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The Mayfield Depot: The Next Chapter

David Blake with the latest plans for Piccadilly's 7,500 capacity former railway depot

Written by . Published on July 11th 2014.

The Mayfield Depot: The Next Chapter

CONFIDENTIAL had nearly given up on the Mayfield Depot.

Rarely in our ten years had we witnessed such a swamp of licencing and planning filled with claim and counter-claim from those for and those against.

Figures from the Depot Management Company estimate that the new venue will attract nearly 900,000 visitors, 250,000 of which will be domestic or international visitors, pumping a juicy £26 million extra visitor spend into the local economy.

Still, the consortium behind 'the Mayfield vision' ploughed on, doggedly determined to turn the former railway station and storage depot (built in 1910, abandoned in 1986) close to Piccadilly Station into the city's next major 'cultural destination'. This would be through a temporary three year change of use application (from warehousing to art, exhibition, conference, event and dance).

"We're commited to this plan," David Norris, Director of the Mayfield Depot Management Company, told Confidential. "We've invested an awful lot of time in this project. We've been told it's the most intensive change of use application the board has ever seen.

"We don't want to see this fantastic building go to waste before it's knocked down in a few years."

You can't knock his determination. The saga of the Mayfield Depot has been Proustian in length and complexity.

Mayfield %28by Jan Cheblik%29Mayfield 2013 (by Jan Cheblik)

Firstly, the Manchester International Festival (MIF) dropped jaws in July 2013 by staging a performance of Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis in the belly of the cavernous 120,000 sq ft Mayfield Depot. MIF had laid the foundations, showcased the depot's potential.

Then in August 2013 we got wind that Manchester's notorious super-club-night, The Warehouse Project, would be moving to Mayfield from Trafford's Victoria Warehouse (WHP will now hole up in their former home on Store Street until Mayfield is ready).

Soon after in October 2013 plans for the depot were laid out by a Mayfield consortium during a public consultation, the depot would be turned into a temporary three year 7,500 capacity 'cultural destination' hosting a series of 'creative and innovative events’ based around six key areas: arts, food, film, fashion and retail, sport and music.

Warehouse ProjectWarehouse Project

Then a number of barristers (representing nearby student housing companies and Adam Geoffrey Management on behalf of Victoria Warehouse, who it's rumoured didn't want to see their lucrative tenant, the Warehouse Project, leave for Mayfield) leapt on the plans.

"They hadn't been properly thought through", said the objectors. "Plans were little more than a sales brochure", "a gem of an idea, insufficient for a venue of this scale." They also argued that releasing 7,500 people onto city centre streets in the early hours would be asking for trouble.

The Council didn't agree, granting the licence in November 2013.

This was, however, subject to a hefty 79 conditions, including something to do with lollipops. No really. Apparently lollipops on exit are proven to keep late night revellers schtum and stop them biting each others ears off. Funny world eh? They should give Suarez some.

Then silence from the consortium. Not a peep. Planning was withdrawn. Confidential thought the vision for Mayfield had expired, 79 wet tea towels thrown on the Mayfair fire.

But come July 2014 and there's more noise - turns out they've been beavering away behind the scenes. Scheming.

Mayfield DepotMayfield Depot

Mayfield map - Piccadilly Station sits in purple aboveMayfield map - Piccadilly Station sits to the north in purple

Eight months later and new plans have been laid out by the Mayfield Depot Management Company Ltd (formerly the Mayfield Depot Partnership, formerly the Mayfield Brotherhood, formerly the People's Front of Mayfield, formerly the Lords of the Mayfield: Fellowship of the Depot - something like that), consisting of Jon Drape, MD of Ear to the Ground, David Norris, former director of Ear to the Ground, and Bill Addy of the Addy Consultancy and chief executive of Liverpool BID.

The new set of plans, to be submitted in coming weeks, were showcased on Wednesday 9 July 2014 by the consortium at a public consultation meeting held at the Hilton Doubletree hotel, a double stone's throw from the Mayfield Depot on Fairfield Street.

So what's changed? Well, unlike the initial (and since withdrawn) plans put forward late last year, the new plans are much more considered, comprehensive and terribly handsome.

"There were a lot of conditions attached," Norris told us. "Some of the objections were valid, so we thought it better for everyone if we went back to our plans and made them more thorough. We now know every brick in that building, we couldn't have done more to put these new plans together."

Handsome Norris with handsome plansHandsome Norris with handsome plans - he's usually more chipper

Invariably with plans of this scale, objections and delays set in. Last year we were told that the first events could be in Summer 2014. Clearly that's not going to happen.

