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Press release: Legal challenge regarding short-term use of site


Trees Not Cars Community Campaigner takes Manchester City Council to Court

February 2020

A judge has granted Gemma Cameron, founder of ‘Trees Not Cars’ campaign group, permission to appeal Manchester City Council’s planning decision to use the former Central Retail Park as a temporary charging 24/7 440-space car park for two years. Obtaining permission is very difficult and rare and means the judge believes there are reasonable grounds to challenge the Council’s decision to build a car park. The hearing will take place in the coming weeks.


Cameron began pursuing legal advice immediately after the October planning committee decision and is being represented by local lawyers who understand her desire to act in the community interest. In response, the Council has sought advice from the country’s best planning lawyers to defend themselves against a community campaigner.


Until the appeal is determined, the Council cannot undermine the proceedings and start using the site as a car park.


Cameron says: “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. 


“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. 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.


She says, “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.”


In the long term, the Council intends to use the site as office space. Trees Not Cars, however, want to work with the Council to develop a scheme that includes significant community green space and social housing to respond to the affordable housing crisis in the city. They don’t believe the plans just released by the Council are fit for purpose - see separate statement below for more details.


Statement about long-term designs


People living in Ancoats and the city centre deserve better than these plans with their disingenuous attempt at including the public realm we need. Most of this ‘green space’ is shunted to the roofs of buildings, which will be inaccessible and unusable. Green roofs are environmentally-friendly because they’re covered in vegetation. They’re not spaces for children to play, have a picnic, or walk your dog. So while green roofs are great, and more buildings in Manchester should have them, they’re irrelevant as far as community green space goes.  


Manchester City Centre is being designed for young childless worker bees who move between spaces to work, eat, and sleep. It’s not being designed as a livable city with playgrounds and parks for adults and children alike to live happy, healthy, and enriching lives. The assumption is families will move out to the suburbs, but this isn’t where families want to live. There’s a global trend of people moving to and spending their lives in cities. Manchester calls itself a leader but it’s designing out the fundamental features it needs to be an exemplar of the city of the future.


Considering the scale of the affordable housing crisis we have in the city it’s shocking the council aren’t using any of a 10.5 acre site for social housing. This clearly demonstrates where the council’s priorities lie. Far from developing a city for the many, they’re building a ghetto for the wealthy.


Fundamentally, there’s been absolutely no community input to these plans. This is yet another example of Manchester’s top-down development model. They don’t know what the people want, and they’re certainly not bringing people along with them.

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