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Open Letter to Leader of Manchester city centre 2023

Dear Bev Craig,

I am writing to you following my previous open letter to your predecessor, Sir Richard Leese. This letter concerns the former Central Retail Park.

I am a resident of Manchester city centre. I have lived here for the last 17 years, 12 of which I lived in Ancoats. My husband and I started, and raise our family here. As a mother of three children, one of whom suffers from asthma, as a worker in the city centre. I write to you in the hope that this public conversation might have some impact on what soon can be the final decision for such a controversial site in Manchester city centre.


I am part of the campaign group Trees Not Cars, I have been a driving force behind overturning the planning proposal backed by the MCC Executive to open a car park on the site next to my son's primary school.

Since my last letter Sir Richard Leese has stepped down from his role after 25 years leading the Council.

Since then we have seen Mayfield Park opened for Manchester residents, with a large playground and green space.

We have also seen the proposal for Ancoats Green regeneration creating play areas for children and improving the quality of the existing green space.

In just two years of your leadership, we in Ancoats have seen your dedication to improving green spaces in Manchester city centre.


What does still seem to be lacking, as it was under Sir Richard Leese leadership, is engagement with the local community.

I am proud to be part of the first campaign group (as we were told) who Richard Leese agreed to meet in person.

However, I am even more proud that we had a face to face meeting with the new Leader- yourself - just under one year ago – with myself and Gemma attending again. This time we weren’t there to fight a car park that would bring real harm to the locals, but to share our draft proposal for a park on the controversial Central Retail Park site. We brought hope that our conversation will start a new chapter in the story of engagement between the community and the City Council.

Were we wrong to assume that?

On the 5th of January 2023 City Council issued a new draft proposal for the updated Strategic Regeneration Framework with the latest long term plans for Central Retail Park. This proposal was celebrated by some as a “U-Turn” from the previous plans: a 440 space 24/7 car park, which was followed by a zero-carbon office district covering the whole 10.5 acres of public land.

Unfortunately, Trees Not Cars were not invited into the discussions prior to this latest plan being shared publicly. We fear the voice of the local people is to be ignored once more.

When I look at the latest proposal, I ask “can it be celebrated?” Can we call the narrow path of just less than 1 acre green space? The entire site is 10.5 acres and the Ancoats area has already lost over 3 acres of well-used, popular green space from the loss of New Islington Green.

Before the executive report is issued on this latest proposal, I ask you to consider below points about WHY THE ANCOATS AND NEW ISLINGTON COMMUNITY NEEDS MORE GREEN SPACE on the former Central Retail Park’s 10.5 acres of publicly owned land.


The developments around Ancoats & New Islington have been heavily marketed to families, especially with the primary school, nearby doctors and nurseries. Now they are here, these families find they have no clear input into the regeneration of the rest of the area. I have constantly consulted and worked with local parents to find their needs. I have shared with you the evidence that local people need safe play areas for children and green parks. They need pollution reducing to save the lungs of their children. They don't feel like the Council is listening.

Mayfield park:

• Although a nice setting it is too far from much of the Ancoats & New Islington area, more than a mile

• A walk there is not easy for a parent with a pram and a toddler.

• It will have a more residential and office blocks built around it in the next couple of years and will get even busier than it is now

Ancoats Green initiative:

• It is great to have more focus from the Council on regeneration in the local area.

• However, The redevelopment is an EXISTING GREEN SPACE and is on the edge of Ancoats, almost in the Miles Platting area, it is also very small. It doesn't provide the big green space at the centre of a community tha the families around Ancoats and New Islington crave.

Cotton Field Park:

• Its not suitable for little kids to play safely

• Doesn’t have enough space for everyone

• Is VERY BUSY on a nice sunny day(with high levels of antisocial behaviour)

• It is privately owned and can be closed for public any time


New Islington Green

  • A strip of green space for children to safely run and play

  • Now razed to make way for more offices. How many more office blocks does Ancoats need?

I left one of THE MOST important points to last:

Air Pollution We need more trees and greenery in Manchester City centre. This is vital to improve life expectancy, and our population's health - issues I know you feel very strongly about taking urgent action on.


According to Asthma + Lung UK report issued in February 2023 Manchester has exceeded the World Health Organisation’s NO2 Levels over each recent year. My son is not alone at his school carrying an inhaler. Fellow campaigner of Trees Not Cars, Gemma Cameron, was hospitalised after an asthma attack for the first time in her life after moving to Manchester.


Tameside, Oldham and Manchester have childhood hospital admission rates for asthma nearly FOUR times higher than the national average.


Despite recent redevelopment, Great Ancoats Street remains one of the most polluted roads in the country.


Only last week, I organised a family event where local families with their children discussed the latest proposal for the Central Retail Park. The children drew their vision of this space and how it could address their needs. We did invite the local councillors, unfortunately Irene was busy and I didn’t receive a reply from Majid. Alan Good was able to make it and listened to the views of local residents.

I have attached the beautiful children’s work to this letter. I think it will mean a lot for them if you have a look. It will mean even more if the Council listens to their desire for a park in the district where they live.

I ask you, once more, to consider the needs of local families, the needs of all people living and working in the area, to provide significant green space to boost wellbeing, mental health and help reduce the pollution that is causing the high cases of asthma.


Thank you for taking time in reading this letter,

I am looking forward to hearing from you.


Julia



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