Presently, it looks like work at Mayfield will commence from late October to early November 2014, with the first events pencilled in for Easter 2015.

"We have to be ready for the start of Manchester International Festival (MIF) in July 2015," said Norris.

In order to meet conditions, the consortium have taken on an army of consultants to produce transport, ecology, structural, asbestos, noise, crime and event management assessments for the venue (all of which will soon be avaliable to review online once planning has been submitted - page turners those assessments).

"We've invested £100,000 in assessments before we've even submitted these plans. That shows commitment. It's a big risk to spend that money before you have planning. We've checked the structure, toxicity, we've even checked for Japanese knotweed."

One particular concern surrounded the sex workers that ply their trade around the Fairfield Street site, so the management team have established a partnership with Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH) to deal with any impact the venue may have. They've also agreed to install a CCTV system around the venue to meet police requirements.

Mayfield from Baring StreetMayfield from Baring Street 2013

Previous concerns laid out by objectors involved the volumes of harmful asbestos in the century old building. However, tests have revealed low to very low levels of the 'hidden killer', and we're told all traces shall be removed before any events take place.

To tackle noise issues, the main entrance of the venue has been moved from next to the student accommodation on Baring Street to the other side of the depot on Temperance Street, where there's no residential, just a number of intemperate ladies and a particularly potent fish monger.

From Temperance Street people will enter and queue through Room 2, which doubles as another events space/club room, and into the cavernous and pillared main chamber (image below), containing bars constructed of former salvaged train carriages and the main stage area, which can accommodate 1,100 movable seats for stage productions.

Another smaller Room 3 will be set off from the main chamber. All rooms exist at ground level, except for a mezzanine, with balcony and gantry for VIP guests, artists and performers.

"People worried that we just wanted to be a super-club," Norris explained. "But we've removed three columns at a great expense simply to allow stage productions and theatre to take place. It shows we're devoted to a multi-purpose site."

So what would Norris's perfect future Mayfield event be?

"Tough one that... a Punchdrunk theatre show in collaboration with the Chapman Brothers and the Halle providing the score."

Show off.

MayfieldMayfield 2013

Figures from the Depot Management Company estimate that the new venue will attract nearly 900,000 visitors, 250,000 of which will be domestic or international visitors, pumping a juicy £26 million extra visitor spend into the local economy.

They also estimate that Mayfield will create up to 355 full-time equivalent jobs for bar, security, cleaning, sales and event management staff, with another 77 construction jobs when work commences.

So off the bat, how have the new plans been received?

"98% positive," Norris beams. "There were a few niggles about parking, but the overwhelming majority that came to the consultation were behind our vision."

And what of the Council folk?

"Positive too. They saw the economic impact the venue would have on the area, the jobs we'd create, the tourists we'd pull in, the regeneration we'd begin."

Confidential thinks the potential for regeneration in this tired corner of the city looks good. And surely extra tourism bucks is good for the city.

The numbers look great, as do the drawings, but until planning is granted, objectors appeased and spades clouting the ground, we'll keep a watchful eye over the Mayfield Depot - there could yet be more extra-time to play.

Follow @David8Blake

Mayfield during MIFMayfield during MIF

Mayfield consultationMayfield consultation

Mayfield currentlyMayfield 2013

Mayfield main chamberMayfield main chamber 2013

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

ShybaldbuddhistJuly 11th 2014.

Really hope this happens. It would be brilliant. Fingers crossed!

AnonymousJuly 11th 2014.

Been waiting on this one since rumours began. Something needs to be done around that area of Piccadilly. It's a dump. This could be it. All the best to them.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark FullerJuly 14th 2014.

Visiting my son in his student digs on Berry St. on numerous occasions, I've been struck by the eerie presence of Mayfield. The building really creeps me out for some reason and I can barely look at photos of the interior. I suppose all large abandoned building have this unsettling quality to some extent, but Mayfield feels like a repository for Manchesters' lost souls.

AnonymousJuly 11th 2014.

The photos of 'Mayfield currently' and 'Mayfield main chamber'? That roof was demolished just over a year ago Mancon!

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialJuly 11th 2014.

Apologies. We haven't managed to sneak in since. We're working on it. Thanks and amended.

rinkydinkJuly 11th 2014.

Looking forward to Warehouse Project in a venue it deserves

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 11th 2014.

Yeah but...I wouldn't trust that 100 year old brick ceiling TBH. Huge life threatening disaster awaits there IMO unless that building has a complete renovation.

Ghostly TomJuly 14th 2014.

What is the warehouse project please?

AnonymousJuly 14th 2014.

