Central Retail Park carpark proposal – questions and answers #Manchester

nqforum eventMany of you will know that Manchester City Council declared a Climate Emergency on July 10th. Some of you will know that that very same council is planning to use the land where the Toys R Us was on Great Ancoats St as a temporary car park (nice money-spinner, shame about the carbon emissions).

One of the groups objecting to this is the Northern Quarter Forum, which is hosting a rally TODAY.

Below is an email interview conducted with Joanne Cross, secretary of the Forum. You can find the Forum  on Facebook here, and on Twitter as @NQForum

1. First off, what is the Northern Quarter Forum – how long has it been going, who set it up, why? What are some of the battles it has fought/lost/won. Is it affiliated to any political party or NGO?
NQF was set up before my time by an ex local Councillor who then wanted the residents to run it for him but it never really took off although NQ Greening arose out of it with a group of non-political locals. The NQ fell into Ancoats and Clayton & City Centre Wards which obviously wasn’t ideal. People move on and 5 years ago when making enquiries as to whether there was a residents group there was only a handful of concerned residents left who were concentrating on greening the area more than anything. Informal meetings were still held with police and council updates.

Since 2014 we have gained nearly 100 members, (which doesn’t sound like a lot but the population of NQ is pretty transient) and over 3,000 followers on Twitter so, in October 2018 we decided to constitutionalise as we were growing as a group and needed to be taken seriously, we then had a voice and connections. “People live here. We are residents dedicated to making the Northern Quarter a clean, green and better place to live for the benefit of all.” We organise litter-picks, planting projects and take a keen interest in the preservation of the neighbourhood’s heritage.

A major battle was over the Shudehill / Back Turner St. development. During a well-attended consultation meeting we were told that the warehouse was dangerous and had to be demolished the very next day. Unsurprisingly demolition was part of the proposed planning application for a hotel. Part of the gable end was indeed demolished but we managed to persuade our fairly newly elected Councillors to put a halt to the rest being demolished. Salboy, the developers quickly realised we meant business and included us in further discussion and consultations. Out of the next 3 proposals, which had now become apartments and some retail, we were pleased to see that the warehouse could be retained with the inclusion (albeit tiny) a pocket park.

Two sites on Thomas St. were also of concern to us. The first was the old Shopfitters site which had planning permission to be demolished (apart from a corner unit which is listed) and the construction of “artisan dwellings” which in our view were far from that. The day before demolition was due to start a concerned Manchester citizen applied to get the whole site listed and now the developers are having to reconsider their proposals. We can’t take credit for the listing application but we are very grateful to whoever it was. The developers have since asked for our opinion and suggestions but our concern is that they don’t maintain the properties and again may fall into disrepair.
The second site is the corner plot of Thomas / John / Kelvin / Back Turner. The planning permission for this site appears to have universal approval as it at least retains the corner (Al Faisal) building.

In June, we successfully persuaded the Council to close Stevenson Square from Oldham St. through to Newton St. to traffic which hasn’t been done before, for Clean Air Day. We organised “The People’s Pop-Up Park” in 9 days, enlisting the help of Friends of the Earth, Walk Ride Mcr, TFGM and others. We hope that Stevenson Square will soon be traffic-free and return to it’s historic purpose of being for the people and the home of radicals.

For The Great British Spring Clean in April we had a very successful guided art & architecture tour lead by Hayley Flynn, picking litter along the way and hope to do many more.

We are not affiliated to any political party and do not wish to be. We aren’t an NGO as such although we are a non-profit organisation and we don’t have enough income (through donations) to become a registered charity.

2. What are the NQF objections to the proposed carpark?

The proposed carpark on the Central Retail Park site is such a wasted opportunity. There are proposals afoot for a luxury office development but not for at least 5 years. The Council own this land and obviously want to make a quick buck from parking revenue until the re-development starts, as has been the case with many land-owners in the city centre for many years. Our Council declared a Climate Emergency on July 10th the day after the planning application was submitted .and now they are encouraging more cars to come into the city centre instead of finding ways to discourage them. This is a 10.5 acre site right next to Cotton Fields, the Marina and more importantly a primary school. It would make perfect sense to link all these together for the benefit of residents and visitors alike and because of the appalling lack of green spaces in the City Centre and the ever increasing population, surely the health of the citizens should take priority.

3. What would members like to see the space used for instead?
We are holding a rally on Thursday Aug.1st. to find out exactly what people suggest, whether that’s allotments, woodland, sporting facilities, children’s playground or all of those linking the canals and marina for the community. If the site has to be developed in the future, surely social and affordable housing should take priority on Council owned land?

