Magpie 28 – Trouble at t’ Pond

Kely, U. (1993) Trouble at ‘t Pond. Magpie 28, pp.13-15

by Unity Kelly 

Ten days after our sunny and successful pond-clean at Abbey Villa Pond, a phone call alerted us to the arrival of the planning application by Manchester Science Park Ltd. at the Town Hall. Inspection of the plans revealed what we had suspected for some months, that the proposed office, laborat-ories and generous carparking would turn the pond and its semi-natural grassland into history. Those of you familiar with Mrs.Gaskell’s first novel, “Mary Barton”, can discover her description of the rustic delights of some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as “Green Heys Fields”. Here may be seen the country business of haymaking, ploughing etc. “If you could see the charm of one particular stile. Close by it is a deep clear pond….” She goes on to describe the hedges of hawthorn and blackthorn, the foot-paths, the black and white farmhouses and their flower filled gardens…. and the pleasure this countryside gave to the artisans from the mills and forges. All that was soon to vanish, but history has a funny way of repeating itself. When the wholesale clearances of the 1960s gave Greenheys back a small pocket of naturally regenerated urban common, the happy accident of fractured water main also created a sizeable pond. In the early stages, it was the botanical arrivals, especially in the marshy areas, which aroused the interest of the University ecologists and others. It also made a fascinating place for children to explore and welcome relief from the newly fashioned concrete jungle in Hulme. Even while public money was being spent on various “improvements” and better access in 1985, plans were on paper to enable the site to be retrieved for development at will. There was no consultation when part of the area was taken for the site of the Greenheys Business Centre but all the residents we have spoken to, were aware that all was not well. Trees had gone and the marsh where the mallard roosted in 1966/7 was ruined by infilling. But the pond itself continued to thrive and give delight and knowledge to the local children. The water quality remains excellent and now we know just how good it is for aquatic invertebrates, including species which are quite choosy where they live. Another species of dragonfly has been added to the list; the Black Darter. It is our smallest dragonfly (as opposed to the damselflies), and is a ‘very interesting” record (Andrew Bielinski). 

The argument put forward by David Kaiserman (Planner and statistician!), at the UDP Inquiry, was that the pond was a temporary measure and artificially created and hence not entitled to protection on account of its value to wildlife or the community. Well, all ponds are artificial but not all ponds develop the way this one has done. This line of reasoning could be bad news for ponds everywhere. Evidently the site has been reserved for further development “for a number of years”. Why bother with the UDP and the so called consultation? In the meantime the Phase 1 Habitat Survey (1990), had identified the site as one of only three areas in  Hulme with any notable wildlife value. “Even unto them that hath very little, so even that shall be taken away”. 

Manchester Wildlife is working closely with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and many other conservation bodies to oppose this development. The local Action Group is based at No. 1, Otterburn Close, Hulme (Tel. 226 1987 or 226 6774-hotline). Please send your objection immediately to the Planning Dept, Town Hall, f.a.o. Chris McGough. 

The Abbey Pond Action Group is making waves – donations gratefully accepted. // 

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