@Ghostly Tom it's a massive massive club

Ghostly TomJuly 14th 2014.

Cheers for that. Not my kind of thing at all but wish it well. Never got my head around the idea that these clubs move from one venue to the other.

AnonymousJuly 13th 2014.

Interesting but this "development" doesn't seem to take account of the huge infrastructure works that are going to take place around Mayfield Depot as Piccadilly station and surrounding area is redeveloped to accommodate HS2, new transport network and the proposed road closures for 2-3 years ....... Didn't Ear to Ground and Co check this out with MCC planning before going ahead? All seems rather ill thought out to me.

SoapysudsJuly 13th 2014.

The councils plans for the whole area, involves the complete demolition of Mayfield Railway station. For more empty yuppie flats and offices: r.search.yahoo.com/…/RS=mh2ejx0_PlPV2ZeSXA.wsi3VWiM-…

Gradyn ThompsonJuly 13th 2014.

Be great to see this brilliant old place put to good use . Can't help wondering why it's not the new HS2 terminal though.StPancras of the North??

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GimboidJuly 13th 2014.

It's literally on the wrong side of the tracks.

AnonymousJuly 14th 2014.

@Gimboid The sky bridge that joins two terminals at MIA is longer than the walk between Mayfield and Piccadilly. I'm sure engineering could make it even more convenient. It sounds like the assumption is passengers don't want to walk the distance.

GimboidJuly 14th 2014.

I mean it's on the wrong side of the tracks for the train. But the main reason that HS2 can't be built at Mayfield is that there's simply not enough room, there isn't a long enough straight line between the end of the train shed and the existing tracks into Piccadilly. HS trains are long.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
GimboidJuly 14th 2014.

Oops, that was in reply to Anonymous above.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

So build track out and away from Mayfield. If the platform widening and extra track can be built from platform 14 towards Oxford Road the why not Mayfield?

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

Because, as Gimboid has already said HS trains are significantly longer than the trains being handled on platform 14.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

So build track out and away from Mayfield?

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

Build some very long straight platforms going into Mayfield then? Why do things have to be so difficult in this country? The Germans or even the Spanish would have just went ahead with such infrastructure instead of this massively time consuming British way of "consultation" and allowing the costs to spiral out of control. How on earth can it cost tens of millions to build two rail platforms? Having it as the terminus of HS2 (and maybe HS3) seems more useful to the plain people of Manchester than some arty farty nonsense that will eventually get kicked into the long grass by "Concerned Residents" over in Castlefield in revenge for the Ordsall Chord.

GimboidJuly 15th 2014.

Original Anon - you would have to extend and rebuild Mayfield so much that you wouldn't really be reusing it. 'Build some very long straight platforms' - Where? there are busy railway lines to the east of Mayfield and someone else's buildings and land to the west. It might be more feasible if circumstances were different, but in reality the proposed option to the north of Piccadilly is clearly far more practical for a number of reasons.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
GimboidJuly 15th 2014.

Gah, did it again.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

Three words: Compulsory Purchase Order

GimboidJuly 15th 2014.

Which can be expensive and protracted. How much do you think it would cost and do you think it would be justifiable?

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

Who cares? The problem with this country is developers who buy land (London Road Fire Station) and "local residents" who block something for the benefit of the masses (Ordsall Chord) and the whole thing costs a pigging fortune. The Germans seem to be able to do things like this without pandering to some yuppies in flats and greedy developers.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2014.

Nice rant, but you haven't explained what the point of shoehorning HS2 into the Mayfield site is when there is a more viable option to the north, as Gimboid has pointed out.

GimboidJuly 15th 2014.

All very worthy points, but irrelevant to the original point. To answer your question, 'Who cares?' : Anyone who is interested in making a rational decision by balancing up the pluses and minuses, rather than just deciding that something is a good idea and should be pursued no matter the cost, which seems to be your attitude, Anon.

Matt O`DonoghueAugust 1st 2014.

However good an idea or otherwise this will not now be happening as LCR have decided this building should be used for Northern Hub and HS2 rather than dancing, music and arts. Granada Reports has seen confidential legal documents that show the building's owners have decided against any short term lease with anyone - and that includes the Warehouse Project and Mayfield Partnership team.

ShybaldbuddhistAugust 5th 2014.

I'm gutted to here this has fallen through. I was really hoping this would happen, I was half expecting it not to happen as it sounded so good to be true. This would of been something to really look forward too, A jewel in Manchester's crown. Hopefully all's not lost and something can be worked out.

ShybaldbuddhistAugust 5th 2014.


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