Please find all our press releases with the most recent at the top
September 4th 2015:
DevoManc questions for controversial Pomona scheme
The UK’s largest property group has been subsidised £10.3 million of Devolution Manchester money for private flats planned for a private island. The controversy surrounding Pomona, Manchester’s last vast green space, has been met with incredulity and widespread expert and public criticism. Manchester’s interim Mayor and Council Leaders have previously denied having an influence on the site, despite Peel Holdings design being placed in both authorities. The plans are already being marketed and funded, despite still going through a planning process and not yet having been given planning permission.
Increasingly a wide range of civic campaigners in Manchester have grave concerns about the active disengagement from planning decisions and the absence of consultation. Lucy Powell MP for Manchester has offered support to campaigners and expressed concern about this development, as have Trafford Councillors.
However, further questions need to be answered as to what role and influence the Interim Mayor Tony Lloyd has in allocating these funds, the use of which have been called inappropriate by campaigners and the media alike, when this revelation was made by Manchester Confidential on Tuesday.
Sean Anstee, Leader of Trafford Council has not made a comment about the plans. Furthermore it is understood Sir Richard Leese in on the Manchester Ship Canal Board, a subsidiary of Peel Holdings. It needs to be ascertained if this is a paid role and what conflict of interests it presents if him and other leaders from Greater Manchester Combined Authority are on the board.
Campaigner and historian Hayley Flynn writes “The Royal Pomona Palace was a grand building surrounded by pavilions and gardens until it was destroyed in a fire at the end of the 19th century. The palace was the largest hall of its kind in the country and it acted not only as a place for people to meet. The pleasure gardens were full of fruits and ‘abundance’ for the Victorians to enjoy, named after the Roman Goddess of agriculture”.
Liz Ackerley who based her University Dissertation on Pomona as the last vast green space and ambitions for an urban ‘paradise project’, says of these designs “This design is ridiculously inefficient. The overground carparks, tarmac and roads take the majority of the island and do not manage the water across the site sustainably. There are minimal green roofs and any ground space is private or gated lacking in functionality. If this goes ahead it is an appalling legacy for Manchester. Questions must be asked and demands made for the easy improvement of this inadequate design, the prevention of destruction of ecology and the realisation of the vast potential of this waterfront space”.
There is a concern that this amount of money is being thrown into a widely derided and sub standard project in order to generate quick income. Adam Prince a civic campaigner says “again and again we see an active attempt to civically disengage from citizens and deny culpability. Replies seldom come and there is no attempt to help people understand or work towards the improvement of this damaging design that wastes taxpayers money for an incredibly rich developer for their cheap build, maximum profit private flats for a carpark and ugly tower island where there could be ambitious civic space with development. The room for improvement is incredible yet we fear the decisions have been rubber stamped behind closed doors”.
Further serious allegations have been made by Members of Parliament and in a BCC report against Peel Holdings in 2013 which alleged tax evasion, which adds further insult to the allocation of Manchester leaders to Peel Holdings without public transparency, statements or declarations.
Furthermore, ecologists and experts have been extremely critical of Peel Holdings destroying all plant life in 2014. Ecologists, Dr Luke Blazejewski and James Walsh have said protected species have been overlooked and neglected from ‘biased’ reports that minimise and exclude reports of wildlife, flowers and birds. The series discrepancies between Peels reports need questioning before Trafford consider the tower schemes in October or November and Manchester City Council considers the uses of the arches for carparking spaces for these towers in September. Indeed campaigners suggest Peel’s plans and actions will cause a damaging “ecolocide”, where rare urban grasslands will be lost to cold concrete.
The questions of Pomona highlight a planning crisis in Manchester and the combined authorities. Serious questions must be asked about accountability, conflicts of interests and allocating funds without consultation. Questions of priority for devolution Manchester making payments to richest property developers for private flats is also a major concern in a housing crisis. As campaigners and concerned citizens, we urge the media, who have actively criticised these substandard plans to seek answers to the questions that are not readily given. The implication for the future of Manchester Planning and the use of devolved Westminster powers certainly need transparency and public scrutiny, which is currently lacking.
Ashley Van Dyck who started the petition for Pomona says “on Thursday 10th September we will be asking questions of the Mayor and leaders at the mutli-agency stakeholder public meeting. These questions need clarity and will not go away until better dialogue and advocacy is sought”.