4. How are you going about opposing the existing plans and proposing others?
We will be encouraging everyone to object to the planning application which is going to the committee on August 6th

5. How can people get involved?

Object to the planning proposal before August 6th and attend the rally on August 1st

6. Anything else you’d like to say.
Lots!……but sadly busy this week

Joanne Cross (Secretary NQForum)

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Climate campaigners call for deeds not words in #Manchester

cdnw cover and recommendations.pngA  new report calls on Manchester City Council to create a climate change war room, and bring plans forward  for re-examining the target date to be carbon zero. The 44-page report, produced by Climate Emergency Manchester (1) is entitled Climate Deeds Not Words.

The report calls on the Council to 

   Create a temporary team from senior council management which reports to chief executive with full time project management support 

–   Ensure that all 32 wards have agreed Local Climate Champions – one councillor from each ward  to champion climate action and engagement

   Present draft implementation plans for 4 key elements of the Ctimate Emergency Declaration  to Scrutiny Committees in early September 

Calum McFarlane, co-convenor of the campaigning group said.

“Two weeks ago Manchester City Council unanimously supported a climate emergency declaration, with 23 elements to it. We’ve produced a report that urges the Council to turn words into deeds. Our report, produced in collaboration with concerned citizens, puts forward a series of steps we think that Manchester City Council needs to undertake immediately. We have also produced a condensed version of the report that we hope people will present to their councillors.”

As well as the 44 page report (available in pdf or word), 4 page summaries (pdf and word) and 2 page summaries (pdf and word) are also available.

Climate Emergency Manchester encourages residents in Manchester to contact their three ward councillors and discuss the ideas provided in the report/summaries.

Climate Emergency Manchester will continue to scrutinise the progress of the implementation of the Climate Emergency commitments the City Council with its own reports. On October 10th, on the three month anniversary of the Climate Declaration it will release  its first quarterly progress report on the progress made.

Scrutiny scrutinised #01: Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee, July 2019, CED + 7 days.

What the hell does that title mean?  Well, Climate Emergency Manchester is going to start (1)  scrutinising the scrutiny process.  Manchester City Council has six scrutiny committees, made up of ‘backbench’ councillors (ones who are not part of the 10 member Executive (2).  The committees are made up of anywhere between 10 and 18 councillors. They meet ten times a year, in public (usually in the Town Hall Extension). The meetings tend to last for two hours (this one was longer) and are livestreamed (or ‘webcast’).  The agenda for the meeting is published a week before, and usually the reports which will be scrutinised by councillors go up at the same time.

The six committees are (drumroll please) Neighbourhoods and Environment, Health, Economy, Resources and Governance, Young People and Children, and Communities and Equalities.  On July 10th we wrote to five of the six chairs of the Scrutiny Committees with specific proposals about what their committees could look at, and some more general suggestions for making committees more inclusive. You can read these letters via here.

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Spotters cards for all 6 scrutiny committees will be released soon…

Right, so, Neighbourhoods and Environment met on Wednesday 17th July, at 2pm. This was one week and 3 hours after the City Council had declared a climate emergency.  Climate Emergency Manchester live tweeted most of the meeting (check out our timeline at @ClimateEmergMcr.   This blog post is not so much an exhaustive recap, but a summary and some observations.

