The story so far…
Meeting No. 1 – minimal information was provided to the small group of concerned locals, Manchester City Council (MCC) and the developers Laing ORourke (LOR) decided to call it a Public Consultation after the event. Sneaky.
Meeting No. 2 – this was called a public consultation beforehand but it only came to light on the day that MCC and LOR had carefully adjusted leaflets according to who they were directed at – the parents with children at the venue, Crowcroft Park Primary, were invited to a different event that would take place before the event advertised to other concerned members of the public.
Meeting No. 3 – Underhand tactics were again used to keep the parents of the children that would ultimately play and learn on the landfill site, from those that hoped to provide a everybody with all of the information, good and bad, relating to the proposed location.
The first meeting between members of the public and the developers was an introductory meeting with representatives from Friends of Nutsford Vale, the planners decided to call it a public consultation after the event.
The second event at Crowcroft Park Primary was a split consultation, not a genuinely open public consultation at all. The developers in collusion with planners had decided behind closed doors that they should separate the objectors from the parents at the school so devised a strategy to hold an earlier meeting for parents from Crowcroft Park, separate from the group opposing the development. One might surmise from this that the developers intended to dupe the parents of children that have a high likelihood of attending ‘Manchester Educational Academy’ (a phrase that has since been deleted from all literature because it made clear that having already chosen a name for the academy that plans made behind closed doors have already beyond choosing a name for it, before a planning application has even been submitted.
The second public consultation then, was actually two meetings with two separate groups – why all the shenanigans behind closed doors to control who goes to what meetings – you may well ask.
At the second meeting it came to light that Mathews Lane was, in the eyes of the developer, a dual carriageway. A tactic clearly designed to give a false impression of being able to cater for the hundreds of additional vehicles that would use the already bust through-road twice daily. Mathews Lane falls far short of the required width to be a dual carriageway. In recognition of this fact at the third meeting, plans had been drastically overhauled to revert Mathews Lane to a two way road and incorporate measures that would restrict the width to provide drop off points. The measures were woefully inadequate to cope with the number of expected parents and by changing them mid-process in this way, the planners have provided a raft of false information to concerned locals that attended the second meeting. Those residents STILL think that Mathews Lane will provide four lanes of traffic to deal with the hundreds of daily vehicular visitors.
In reality at that second meeting, we were invited to view four drawings. When people asked for further information relating to traffic studies, Biodiversity Assessments, Generic Risk Assessments (to consider general health concerns for staff and visitors) and Ecological Assessments, we were told that such devilish detail would be complete and available for scrutiny and interrogation at the third ‘Final Consultation’.
The third (Final Consultation) was hosted at Chapel Street Primary School and was again a divided event, heaven forbid that parents might meet those pesky objectors reminding them that the planners want to brush over the many reasons why this development is not only bad for Nutsford Vale, but bad for parents, teachers and children that would necessarily frequent, learn and work at the giant 1,800 pupil super-academy. All people should not, MCC had decided behind closed doors, have access to each other. Why?
The meeting was well attended by concerned locals. Many of those people that attended the first meeting hoping to consult on the detailed information relating to the site, the various reports that developers and MCC had said they would make available for discussion. After all, that’s what you do at consultations isn’t it, discuss things? Apparently not.
The devil must be in the detail because they’re not letting you, me, the parents of pupils that might attend the super-academy or the teachers that may work there for decades, have access to any of the detail in the aforementioned reports until the clock has started to tick – after planning permission is applied for. At that point they’re required by law to publish the information as part of the process. MCC and LOR do of course have the option to make this crucial information available beforehand but had taken the decision, again behind closed doors, to not offer this information up for discussion during ‘consultations’. This is the Pre-Truth era, the public will not have consultations after they’ve had a reasonable opportunity to digest the relevant information before being offered an opportunity to raise their questions. People – you are not worthy.
I became frustrated by the attitude of those representing MCC and LOR at the meeting. Initially I was displeased at having been misled previously into believing that it would be an honest and open consultation providing the public with detailed information such the outcomes of site investigations. The gentleman from planning that I spoke to appeared put out when I replied to his apparent suggestion that the reports I wanted to view were too detailed and complicated for me. As a mere resident in the Gorton/Levenshulme area how could I possibly digest or understand such information? It was a demeaning, patronising insult to my intelligence. Meanwhile on the other side of the room a well respected and popular member of the community was having a disagreement with a member of the Education Department after being offended by a similarly arrogant attitude directed at him.
The route to a successful consultation does not rest with those in possession of an arrogant and disrespectful attitude toward the general public. The collective intelligence, experience and expertise of the many thousands of local residents that will be negatively affected by this development far outweigh the collective town-planning qualifications of the snobbish individuals that looked down their noses at people for asking relevant questions that relating to the negative influence on the quality of life of locals.
Many local families recall the clay pit that ruined their local environment for years with it’s industrial operations and endless trucks of traffic. They still remember the clouds of dirty dust blowing from the landfill, delivered and to it by Manchester’s waste disposal wagons. After a short period of being blessed by the joys of Nutsford Vale while it enjoyed over half a million pound of investment to enhance the Vale, these people are being played like a violin as they stare environmental deprivation in the face once more. Having their green space removed and developed, potentially exposing them to the toxic concoction from below the ground surface, while thousands of additional car journeys on their doorsteps take them back decades to the days of gridlocked roads and pollution-filled streets that they saw when the pit and the landfill sites were at their busiest.
I spoke with one resident almost driven to tears by the frustration of this process which happens to have removed her chances of selling her home for a fair price, for at least the next couple of years, at a time when she and her elderly husband had planned to downsize.
Having been slated for their lack of meaningful consultation Manchester City Council and Laing ORourke have deferred the submission of their planning application by a month, allowing time for a further ‘consultation’. Will it be open or segregated, will they publish all of the critical reports beforehand to allow a fair assessment of the information beforehand, and will they insult and offend the people of Gorton, Longsight and Levenshulme again – only time will tell. At a time when MCC are facing growing pressure surrounding their over-comfortable relationship with developers such as with Neville’s St Michael’s scheme, having granted unwanted permission to build on the remaining slither of green space at Castlefield, it’s high time that our representatives learned how to relate to the population of Manchester in a way that is genuine and doesn’t demean their intelligence or their viewpoints.
Environmental Health toxicological information relating to the Historic Landfill site: https://goo.gl/HfgkZn