Notes for editors:
2. Manchester Confidential exposed this story on Tuesday 2nd September http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/news/22-of-devo-manc-housing-fund-gone
3. The petition from August has 1550 signatures https://www.change.org/p/peel-holdings-trafford-council-please-halt-the-plans-to-build-on-pomona-until-viable-social-and-environmentally-sustainable-alternatives-can-be-put-forward
4. The Independent report on the MP inquiry into Peel Holdings http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-biggest-company-youve-never-heard-of-lifting-the-lid-on-peel-group–the-property-firm-owned-by-reclusive-tax-exile-john-whittaker-8890201.html
5. The carparking spaces in Manchester can be found on the planning portal here http://pa.manchester.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=NP97LCBC6K000
. Trafford Council objections to first two towers is here and detail links to the Masterplan http://publicaccess.trafford.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=makeComment&keyVal=NP4716QLIYL00
6. Liz Ackerley can be contacted via her landscaping consultancy at http://www.poppyheadconsultancy.com/
7. Please see Dr Luke Blazejewski’s article about potential of Pomona Island as Eden Project of the North http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/pomona-island-eden-project-flats-9780483
and further details of James Walsh ecology reports https://thenorthernspring.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/pomona-an-issue-of-democracy/
8. Hayley Flynn wrote a piece on Pomona Island before the plans were known http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/aug/07/pomona-lost-island-manchester-dockland-wasteland-oasis
9. Some declarations are made about leaders positions and possible links to Manchester Ship Canal Ltd here http://www.manchesterpartnership.org.uk/manchesterpartnership/info/2/manchester_leaders_forum/50/manchester_leaders_forum_members
and Manchester Evening News further reports this role here – http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/campaign-launched-pomona-docks-salford-9715146
August 5th 2015
Please publish and circulate, contact us for any changes to the text.
The Save Pomona campaign, a push to preserve one of Manchester’s last urban green spaces is growing by the day, with over 1300 signatures on an online petition https://www.change.org/p/peel-holdings-trafford-council-please-halt-the-plans-to-build-on-pomona-until-viable-social-and-environmentally-sustainable-alternatives-can-be-put-forward and a growing number of people taking up the call to add their names to the official objections to planning permission, this energy does not look like it will wane any time soon.
A successful get together and picnic was held on Pomona Island on Saturday August 1st, hosted by the newly formed Save Pomona group and with around 50 people in attendance, including Councillors from Trafford Council, it is shaping up to be the first of many. The next event to take place will be on Thursday August 13th, known as Pomona Day (more info coming soon via a Facebook event), it will be an all day event so please come along and once again, bring cameras, sketchbooks, recording equipment and your curiosity, not to forget sturdy shoes and lunch! Incidentally this is also the deadline date for submitting formal opposition to the plans which you can do HERE
Hayley Flynn, creator of best arts and culture blog in the UK and City Curator of Manchester for National Trust says:
“Not only is Pomona historically and ecologically important but the site has actually demonstrated incredibly successful examples of the kind of uses we want to see for its future. In Victorian Manchester the site was botanical gardens and tourist attractions. If we once had aspirations for the site such as this, why can’t we be as ambitious with it now.”
Flynn has written about Pomona for the Guardian and her first Save Pomona picnic was held in 2014 with campaigning going strong since then, this latest surge of activity of course is fuelled by the recent and widely maligned plans to build two uninspired tower blocks on the unique and much loved land along the Manchester Ship Canal.
Campaign insiders are scrutinizing the plans and applications, ecology reports and wildlife surveys in an attempt to gain a halt to the bulldozers and have the area recognized as having SBI ( Special Biological Importance) People are encouraged to report any wildlife sightings they feel are important here http://gmwildlife.org.uk/wildlife/records/ a smartphone app is available to download from the site.
James Walsh of the Manchester Ship Canal World Heritage group, actively involved in the campaign has a wealth of knowledge on the area’s industrial history and wildlife and his flora and fauna reports are second to none, on the subject of heritage he has this to say:
“There is very little on The Quays to even illustrate to people that
“The Quays” used to be a working docks where 5,000 men worked very very hard, many people visit “Salford Quays” and don’t even know about the history of the site and that needs to change”
On the wildlife front, hear what he has to say here:
and in an interview given at our August 1st picnic he has this to say https://vimeo.com/135205946
As far back as 1989 this land has been under the microscope:
From the Central Manchester Development Corporation’s Strategy for Consultation (1989):
“Within the City Centre, public open space is at a premium. In the city centre the opportunity exists to create small landscaped squares and courtyards related to surrounding development and to pedestrian movement. In Pomona the Corporation will explore with all concerned, including neighbouring planning authorities, the scope for creating a major landscaped area containing leisure facilities which would capitalise upon the waterway links provided by the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal, and link the three key development areas of Castlefield, Wharfside and Salford Quays”
The report goes on to say:
“Pomona – A Regional Leisure Resource
6.14 There are two distinct parts to this sector: St Georges and Pomona Docks. St Georges is a rundown mixed industrial area which could be tackled using an Industrial Improvement Area approach. Pomona is a largely derelict dockland area linking the Castlefield area to Trafford Wharfside and Salford Quays. Only part of the former docks is within the Corporation’s area, the rest being within Trafford Park Development Corporation. This area is almost completely surrounded by water and currently has major accessibility problems. This site has the potential to become a major regional leisure park at the heart of the conurbation: a vital green lung close to the city centre.
