The demand for city-centre living doesn’t show any sign of diminishing, at least not in Manchester, as developers like Urban Splash continue to convert old buildings or throw up new ones to provide the wealthy with expensive penthouses and flats. The last figures I saw said that the population in the city centre has risen from 1,000 to going on 7,000 since 1991, and it continues to rise.
As with most things, it has an up and a downside. The biggest plus is the improvement in public health. The people moving in by definition are the wealthy, healthy middle-classes, while the indigenous population tends to be the unhealthy, poor working-class (or not working in many cases) so if the trend continues, the overall health of Mancunians will improve. Now why didn’t Liam Donaldson think of that one?
On the minus side, the developers are very good at building places to live, but utterly useless at providing the infrastructure to support this growing population — schools, GP practices etc — all the things that disappeared when the original residents moved out thirty plus years ago. They say they’re going to do it at the planning stage, then conveniently forget, but that’s a whole different story.
What led me here is that where I work, there has been masses of such work going on, to the extent that roads have been closed for months on end to allow them to do it. One such is Jutland Street (formerly Junction Street, renamed after the 1916 sea battle), the steep hill pictured in Aidan O’Rourke’s photo above pre-development. Click on it for a larger image. I had worried that at the very least, they would tarmac over its cobblestones, but no they haven’t, at least not yet.
They don’t make streets like this anymore. For starters, going down is a bit of a rollercoaster experience as you reach the flat top and on to the steep descent — definitely one to avoid if there’s snow on the ground. Then the rumble of cobblestones beneath your wheels, and the tiny speck of doubt that you’re not going to be able to stop at the bottom. The kids love it.
So here’s to you, Jutland Street — long may you make stomachs turn and teeth rattle and remain a reminder of a Manchester long gone.