The Local Plan (consultation) is coming. Here’s what we didn’t get to say

Who gets to speak? Who doesn’t? Who isn’t heard when they do?  All good questions about democracy in Manchester…

The Executive of Manchester City Council is made up of ten councillors (with leader Richard Leese in post since 1996).  It meets ten times a year, in public. But it is not a public meeting.  Last month, Chloe Jeffries of Climate Emergency Manchester, addressed the Executive, on the subject of a ‘review’ of progress on the Climate Emergency Declaration. Sadly, the audio of her speech was not recorded – faulty microphone, don’t you know.

Today, her colleague Marion Smith hoped to address the Executive today (see agenda here), on its discussion of the consultation for the next Local Plan (don’t worry if this seems new to you – it is, and we will be talking about it more, with diagrams and everything). Sadly Marion was not allowed to speak: she asked two days ago but only got a meaningful reply this morning. So it goes. Apparently you can only ask searching question about the format of a consultation, and the questions within it… during the consultation. Not that that is too late or anything…

Below is what she would have said. We sent it to all members of the Executive, and the consultative panel.  We are now  promised a response from the City Council, coordinated by the Executive Member for the Environment. We will let you know what that says, when it arrives.

Good morning

Thank you to the chair for the opportunity to address the Executive.

My name is Marion Smith. I am a core group member of Climate Emergency Manchester  I won’t introduce that group since my colleague Chloe Jeffries did that when she addressed at last month’s Executive. You will remember that she asked a series of questions about the Council’s actions against its climate emergency declaration, which you all voted for on 10th July last year.

I am a Masters student in ethnomusicology at the University of Manchester. I live and work in Fallowfield, and have done for four years now. I am terrified by the coming impacts of climate change- I am sure we’ve all been following the wildfires in Australia, and the fact that 50 UK scientists say that wildfire in this scale is likely to become the new norm is a horrific thing to come to terms with.I am here to talk about the Issues paper for the Local Plan consultation that you are about to discuss.

I want to make a couple of observations -and ask a couple of questions.  Some of these were developed with the kind help of the organisation Steady State Manchester.

Firstly, the observations.

  1. The document makes great play of growth.  Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. At some point the work of groups like Steady State Manchester will have to be engaged with.  Specifically at in Figure 2 “Our Manchester Themes” there is  no acknowledgement of the contradictions inherent there, for example between “Ensure our communities are protected from a changing climate”, “be a zero carbon city by 2038 at the latest” and “…. Airport City to boost the economy”, .”….drive growth and investment”, “Capitalise on the increased capacity at the airport…” When we are in need of a carbon emission reduction on a massive scale, do we really think that an increase in aviation is compatible?

  1. Also, At section 2.4, there is talk of clean air, but utter silence on the private motor car. Given the recent proposals in Birmingham, does not Manchester risk missing an opportunity to improve the health of the public?

Secondly, my questions are these

  1. The time frame for the Local Plan seems exceptionally long. We know that there are legal obligations, and consultation must be thorough, and that Manchester has to negotiate and align with other bodies, especially Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Nonetheless… has any effort been made to see if other comparable cities have done the process thoroughly, but quickly – this is, after all, an emergency.

  1. I, as a relatively highly educated person, find these documents intimidating and sometimes baffling. As per 1.4, you say you “would welcome suggestions on how we can better engage with different people and groups in future”

What specific provisions are being made for people who have English as a second language, or have low level of attainment with reading.  Are there going to be videos? Cartoons? Or any other ways that the Local Plan consultation and its importance can be explained in an accessible manner?

Thank you for your time.

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