  1. There was, unusually but with warning, a matter of urgent business:  the Great Ancoats St cycle-lane removal controversy. For an excellent account of this, with links and interviews with key people see Andrea Sandor’s article in Manchester Confidential.  Calum McFarlane of Climate Emergency Manchester was granted permission to address the committee (3) and pointed out that if this is – as the Council agreed last week – an emergency, well, you revisit decisions which have already been made in the light of that…   Different councillors had different views on the merits of the scheme overall (Miles Platting Councillors were keen on anything that reduces congestion) but ALL the councillors who spoke were scathing/withering about the quality of the consultation that had (not) been conducted, and this was the hinge on which they were able to recommend that the big red ‘Pause’ button should be hit. The Executive Member for the Environment and Transport, Angeliki Stogia, was not able to sway them, and her efforts may have hardened opposition.  Whether ‘the executive (see footnote 2 again!) will indeed accept that recommendation, and hit the pause button while further consultation is done, remains to be seen – watch this space.
  2. The next item was the Climate Change ‘update’.  I (Marc Hudson, editor of Manchester Climate Monthly) really could go on for hours (actually, weeks) about this. Buy me pints and I will).  Due to the way that the councillors were sat/were called upon to speak (and that’s NOT a criticism of the chair of the meeting), the central fact that Manchester achieved only a 2.5% reduction in emissions last year rather than the 13% it needs to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2038 was not raised until quite late in the proceedings.  Meanwhile, in extraordinary scenes, the officer and Executive member were able to blithely admit that most of Manchester has not been reached in efforts to reduce emissions, and that the Agency doesn’t know what it is doing (I paraphrase).  The simple question  WHAT THE HELL HAVE WE BEEN PAYING YOU FOR THESE LAST NINE YEARS IF IN 2019 YOU DON”T, BY YOUR OWN ADMISSION, HAVE A CLUE? was not, sadly, asked. The main outcome of note was that a ‘subgroup’ of councillors will be set up to scrutinise more closely and more regularly.  Watch this space for further info.  Subgroups usually meet for 3 or 4 meetings before reporting back to the scrutiny committees from which their members come. However, on this occasion, because of the issue, because of the complexity and the number of councillors who want to be involved, the normal rules may not quite apply. Frankly, what is needed is a seventh Scrutiny Committee, and if the subgroup can show the value of that, then great…
  3. The next item was about homelessness (which is of course FAR wider than rough sleeping). The chair, LeeAnn Igbon (Labour, Hulme) had to leave the room because of a conflict of interest whto do with her employment [This is a really important point – almost all Councillors have day jobs. This is not a full-time gig like being an MP.  We need to remember that when lobbying councillors!)  John Flanagan (Labour, Miles Platting and Newton Heath) took over and was at pains to point out that although the questioning would be forensic, the councillors were well aware that this particular shitshow (my words, not his) is bestowed on us by the Tories changing the rules again and again to screw people over).  Councillors were super engaged with this, of course. It’s what they get heaps of requests for help with and, believe it or not, most of them have come into politics at this level to, erm, help people.
  4. Next up was the reports of the two Executive Members present. Every six months the 10 member exec has to front up to one of the six committees, say what they’ve been doing and answer questions.   Before that, a Hulme resident – Louise Sheridan – was able to address the committee about the Bentley Roundabout.  Turns out there has been inadequate consultation on this too, with contradictory information being given out!!   To be honest, it got quite fraught in the case of Councillor Stogia, perhaps feeling bruised by the Great Ancoats and Climate Report sessions.  The Chair of the Committee (LeeAnn Igbon back in post) had to explain that scrutiny committees, well, scrutinise…  Igbon also read out some of the official council rhetoric around ‘Our Manchester’ in a voice that might just have had a drop of sarcasm in it.
  5. The overview report (which comes at the end) was dealt with, but the webcast dropped out, and your correspondent didn’t catch any of it.

 

Observations

  • The meeting ran DRASTICALLY overtime (again, not a criticism of the chair or anyone else), even with one item about counterfeit goods and Strangeways being deferred to next meeting. This shows that NESC’s remit is too large, and that a seventh scrutiny committee, dedicated to environment, is urgenly needed.
  • There are a bunch of councillors clearly wanting to see the Climate Emergency Declaration turned into deeds.  They have different levels of experience on council, of ‘weight’ (relationships, history) on council, and different amounts of time, energy, motivation.  If we, as citizens, give a shit about a climate emergency being more than the latest in a long long series of green-wash, then we will engage critically but constructively and supportively with those councillors. When they show courage, determination, intelligence, honesty, tell them that we appreciate it.  Keep providing them with analysis (though it seems the Climate Emergency Manchester report didn’t have a lot of traction…)
  •  Scrutiny is and will remain a really difficult thing for activists to energise concerned citizens over. There’s no getting around it, but there ARE things we can do to lessen the alienation factor. Watch this space.
  • Live-tweeting is actually quite difficult, time and energy consuming.  CEM is going to have to make real efforts to increase its own capacity. If anyone wants to develop those skills, please drop us a line on climateemergencymanchester@gmail.com
  • The NESC next meets on 4th September. If everything goes according to plan, a draft implementation plan for key elements of the Climate Emergency Declaration will be presented.  If…

Footnotes

(1) Some of us attended in June, but no account was written

(2) But the word executive means more than you think!  To quote from a very prompt and even more helpful explanation –

‘the word ‘executive‘ has a lot of different meanings in Councils. We have a group of councillors who meet as “The Executive“, but there is a wider group of senior officers who, as individuals, exercise executive functions on a day to day basis, and who, in doing so are part of the Council’s executive arrangements. Scrutiny committees scrutinise the executive arrangements, not just “The Executive“.

(3) These are meetings in public, NOT public meetings. The distinction is worth bearing in mind!

 

Author: Marc Hudson

This post is personal views/reflections, and does not necessarily reflect the position of Climate Emergency Manchester.

Text of #Climate Emergency speech by Councillor Mandie Shilton Godwin, July 10th

Following on from yesterday’s text of Councillor Annette Wright’s speech proposing  the Climate Emergency motion, we can now print the supporting speech in Council (10 July 2019) of Councillor Mandie Shilton Godwin (Labour, Chorlton Park).

I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to sign this motion and thank you to Cllr Annette Wright for bringing it forward this morning.

Yesterday I was proud to attend the first Citizen’s Assembly to discuss the climate emergency with young people at Chorlton High School where I am a Governor, where we discussed what they as students and the school as a community will do to bring about change.  It was a really powerful event, and although I know that many people deplored that young people have come out of school for the climate strikes, in fact, to me it was clear that their actions have already brought about changes in their own communities and I want to stand here in solidarity with them. Later today, Chorlton Park councillors will be at a Barlow Hall primary school in our ward to see the works they too have done on this agenda. 

