The River Medlock, in Manchester, certainly doesn’t have the grandeur of the Nile, the Mississippi or the Amazon. Nor does it have the historical associations of rivers like the Thames or the Seine. And it’s not exactly a thing of beauty, in Manchester at least, either. It starts as a stream in the hills above Oldham and flows through the former industrial suburbs to the east of the city. It was one of the most polluted rivers on the planet in industrial times but it has been cleaned up since those days. Towards the city centre it completely disappears underground. It flows under the car parks of Manchester City’s stadium at one point and is either underground or in deep canyons between buildings in the city centre. It then joins the River Irwell and the water then flows into the Manchstser Ship Canal.

It does flow near the site of the Owen Street Towers, skirting the site. I wonder if part of the project is to tidy this stretch up so the people spending small fortunes to live in the buildings will have something nice to look at? The dry period we have had has lowered the level of water in the river dramatically and you can see the dried up bed in places now.

This bright green leaved plant is Japanese Knotweed. It was brought to the UK to grow in grand gardens. It found the UK to its liking, escaped the gardens and is now loose in the countryside and cities alike. It is a thug. It swamps everything else and is so vigorous that it can grow through concrete. I wonder if the people who are building the towers know about this monster plant on their doorstep. It is illegal to plant it and, if you have it, it is almost impossible to get rid of it. Digging it out encourages it to grow more thickly. It can resist the strongest herbicides. And fire will kill the top growth but the resulting ash fertilises the soil and the plant is back within weeks.

People are very excited about the surface car park that lies between Medlock Street and the River Medlock. It’s one of the last surface car parks in the city centre and is in the centre of an area in the shadow of the Hilton Tower that is sprouting skyscrapers (there are 5 being built, 1 at groundwork stage and 2 in planning) like Japanese Knotweed. It’s the potential of the site that is exciting people.

The Hilton Tower (169m) is the current tallest building in the city. Owen Street Tower 4 (for want of a better name) will be the new tallest building in 2018 at 201m. It won’t hold on to its title for long as another tower is planned for the Trinity Islands scheme which will be 220m tall. Planned by the company that delivered Spinnigfields, it has permission to be built and we’re sure it will. But there have been rumours flying about that another tower of 75 storeys is planned for the city centre, but no one knows where and when or what it will look like but 75 storeys would give it a height somewhere between 250m and 260m. This surface car park also has rumours about it, saying that the development of it will be ‘big.’ So….2+2=260 metres?

If a 260m tower is built that’s only 50m shorter then the UKs tallest building, The Shard in London. Now I read somewhere that 310m is about as high as a building can go in central London because of the orientation of the runways at Heathrow airport and the flight paths that cross central London. Because of the position of Manchester Airport and the orientation of the flight paths here, there is no such restriction on potential towers for Manchester. Interesting….


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