Chapel has received planning for conversion to offices. The process took nearly a year with consultation.The building will be sold shortly and regeneration/ refurbishment will start within 2/3 months.Similarly, 21 Rice Street is in the process of being sold, and will soon be revamped.Merchants Warehouse lost some of its office tenants, but there are new( and exciting) ones coming in to replace them.So, all is not as it may seem on the surface.

Dave MJuly 11th 2007.

During the 80's and 90's I was involved in presenting cutlural events in the arena. We brought over 1,000 Samba drummers and dancers from all over the uk to take plart in events that Manchester International Arts organised. These were always family events that attracted large and friendly audiences. Manchester 5000, as the Samba thing was called, ended in 2002. Over the years we noticed a gradual slide into booze culture in the Castlefield area. So much so that our final taste of Castlefield was very unpleasant and I worried for the safety of the poeple we were working with. It would take a lot for me to consider using the area again because of the booze, Burbury and macho dogs but also because, with so many people living in the area, 1,000 drummers may not be welcomed. It is a shame as the arena was a good place to do events. Perhaps the Castlefield Wardens need to return?

Dan Yuen, Timber Wharf residentJuly 11th 2007.

HELP! Shouts a resident of the 'Forgotten Quarter'! The fact that so many people have contributed here is extremely encouraging. If a public debate is ever held (I think Carolyn Blain of the Manchester Civic Society should be the one to organise it), please include me on the mailing list.

persecutioncomplexJuly 11th 2007.

manchester never had enough people or money to support the way it's been physically developed. Something had to give.

Miss MartinJuly 11th 2007.

I have lived in Castlefield for 2 years and I think it is still an amazing area. I do believe that Manchester City council should start to take the redevlopment of the area and forget about new apartments. This is one of the only areas in Manchester where you don't see any cars- on a sunny day you can sit on the banks of the canal and enjoy the views. Barca has gone to rack and ruin and I am sure if was injected with cash, the 1000's of residents in Castlefield would go to drink. There is a local shop now on Ellesmere Street and there is planned cafe bar. Come on people of Castlefield, lets get the area back on track!

johnJuly 11th 2007.

It doesn't take alot to make an area attractive again. I've noticed how smart Liverpool Road looks with all the flowers along it now. Something so simple but with a big effect. It would be a start.This is hardly adding my 'wisdom' to the rant but what can I say, I love flowers! er.....

anthonyJuly 11th 2007.

The problem with most public spase in manchester is that money is spent on developing it / reinventing it and then little thought and money put into how the quailty of the space is to be maintained (unless it is albert square) from litter picking to watering planters, to repairing broken paving - and not just filling with tarmac! - until ti gets into such a bad state of repair that the council can get another grant (orsell fo some of the publci space) to redevelop it again. Why not move the big wheel to castlefield - that would bring people there and reopen what was supposed too be a major public space in the city i.e. exchange square.incidentally isn't cllr. klarney capeable of showing himself round castlefield!!

Miss MartinJuly 11th 2007.

I have lived in Castlefield for 2 years and I think it is still an amazing area. I do believe that Manchester City council should start to take the redevlopment of the area and forget about new apartments. This is one of the only areas in Manchester where you don't see any cars- on a sunny day you can sit on the banks of the canal and enjoy the views. Barca has gone to rack and ruin and I am sure if was injected with cash, the 1000's of residents in Castlefield would go to drink. There is a local shop now on Ellesmere Street and there is planned cafe bar. Come on people of Castlefield, lets get the area back on track!

GTJuly 11th 2007.

Manchester should be ashamed. It had and still has every opportunity to be an attractive and exciting city, BUT does nothing to attract its own people, let along visitors. it is dirty, untidy and grey and I think it lets people down.

PaulJuly 11th 2007.

I am a resident of Castlefield and would certainly agree that the area is looking a lot less twee and completed as it did.. Quay Bar and Jacksons Wharf have been bought by developers - closed down and allowed to be vandalised. The plans for 16 storey towers seem to be on hold but may mean the sites will be derelict for many years to come. However the summer influx of canal boats and anglers makes the place an interesting place to live.Cities are alway places of change and that is part of the fascination of living here rather than living in some boring suburb!

