Redbricks residents (@redbricksonline)
Manchester is gridlocked with road redevelopments and high rise building sites bringing our city to a standstill. This is all meant to bring business, money, development into the city. Yet who is actually benefiting, who is making these decisions and who inevitably suffers? What place does local democracy and accountability have in all of these grand plans? Very little it seems.
It is often the people who live immediately by these sites that are the most affected and the least consulted by our council.
In Hulme, the council is planning to redevelop the Princess Road/Medlock Street roundabout to increase road capacity. Although they’re lumping it in with their Bee Network consultation and ‘environmental’ improvements social housing residents in Hulme were the last to know about the major detriment that the council had planned for them.
Despite the bid for this redevelopment being submitted in 2017, the first local residents heard of the plans was at the start of July when signs went up informing drivers of potential disruption and the council started tweeting about the plans with pre-works to begin at the end of the month.
The plans will have significant impacts on residents on the Bentley House Estate (Redbricks) who live next to the roundabout in Hulme. The original plan shows residents set to lose their community space Rockdove Gardens which sits between Rockdove Avenue and Princess Road. The small pocket of land is home to a number of 50 year old trees and provides a vital noise and pollution barrier between residents and the busy roads on the other side. Residents in the closest block have reported a number of respiratory issues including COPD and Asthma. Local GPs have raised concerns about the impact of these works upon their health. These residents, and residents across the estate to a lesser extent, are unable to open their windows due to soot and dust from the roads and complain on black phlegm.
Estate residents and councillors have been kept in the dark about the plans for the roundabout.
Residents have been shown total disregard from our landlords, One Manchester who claim to be ‘more than just a landlord’. The land on which Rockdove Gardens sits is owned by One Manchester. Their staff initially claimed they had no idea about the sale of the land. They have since admitted that the land is to be sold to the council for £28,000 and that they were fully aware of the council’s plans to tarmac over the green space. They told residents they had no obligation to tell them of the sale or the plans to destroy what is essentially their back garden and felt no guilt over the decision.
According to the initial bid for the works, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment and Skills, was required to sign off on the project. Given the impact of the plans on both the Hulme and Deansgate wards you would expect that councillors would be consulted on something which will have a huge impact upon their residents. And yet, as far as we can tell, nothing has been presented to any of the council committees.
There has been no discussion of the plans at an Executive, Council or Highways council meeting in the last 3 years. We have checked all documents published on the council website since 2014 and have found nothing about the project apart from requests for more money for the project or in Richard Leese’s reports to the Economic Scrutiny Committee. These reports state that Leese is in the ‘City Centre Infrastructure Group’ who are leading the project but nothing more. Inevitably there is no further information available about this group or their membership.
The behaviour of the council and One Manchester shows a continued disregard for social housing tenants and working class communities across Manchester. Chorlton residents have received 2 years of consultation on their portion of the Bee Network whereas Hulme residents have had 2 ‘drop in information sessions’ mere weeks before work is about the start. We have not been provided with environmental health assessments or equalities assessments.
The plan for the Princess Road redevelopment isn’t driven by a desire to improve cycling provisions or air quality but is a shameless commercial decision designed to help commuters reach the city centre faster. The plans have been panned by cycling groups as utterly ridiculous and worse than the current infrastructure. Air quality testing hasn’t been carried out and Highways are unable to clearly explain if the plans will lead to any improvement in air quality for locals.
There has long been a disregard for communities by the City Council and these plans show how deep this disregard goes. That council members haven’t even been consulted, let alone residents, shows how little the council bureaucracy thinks of those they are meant to represent us.
We don’t just deserve a council which consults us but we need one which actually honours its commitments to air quality, safer streets and a decent cycling infrastructure. The council should be putting community needs at the heart of their decision making not shutting out the residents who are most impacted by their decisions.
Residents are fighting the plans, demanding our green space be protected and trees not be felled.
You can help #SaveRockdoveGardens by spreading the word and signing our petition which you can find here.
15 July 2019