Environmental campaign group Trees Not Cars are taking the council to court in an attempt to overturn their decision to turn the former Central Retail park into a car park.
Manchester City Council announced their short- and long-term vision for the old Central Retail Park on Great Ancoats Street, on 10 February. The site has been empty since the last shops closed in 2018, and various options for its future have been discussed, ranging from a cinema to high-rise residential blocks. The Council’s latest plans amount to using the space as a 440-space council-run pay-and-display car park for two years, followed by redevelopment into offices.
Residents group Trees Not Cars have been campaigning for more green space in the Ancoats area, including turning the 10.5-acre Central Retail Park site into community green space and social housing to respond to the affordable housing crisis in the city.
Now that the Council planning committee have published their decision, Trees Not Cars are taking Manchester City Council to court to overturn the planning decision and delay any development.
Until a ruling has been reached, the council will be unable to proceed with the temporary car park. The ruling is expected by the middle of summer. Meanwhile, the council’s long-term development scheme is out for consultation with responses due back by May 2020. Planning approval could be granted as soon as Autumn 2020.
Trees Not Cars founder, Gemma Cameron, said:
“We’ve received top advice from planning lawyers and are thrilled a judge agrees there are solid grounds on which to challenge the planning committee’s decision.
“The Council announced these plans after declaring a Climate Emergency. We must hold them to account and ensure they deliver on their promise. We hoped our petition with over 12,000 signatures, as well as the protests we held and meetings we attended, would persuade the Council to ditch their car park plans and work with us to develop more environmentally friendly alternatives.
“We even had a meeting with Sir Richard Leese, Leader of the Council, but we left the meeting feeling he hadn’t really listened to us and is more concerned with raising revenue than with children’s health.”
The feeling of not being listened to by the council, is a common complaint from campaign groups across Manchester working on a wide variety of issues, which our series Civic Participation in Manchester documented. Cameron went on to say:
“We now find ourselves in a position where the only way to fight for clean air and protect the health of the children at New Islington Free School is to take legal action. Our action so far means no cars have parked on the site and the children are breathing easier.”
Julia Kovaliova, also of Trees Not Cars, is a mother of a ten-year-old who was diagnosed with asthma after the family moved to Ancoats. He attends New Islington Free School, which is adjacent to the former Central Retail Park. She spoke at the planning committee in opposition to the plans, saying she fears her younger son will be diagnosed with the same condition unless air quality is brought within healthy limits:
“The only way to keep cars away from my son’s school is to take legal action. We hope the Court will agree the planning committee made the wrong decision and overturn it. My family is just one of many who have moved to Ancoats in the past 10 years and we need green spaces for our children to grow up happy and healthy.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, stated on his blog that:
“We want to move parking closer to the [Inner Ring Road] to reduce the amount of unnecessary traffic penetration into the core of the city. Although it’s only intended for the short term, the proposal to use Central Retail Park as a car park is wholly consistent with this, it’s already laid out as a car park, and it will save council tax payers money.”
In another blog post Leese defending the development of city centre car park development, said. “Parked cars are zero emissions”.
A commentor on the blog called Matt Ralphson, replied:
“ ‘Parked cars have zero emissions’. A truly astonishing statement, how much land will the council provide for parked cars? How will maintaining or increasing car park spaces decrease car journeys made? How do the cars get to the spaces without moving?”
Trees Not Cars say that there has been no community input to these plans, and the city centre is not being designed as a liveable city for families. They are concerned that much of the proposed green space within the masterplan for the area is in the form of green roofs; which are environmentally friendly but inaccessible and unusable by the public. At ground level the Council’s plans include little space for community green areas, which are located at the rear of the development, adjoining New Islington Marina.
Featured image: Google maps
Change to article 13 Feb 2020: the article initially stated that the council would be unable to proceed with any works on the land until a court ruling had been reached. This was changed to state that the council would only be prohibited from being able to proceed with the temporary car park, until a court ruling was reached.