SallyJuly 11th 2007.

I used to love the vibe at Castlefield, it used to be my area of choice for a night out. But all the startups died on their arses. I pass Quay & what used to be nowhere every day on the way to work, on is a boarded up shell, the other a shadow of its former self. What happened?

Paul PattonJuly 11th 2007.

If you think Castlefield is in a poor state then i suggest you check out the Northern Quarter. City centre residents and businesses are getting a poor deal from the council. Local councillors need to step out of the town hall a bit more and ensure the city is better maintained. Pot holed roads and appalling pavements make some areas almost third world!

carolyn blainJuly 11th 2007.

As Chairman of Manchester Civic Society,I would like to invite Cllr. Pat Karney (together with Jim Ramsbottom, Sharon Barnes and Phil Griffin), to join me in a walk around Castlefield. Maybe our comments and Pat's could go in the next edition of our quarterly newspaper, Forum, the next edition of which will be published next week. Carolyn Blain

AndyJuly 11th 2007.

I thoroughly enjoy Castlefield, even in it's current rather dilapidated state. It's a joy to walk around, peaceful and inviting despite the wear and tear. However, I rather dislike Dukes 92 these days some of it's clientele and the general crush of people detracts from what is one of the few genuinely relaxing corners of the city. I seriously doubt that more bars is what the place needs.Anything that is to be done with the area must be considered very carefully the temptation is always to build high and build dense, but taking a brief look at the (awful, IMHO) St. Georges Island developments or the squash that has become the 'Green Quarter' shows that it stifles community and kills atmosphere. There are more than enough flats popping up around the fringes of the basin why not maintain the open areas and public realm and allow it to be a much needed breathing space?If there's to be a proper debate on the area, count me in.

Choice Bar and RestaurantJuly 11th 2007.

Having been in Castlefield since 2001 we have seen our neighbour’s closedown as the rest of the city takes it in turn to get a refurb and prosper.The basin could do with some sensible refurb plans and a good tidy up. Most recently the only addition has been to take away another grassy area beside Jackson Wharf with another proposed apartment building. The planning permission seems mad when the exiting closed pubs should be developed with mixed use developments and we would welcome the competition.The paving and lighting all need to be maintained and updated but since the dissolving of the Castlefield Management Company it has become a point and blame culture with the Council who are still happy to charge premium rates to business!We have lots of ideas for developing the local life like Portobello style markets, Canal Regatta's, Festivals and would be excited about working with the council and locals to breathe life back into the old girl. We shouldn't just cross our fingers for DPercussion every year One day of crazy trade that does more damage than good. Castlefield needs to exist all year round.On the bright side both myself and Dukes continue to invest in improvements as we know trends will change.Finally ... Andy M's concerns on survival are unfounded for Choice as passing trade represents 10 percent of our business and people will always seek out a bit of quality from an independent that is here for the long run, but a little more trade is always welcome.

RobJuly 11th 2007.

Dukes, Choice and Lava are all examples for others to follow. These businesses all seem to be able to work up trade and get people into Castlefield. Why can't other investors see the opportunities, why doesn't the council restrict the planning opportunities to bar and shop usages only, rather than more apts ? Barca needs shutting down or needs someone else to run it - its a mess, and it's no wonder the clientele that turn up - they don't exactly hold wine tasting evenings and recently the music style that they promote on certain evenings can only attract the wrong 'uns'. Lava Bar seems to be the way forward capitalising on Manchester having the largest gay community in europe, not all of the gay people enjoy the hectic drugged up scene of canal street - Lava is a perfect alternative ...

Jonathan Schofield - Editor Manchester ConfidentialJuly 11th 2007.

Right let's do it. Manchester Confidential will organise a debate on it. We'll be doing a call to action next week, arranging a venue and getting key players involved.