With this in mind there is no doubt whatsoever that there has long been recognition in the area that Pomona has the potential to be far more than flats/shops and offices that do little to nothing for the city and, indeed three zones of Manchester, Salford and Trafford that it anchors, what we must now do is look at how we can meaningfully tie the three together with the centre, Pomona a shining example of what to do in a new city, how to move into a new time gracefully and respectfully of a city’s heritage while being aware of the now. We are more in need than ever of open space, of thoughtfully developed public areas and housing that addresses the needs of accommodation as well as resources, can we generate energy on the site for the new buildings? Can we thoughtfully manage waste and water resources? These are the questions, among others that campaigners are asking and discussing.
Trafford council have historically opposed rampant development of the area and we are hoping to reignite this feeling with them and transfer that to all concerned.
Thoughtful sustainable development is being done the world over, here is a recent example from Stokholm of a similar site being developed in a sustainable way: http://landarchs.com/new-neighborhood-in-stockholm-to-foster-sustainable-development/ and Manchester, again, needs to lead the way, or at the very least not lag as far behind as we currently are.
We have a well known lack of park and public green space in Manchester’s city centre area, Whitworth Park being probably the closest significant space and this is certainly not good enough, we need more, not less and this will only add to the well being and happiness of all the people who live here and visit our city.
Campaign members are calling for time to present alternative ideas, to hold public discussions and ensure that every possibility for this loved and unique place be considered.
Campaign member Ash van Dyck says: “We are asking for sufficient time for public consultation, we want to look at what may be possible with this large and one off space and ask that there be nothing done yet, we want to consult with ecologists, landscape architects, wildlife and water experts, land management and clean energy professionals and lift every stone in an attempt to make the best use of Pomona for now and the future”
A 2012 article from “The Business Desk” http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/northwest/news/339346-prop-peel-s-high-court-win-improves-pomona-s-prospects.html? states: PEEL Group has successfully had a decision by the Environment Agency which designated large areas of land around the Manchester Ship Canal as high-risk flood zones overturned.
With this in mind, we wonder how stable any housing built on this land will be and why this ruling was overturned.
Emma Curtin architecture lecturer and Manchester resident states: “Pomona is an amazing place that requires a sympathetic approach to any development. This proposal falls far short of that. I really hope Trafford and Peel will realise that something much more ambitious and sensitive can be achieved on this site which is of strategic importance for Greater Manchester.”
Ecologist and environmental film maker Dr Luke Blazejewski runs regular tours of Pomona and if you have the chance to attend one, he will give you a wealth of information on the area. Seek it out!
What is abundantly clear is that public support for an alternative approach is being strongly embraced and we will not stand by and watch the city we love to live in become a bland square box office and flat environment.
Liz Ackerley, Chartered Landscape Architect adds:
“The site at Pomona represents a unique landscape opportunity to provide something significant for both local people & visitors; a 21st century landscape that recognises nature and its opportunity in urban Britain. Moreover it is probably our only opportunity of this scale & importance close to the city.”
It is clear by the statements above, the passion voiced by the petition signatories and the buzz surrounding the campaign that we can do far better than this proposal, we deserve and owe it to ourselves to do much better.
Adam Prince has this to say:
“This is a dangerous and cynical attempt for domino effect planning. By opening the island to 160 units, Peel speak of a masterplan of 2,500 units. This is exploitative cheap build planning that is unsustainable for the future.”
So what can you do? go to Pomona, take your camera and explore, walk around, the blackberries are wonderful and the flowers are bright attracting hordes of bees, it is a beautiful place to spend a summer evening with friends just wandering from Castlefield down to the Quays or the other way round, we could recommend a pub at either end!
If you do spot any birds of prey or rare flowers, please remember to log it with the environmental register.
No one from PEEL or Rowlinson’s have made any contact at this stage. We welcome a chance to discuss options.
Articles and blog posts of note:
images below taken by Mark Backhouse at the August 1st picnic
Images below taken by Ash van Dyck