Magpie 15 – Planning Matters

Magpie 15 business parks

Planning Matters by Ian Brown. 

Business PARKS

We occasionally suffer outbreaks of epidemics like the flu. Just before Christmas, but the epidemic I will most remember 1989, is that of a certain planning blight called “Business Parks”. There were at least eleven such outbreaks of this disease in South Manchester, all but one on open space and most on public open space. In various stages of development, these “Business Parks”, if completed, will swallow up almost all of our urban open spaces, from the Y.M.C.A. Playing Fields to Heald Green Farm, except for public parks and woods. 

One problem seems to be that many of the sites are owned by the City Council and it would appear that they are selling or leasing these open spaces to help alleviate their chronic shortage of cash. What price Green Socialism now? It seems a little like local privatisation. On a personal note I feel that, “The Earth is a Common Treasury, and it is a crime to buy and sell the land for private gain”.• We have tried to argue against some of the developments, but unfortunately with little success. We feel councillors are quite determined that these developments should go ahead. I was particularly upset over the “Business park” on fields south of Simonsway in Wythenshawe.

( • A declaration made during the English Revolution by the True Levellers or Diggers who took over and farmed St. George’s Hill. Tony Benn, Guardian 5.1.90) 

Phase one started in March, and when Phase two came up (offices for British Telecom) I discovered that a mature hawthorn hedge which connected two woods was to be ripped out. A plan by Robert Camlin allowed for retention of the hedge, but was superseded. I went to the planning meeting and tried to argue that the hedge, which could be hundreds of years old, should be saved, as its presence would not make any difference to the scale of the development. I was told that the hedge must go and that it would be replaced by new planting elsewhere on the site, and that we would have to be patient whilst this new planting matured. (I think that the phrase “Biologically Illiterate” seems appropriate.) I don’t mind waiting a few hundred years, but will the wildlife. 

New Jobs – Some of the “Business Parks” are purely speculative developments. For example, Sharston Playing Fields, Palatine Road (with palm trees indoors) and the Marples Ridgeway development at Heald Green Farm. This being the case, it cannot be said that they will provide any jobs. It is not even certain that these offices will be sold or let. Even those developments which have prospective occupiers are not bound to create new jobs but merely move them around. This was so with the Trident development at Moss Nook, to where Costains transferred from three premises in Sharston. The Siemens overdevelopment on Nell Lane will be a transfer of headquarters, from Congleton. Let’s hope that we don’t end up with a situation where we lose all our open space, have a lot of empty offices and no new jobs. 

ROMILEY REGRETS – Back in March we made comments, on a proposed housing development in Romiley, to the Stockport Planners. The plan was for houses in a large rear garden, the bottom half of which was wooded and in conjunction with the trees of the surr-ounding gardens created an area which was obviously good for wildlife. Mr. Ward, a local resident who had observed the local fauna, over many years, provided us with a list which indicated that there was a good variety, particularly of birds. Our assessment of the site, in conjunction with Mr. Ward’s wildlife observations, led us to believe that any development which destroyed the heart of this spinney would be detrimental to the urban environment. The local planning committee strongly recommended refusal on access, environmental and other grounds, and the plan came before Stockport’s Development Sub-Committee. It was unfortunate that a councillor, who was known to be against the application, had had to leave early and when it came to a vote, it was eight for, eight against. This left the Chairman,  Councillor Brian Leah, with three choices. He could abstain, or use his casting vote, either for or against. He voted for, so the development will unfortunately go ahead. So who’s green now then? f feel that there is not very much environmental concern in big business and even less amongst property developers, but surely local councillors have some concern. Well, in Stockport obviously some do, but it would appear to be one too few. 

Solicitors Letter – In September we received a letter from a solicitor in Cheadle Hulme, who’s client, the owner of the property referred to above, appeared to object to our comments on his proposed development. They cast doubts on Mr. Ward’s qualifications in the field of ecology (he has none), intimating a lack of qualifications could affect his ability to identify birds. They also said that “what is certainly true is that Mr. Ward’s list is erroneous”. Further, they considered our letter to be “mischievous” and asked for a retraction of our assertion that their client’s land contained wildlife of special importance. We had made our comments in good faith (surely it’s our duty to object to such planning applications), and felt that our assessment of the site’s wildlife value was accurate, so we (and Mr. Ward) asked for an apology, which we both received. It is possible that we were being intimidated into withdrawing our comments, but it is just as well we did not, for how could we make comments on planning applications in future, without fearing a solicitors letter popping through the letterbox. 

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