Magpie 20 – Hay Meadow or Superstore?

Brown, I. (1991) Hay Meadow or Superstore? Magpie 20, p. 10-13.

Regular readers of “Magpie” will be familiar with the details and implications of Sainsbury’s plans to build a superstore on Bruntwood Hay Meadow in Cheadle but I think that newcomers deserve a little background information in order to put them in the picture. So if those who may think this “old stuff”, will allow their attention to wander for a while – why not put on the kettle and have a nice cup of tea, or take the dog for a walk – and I will briefly outline the story so far.

In 1987, a public inquiry was held to decide if a superstore development should be allowed on the above mentioned area of meadowland. Manchester Wildlife was the only environmental or-ganisation to bring the natural history value of the area to the attention of the inquiry. In 1989, despite our efforts, the Secretary of State for the Environment decided that the development, a 250,000 sq. ft. store with 2000 car parking spaces, should be allowed to go ahead. In September 1989 the Greater Manchester Countryside Unit designated the meadows as a Site of Biological Importance; thus confirming our judgement. Since then it has become increasingly apparent that wildflower rich “unimproved” meadowland is now a very rare habitat in Britain. The Royal Society for Nature Conservation (RSNC) is currently conducting a ‘Vanishing Meadows” Campaign to highlight the previous and continuing loss of meadows in an attempt to prevent further losses. According to the Nature Conservancy Council (now English Nature), between 1939 and 1984, 95% of wildflower meadows were lost and, outside nature reserves and SSSIs, those that remain are vanishing at a rate of 10% each year. If this continues, the only meadows to survive into the next century will be in nature reserves. (Only nine years to go!) We have found “Ancient” Ridge and Furrow on the hay meadow; I should have noticed this before as on one field, Ox-eye Daisy grows in rows (on the ridges) with lines of Lady’s Smock in the furrows. This means that the meadows have historical interest in addition to their natural history importance.

The RSNC have our wholehearted support in their campaign and we will do all that is within our power to stop the destruction of the hay meadow at Bruntwood. We held a “picket” outside Sainsbury’s Stockport store (fully reported in the spring “Magpie”) to inform their customers and other members of the public about the situation. There have been several articles and features in the local press which have highlighted the fact that we are advocating that there should be a boycott of all Sainsbury stores in order to protest at the impending loss of the hay meadow.

“Last Chance to See? – Bruntwood Hay Meadow”


We extended an invitation, to anyone who wished to see the hay  meadows at their best, to join us on the 30th of June at Brunt-wood Park. About 60 people took up the invitation, including  Cheadle M.P. Stephen Day and local Councillor, Peter Burns. And what a day it was; the sun shone and there were butterflies a 

plenty, including a Common Blue at the end of the day. The wild flowers were blooming; Ragged Robin, Hay Rattle, Ox-eye Daisy, Lady’s Mantle and many others, all looking superb. Dave Bishop  put his botanical knowledge to good use and fascinated us with his enthusiasm on the subject of hay meadows and their great  value to wildlife. Most of those on the walk were stunned to think that anyone could be so insensitive as to even dream of destroying such a beautiful part of our countryside by covering it with concrete.

The battle to save the meadows is not yet over. Sainsbury’s and the John Lewis Partnership have submitted a new application for avouch larger (350,000 sq.ft.) store. We have objected strongly to this, sending a letter to Stockport’s Planners saying that there should be an environmental impact assessment and the application should go to a public inquiry. Copies of the letter have gone to councillors who we feel could refuse this much enlarged development without fear of financial penalties, should it be taken to appeal.

At the Village Hotel in Cheadle on the 5th of August, Sainsbury and John Lewis held a presentation of their development which was (in my opinion) the most arrogant I have ever attended, by any developer. Their attitude seemed, to me, to be – so you’re losing a hay meadow, tough, we want to build a superstore – but do we need one? We were given a lecture about the trees which would be saved, and those to be planted but, in the setting of a huge concrete car park, trees would have little wildlife value, except possibly as the finest state of the art starling roost in South Manchester. We were only given 5 days notice of the presentation and some councillors only had one working day of notice!

So what next? We will be intensifying our boycott campaign to ensure that it receives national publicity. You can help too by writing to Lord Sainsbury & Peter Lewis (Chairman, John Lewis), telling them what you think of their plans and joining in our boycott, for market forces can dictate trends. Write to Stephen Day, or your own M.P., asking them to persuade the Secretary of State to call in the application for a public inquiry. Write to the Chair of Stockport’s Planning Committee asking him to refuse planning permission. Together we can beat this destruction of what is a nationally rare wildlife habitat, but whatever the outcome we must be sure that those commercial interests who would destroy our environment, for the sake of more excessive profits, are aware that there are many who will protest strongly against them. This will be an effective deterrent to ensure that others, with similar plans, will think again. We may not win the battle but we must win the war!

I have been told that some of those present, at our Bruntwood Hay Meadow walk, shed tears at the thought that it could soon be no longer. If the meadows are lost I am sure we will all shed tears for once lost they will be gone forever. //

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