SpawnMeister666July 11th 2007.

I hate the comparison made to London. I have been unfortunate enough to have to go to London several times in recent months, and found that this so called vibrant night life is, in fact, non-existant.Being someone who owns a pub in Manchester city centre, and also someone who has a policy of not drinking whilst working, I regularly want to go for a drink to chill out once I have finished.This is not a problem, as 7 nights a week there are a whole plethora of places where I can go and relax, in whatever manner I choose. Not so in London, where, on a Tuesday night recently, when I had to hang around until 4am for a coach, there was NOWHERE I could go for a drink of ANY description in the entire city after 11pm!As for Castlefield, its not somewhere I've ever particularly enjoyed going personally, and perhaps this is one of the reasons nobody wants to go there any more.Castlefield always used to strike me as a place to go and drink overpriced drinks just so you could regale your friends at work with tales about which Manchester United footballer or Coronation Street star you propped the bar up with on Saturday night.The problem with something like that, is that it is a trend, and trends, as we all know, are fleeting and never last.Perhaps if more care had been taken to actually make Castlefield a warm, welcoming area from the start, instead of just trying to make as much money as possible from people before the trend moved on, it wouldn't be in the state it is today.Spawny

Darren ScottJuly 11th 2007.

The council needs to invest in the area and bring in other points of interest, rather than relying entirely on nightlife. It would be a good place to hold farmers markets and other local festivities. Maybe an art gallery or a new museum, or even the big wheel would suit the site. It would draw people down to that end of the city! It is potentially one of the best waterfront sites in the our fantastic ever-expanding city. It should be protected as a green area and not be allowed to be over run with high rise apartment blocks.

munklefishJuly 11th 2007.

Every cosmo modern city needs an attractive buzzing cafe and bar area around a nice water setting. Manchester the 'gritty' industrial city of old actually has several of these but they are all grossly under utilised and no outsider realises the wealthy of such locations that we potentially have.Imagine any cool European city letting Castlefield go to waste! I doubt it. If it were France / Germany or anywhere else Castlefield would be a hive of activity, the 1st place mentioned in the 'rough guide to..' book! Such a waste!!!!

SallyJuly 11th 2007.

Additionally, I believe the Bellway development to be a contributory factor to the demise, they are certainly not asthetically pleasing & serve only to 'enclose' what was once a wonderful open space. The passer by can no longer see the pleasent places to go & drink & eat as they are obscured.

KirstyJuly 11th 2007.

Having spent most of my life living in Glasgow then a few months in south Manchester - I had to very quickly find a place to buy last year. Having not much knowledge of Manchester I was recommended by estate agents to look at Castlefield and the Northern Quarter for easy access to shops and nightlife.After a long afternoon in Castlefield an d a few hours in the Northern Quarter I think Manchester has a long way to go. The house prices and council tax prices for both areas were a complete joke. Castlefield appeared to be one of the most run down areas of the city centre with a whole load of new, badly constructed flats just dumped in the middle of it.I was completely shocked by the high prices and huge council tax bills I would be facing. Manchester is a place that is very proud of its history, but it has such a long way to go to get areas that can compete with the likes of Glasgow, Barcelona, Berlin etc.It should be a city proud of the different areas but it needs a lot of investment before I could name one area that truly stands out. Investment does not mean towers and towers of new chipboard built flats.Manchester Council, please do something useful with my council tax.

daisyJuly 11th 2007.

Matt is right - if Castlefield had a real community to it rather than bars,offices and flats it would have more atmosphere and would become somewhere to go. As is it feels really separate from the rest of Manchester.

GrahamJuly 11th 2007.

I agree with Eddy Rhead and the original plans as proposed by Jim Ramsbottom. this area would be ideal as a genuine market square for the city. The critical mass is now there for businesses to survive there, but getting them to locate there now a la Jacksons Wharf and Quay Bar, which lie there as decaying visual deterrants to anybody with a business plan is the issue. The markets could re-invent Castlefield. Lets face it the Arndale Market welcome as it is, is not sufficient for our city.

