The Manchester branch of Labour’s Momentum group criticise the leadership of Manchester City Council for its role in the approval of a plan for a temporary 440 space car park on the former Ancoats retail park site.
Last Thursday, campaigners from Trees Not Cars – supported by a coalition of organisations that included Manchester Momentum and Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal – delivered a petition to the Planning and Highways Committee at Manchester City Council. The petition, signed by over 11,000 residents, requested that the Council reconsider its plans to turn the old Central Retail Park, bought by the council for £37m, into a 440-space car park.
The Committee voted in favour of the car park application by seven votes to three. Despite strong arguments in favour of a temporary-use park, from residents and from some councillors; Jon Connor-Lyons and Majid Dar deserve special mention here. Though an amendment to the plan was passed to plant a strip of trees next to the school, this is no more than a sop to the campaign which was fighting for a brilliant vision of doing Manchester differently. So, we are dismayed but not surprised by this decision. It is entirely in keeping with the City Council leadership’s ruthless prioritisation of development and profit over its citizens and their wellbeing.
Manchester Momentum would like to extend its solidarity to everyone involved in the Trees Not Cars campaign. Over the last few months they have worked tirelessly to flesh out a vision of the UK’s first recycled park, mobilising and politicising an extraordinarily wide group of residents in the process. It has revealed two things: firstly, that enormous demand exists for clean air and publicly owned green space in our city centre; and secondly, that Mancunians have had enough of the Council’s pursuit of profit over people and are prepared to rail against it.
So while this is a setback, we are stronger than we were before. The Trees Not Cars movement and the organisations that coalesced around it are better prepared to continue fighting back. We should take great courage from this fact. The injustice of the vote is plain to see. Public opinion has been cast aside and the Council’s own climate emergency declaration, not four months old, has been shown to be worth less than the paper it was written on.
Soon the second phase of this battle will open over the final use of this site. This vacant lot represents a once-in-a-generation chance to do something visionary in the heart of our city. It’s clear what it could be. A lush park, high-quality council housing and community owned facilities: public land for the people. Over the coming years, we want to see a democratic opening in Manchester, where people–not developers–have the power to determine the future of our city. We are ready for this fight.
Feature image: The Meteor