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Last year's elected councillor for Ancoats and Beswick

Chris was elected as councillor for Ancoats and Beswick last year. As a long standing supporter of Trees Not Cars (and local resident!) we've caught up with her to find out what's she's been up to in her first year.

A photo of Chris Northwood next to the canal in Ancoats
Chris Northwood in Ancoats

1. Who are you, what’s your involvement with A&B and which party do you stand for?

I moved to Ancoats in 2012 and last year was elected to the council to represent Ancoats & Beswick for the Liberal Democrats, and I am the parliamentary candidate for Manchester Central. Outside of my duties as an elected councillor, I also work as a software engineer for a national charity.

2. What are your view on what should be done with former CRP? Where does a proper park fit into that and what would it bring to local people?

My view remains the same as when I was elected, and it's frustrating to be blocked by Labour from bringing it into fruition! A proper park, linking up with the Cotton Field Park including facilities that residents are asking for such as a dog walking zone and other community facilities. I do recognise that some area of the site might need to be developed in order to make that financially viable, but given the housing crisis in Ancoats, it should be residential and affordable housing built on the site.

3. What have you achieved since election? What are your priorities for the next year?

I've achieved lots as part of the team working alongside Alan [Good], from supporting individuals in need to larger issues such as securing safer road crossings and cycle routes, as well as blocking an attempt to greenwash a new car park as a climate change intervention, but in terms of green space we've done the following:

For the Central Retail Park the biggest thing we tried to do was to bring a motion which committed to a proper park on the site. Sadly, an amendment was brought forward by Labour which carried which removed the commitment to that in favour of much woolier commitments. We also challenged the council on visibility on the consultation feedback, as they attempted to cover it up by not quantifying feedback in the report. This showed the resident demand for a proper green space on the site was high, and we've used that to continue making asks, and will do so when planning permission comes forward. When the council brought forward the phasing plan for the site, they determined that the green space/public realm would be deferred to a later stage after the main development has been built. We lobbied for this to be brought forward in parallel, as we thought it was a forerunner to then drop the green space element at a later phase and are continuing to scrutinise plans as they come forward.

For Ancoats Green, we've spoken to property developers who are building nearby to ensure nighttime safety of the site, in particular for lighting going to/from it. The police have raised concerns about the safety and the council's plans for how the safe is going to be safe, so we're trying to get the council to look at the development holistically to ensure that. In the meantime, the green space there, and along the canal has been closed off for construction works. This has also stopped access between Ancoats and Miles Platting - we asked the developer and the planning department to maintain the access but we were told "health and safety" meant no access could be retained during the building work.

In New Islington Green we attempted to challenge the planning permission deadlines as having expired so the planning permission would go back to day 1 and we could make a renewed case for it now we were in power. Unfortunately it seems that a hole was dug which is enough to count as "work starting" and the council seem unwilling to pursue this any further. There's some new plans submitted to update the design and we're waiting to see what's going on with that to see if there's an angle we can attack them over.

In Beswick, we've had some success with cleaning up the area to bring some green space into informal use through clearing back overgrown areas and flytipping prevention, and we're also looking at development of a new pocket park on some unused land the council owns, fingers crossed. We've identified some potential funding for this and will be making a bid and have got a meeting booked about this. There's also been some improvements to Bradford Park that we've backed, as well as some city-wide activity in terms of cleanup and safety improvements that we've been able to support locally (although that was a city-wide initiative rather than just us, to be fair!)

We've also been working on identifying some money to cleanup the Ashton Canal Park which is just outside Ancoats and that work is pushed to get that tidied up and brought into use.

Priorities for the next year:

  • Continuing to work as a team with Alan Good to work hard all year round in supporting local residents,

  • Pushing forward our campaigns for green space

    • For eample the Holt Town development framework. When the consultation comes out we'll be pushing for making sure there's proper green space there, earmarked from the start, rather than what's happened in Ancoats where the little "informal" space is lost.

  • cleaning up fly-tipping and keeping the streets clean,

  • get more affordable housing built in the area to help people with spiralling housing costs during the cost of living crisis.

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