Magpie 29 – Abbey Pond Last Rites

Kelly, U. (1994) Abbey Pond Last Rites. Magpie, 29, pp.14-15

Abbey Pond Last Rites.

The final indignities will start on 11th Feb. when Manchester Science Park’s contractors begin the annihilation of this pond secure in the knowledge that the City Council has planned the event since 1985. Many local people do not know that the pond is about to go, together with the green open space that has been our only wildlife oasis in Hulme for some 20 years. The Planning Department received many objections and informed comment, from local people (who clearly value the pond), through to regional and national advisory and pressure groups. (Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Manchester FoE, CPRE [Lancs], the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, English Nature, the Greater Manchester Countryside Unit and the City Council’s Conservation Officer. With such consistent advice, (keep this pond for its social as much as its ecological value), where did we go wrong?

The planning approval given on 22nd December only endorsed a strategic land use decision made by a Policy and Resources Committee in 1985, which privately condemned the pond to a limited life expectancy, even as the publicly funded commun-ity “improvements”, to the pond, were being completed. In 1989, the Aquarius Community Centre were fired up and willing to help LWT care for the site with the help of a large grant from the N.C.C.(as it was) but it emerged that no lease could be entered into; just as well it didn’t happen. Then came the grandiose aquatic schemes for the Birley playing fields, to which the grant was reallocated (an earlier attempt at moving the Abbey Pond). We don’t know what happened to the money, but the spacious playing fields have been allocated for new housing and commercial development. If the Science Park is so short of land, despite the empty acres near the University, and so pious about their job opportunities for Hulme, this “indefensible” decision to target the pond site could have been avoided and an asset for their own workforce retained. Perhaps the idea of mixing with children from Hulme and Moss Side just wasn’t their vision of community benefit? We shall probably never know. It is now clear that, even before the planning application was submitted (26th Oct), the laboratory complex (Phase 4, MiC Science Park) was cut and dried, alloc-ated money from the European Regional Development Fund and a construction time table had already been finalised. On the 4th of February, we learnt that the tenant for the laboratory is to be Zeneca (ICI Pharmaceuticals). The pond is to be moved – known as a “mitigation measure” so  and the following appears to be mitigation, Manchester Style: 

Step 1 – Hope that no one will notice. 

Step 2 – Avoid consultation with your own ecological advisors. 

Step 3 – When faced with public outcry and press comment, say daft things like, “the pond should be moved for its own good” or “someone could come and tip bleach into it and ruin the wildlife”. 

Step 4 – Describe visitors to the pond as “invisible users”. 

Step 5 – Add on the Planning Condition, requiring mitigation measures, after planning approval has been granted. 

Step 6 – Ensure planning condition (move contents of pond) is ecologically unsound, because the planner did not know that newts hibernate on land (invisible, like the children). 

Step 7 – Hire an expensive consultant to tell developers how to get out of trouble. Don’t leave time for translocation. 

Step 8 – Chose a new pond as far away as you can get in Hulme 

Step 9 – Give local community 2 weeks notice of new pond. 

Step 10 – Ask your voluntary wildlife groups to help with the translocation – giving 5 days notice!// 

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