RachelJuly 11th 2007.

As a Castlefield resitent I agree with alot of the comments though I hasten to add, as much as I welcome bars the major attraction of castlefield is its tranquility and history. This should not be compramised with late nite bars attracting people at weekends only for them to throw their rubbish into the canals! Manchester has numerous new apartments but no developments are truely considering outside space, look at London all the quaint little parks, where are these in Manchester? Castlefield would be perfect for more greenary amoung the canals, and little cafes for people to view the world go by. Even the one littel bit of greenery we had has been boarded up for another apartment block, along side yet another apartment bloke on Jacksons Wharehouse. How can these apartment blokes keep getting built is it the coucil just being greedy for more council tax revenue!? We don't have enough bins so the canals get full of rubbish, not enough street lighting etc where does all this extra revenue go?There is talk about a better community spirit well why don't we start doing something about it! A debate has been mentioned as residents we should get involved and have our say!

SiJuly 11th 2007.

I’ve been back in Manchester for 5 years and when I 1st moved back it was a top place to go drink, this just isn't the case any more! The good people moved out when the scally's moved in. Castlefield is still shown in nearly every apartment brochure I've ever seen, but if something is not done quickly it's going to be too run down and get forgotten. Having visited Birmingham they have made a real feature of the canal areas why not do the same!

GillianJuly 11th 2007.

In fact it would be nice if we got an official council response

AnonymousJuly 11th 2007.

Castlefields current dissapointing level of regeneration may be a consequence of its dubious beginning. In the 1980's much of Castlefield was owned by a company called JS Bass. It is said, very convincingly, that that company was fraudulently put into receivership with the property sold off very cheaply so that somebody could make a lot of money from the process. It has been written about in Private Eye, The Entrepreneur and the MP Austin Mitchell and have sought legal redress. Like the war in Iraq, perhaps if the original intentions were fair and honest, Castlefield would be in a better state now. An interesting account of Castlefield's dubious regeneration process is told at http://visar.csustan.edu/aaba/aaba.htm(note the .edu web address, ie it's written by qualified academics)

AlexJuly 11th 2007.

Spot light as moved to Ancoats... Castlefield is a victim of its own success. Any council member hears the crys that Ancoats is in ruin and now the multimillion pound project will see some of the nicest green areas around in the Manchester Area. Develops love a deal and unfortunately if you walk into any of the many Deansgate Estate Agents all selling the Castlefield dream... the reality is far from it and you get more bang for buck elsewhere...

eddy rheadJuly 11th 2007.

I think the reaction to this piece shows that people have noticed (except Pat it would seem!) that Castlefield is being neglected and that people care about the place. I'm sure plenty of Section 106 money should and could have been collected from the developments that have happened round and about there so t'council should clarify if any of that money is being spent there. As Mrs Merton would say "Lets have a mass debate".

baldmosherJuly 11th 2007.

The fact remains that Castlefield is a lot further outside the city centre than you might think. It's a fair walk from anywhere else, and you have to cross the canal to get there, so unless you've a specific reason to visit, you won't. Its beauty is the nooks and crannies, the stairs down to hidden derelict barge loading bays, the corners that lead to nowhere, and discovering the little ginnel that ends up outside Bridgewater Hall, from the other end. I don't think building more flats at the expense of derelict buildings can possibly be seen as a bad thing, and as with the developments behind Oxford Road, allowing space for retail and leisure is often all that it takes before someone takes a punt (excuse the boating pun). It might take a Nando's to do it, but it'll happen.

MulgieJuly 11th 2007.

I think Castlefield died on it's backside back when the Deansgate Locks bars opened up really. The venues in Castlefield are too far removed from each other and from the new social heart of the city (currently in the Northern Quarter IMO) and so the scattered offerings of 1 decent bar, 2 good eateries and a clapped out, has-been bar/restaurant is asking a bit much for most people to treak across town for. This is especially the case nowadays in the glorious 'summer' weather we've been having of late! :)

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