 Manchester is a proud international city. We know that the greatest impact falls on those who are least able to protect themselves because of poverty.  Most urgently that means those who even now are suffering in the poorest countries from emergencies such as storms, hurricanes and floods, in parts of the world where resilience is lowest, for example recently those in Mozambique. And closer to home, when there were floods in this city, it was those who can’t afford insurance who suffered the most.  And it will always be so. This agenda is a social justice agenda. 

I’d like to look at some of the practicalities, not just what we say but what we do, which is essential, as the stark and depressing report from the Government’s committee on Climate Change which was published this morning, so clearly demonstrated. 

I’d like to draw every councillor’s attention to two clauses in this motion, where you can play your part. First, point 6, ensuring that all policies and papers that come before your scrutiny committees include, upfront, an assessment of the impact of all council activity on the climate, so that we are all rowing our boats in the same direction; – this is, in fact, already part of what we should be doing to meet Our Manchester ambitions.  Secondly, point 3; by ensuring that your ward plans include specific and measurable steps to make this a reality across the city. Unless we do this we will be in danger of allowing activities that run counter to our good intentions to slip through the net. 

And then secondly: points 9 and 10; by using the considerable leverage that we have within the supply chain.  All of the powers at our disposal and all of the opportunities that we can generate, to ensure that what we do has the greatest possible positive impact, whether on energy reduction, or biodiversity, or development. And that also means seriously looking at what we need to do at and through the Airport. 

Finally, we need to exert every drop of influence that we can, – via our MPS and through our direct connections to Govt, to ensure that they pay proper attention and detailed to this issue.  We need national legislation and frankly, the injection of some serious funding, so that we can step up our activity to meet the rightful expectations of our citizens. 

Text of Cllr Annette Wright’s speech proposing #Climate Emergency declaration for #Manchester

Last Wednesday, 10th July 2019, Manchester City Council debated a motion calling for the declaration of a climate emergency.  It was proposed by Councillor Annette Wright, (Labour, Hulme).  The transcript is below, and a video can be found here.

Other videos, transcripts, tweets and photos can be found here.

Dates for your diary – Weds 17th July (today!) at 2pm, the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee will be discussing climate change and also – cycle lanes on Great Ancoats St.  Meet at 1pm at Waterhouse Pub to go over to meeting.  It will be livetweeted, and is being livestreamed.

Monday 22nd July – Climate Emergency Manchester releases its draft implementation plan for the Climate Emergency Declaration.  [We believe Manchester City Council needs to bring draft implementation plans for some elements of the Climate Emergency Declaration to scrutiny committees in early September, and a completed implementation plan for the entire motion to scrutiny in October.]

Weds 24th July, 10am. The Executive of the city Council meets. There’s a report from the City Solicitor about the Climate Emergency motion to be tabled.

If you want to get involved in scrutinising what the council DOES after its fine words of 10th July, and you want to build the capacity to do useful stuff, then get in touch with us via the contact form or email – climateemergencymanchester@gmail.com

Transcript of Councillor Annette Wright’s speech 

Thank you, Lord Mayor. Just to deal with the amendment first. I have spoken to Councillor Kilpatrick and Councillor Stanton and I’ve agreed to incorporate their amendment  (1) into my motion (2) so I will now move the motion in its entirety. Is that okay? Yes okay thank you.

I’d first like to thank Manchester Labour group for giving me the opportunity to move this motion. And when I thought about what the subject of my motion should be I considered all the conversations that I’ve had with residents in Hume about the environment and the climate and our planet.

And it is clear to me that we need to do two things at this council. We need to state our intention much more forcefully and clearly than we have done already. And we need to ensure that the issue of climate change is embedded into everything that we do and is top of our list of priorities.

So I’d like to ask you first today to join me in declaring a climber emergency for the City of Manchester. The situation we are in should not be any surprise to us. For years and years and years climate experts and activists have told us that rampant capitalism is destroying our planet and that we have to do something about it and find a better way before it is too late.

Those with power didn’t listen or understand or care, so we are where we are now in what is clearly an emergency situation which we must deal with as we would deal with any emergency; with intelligence, resolve, inclusiveness and passion.

So what I am asking you to take on board today is not just a statement – it is a plan,

A plan which will see us review our structures and processes and procedures to make sure we’re moving towards becoming carbon neutral as early as we can. I plan done on Our Manchester way, which will involve everyone who lives and works and goes to school and makes money from this city,

A plan which I hope will help pave the way to a socialist Labour government, which would introduce a green new deal and a green industrial revolution, but which will hold to account whoever is in power and insist that those in Westminster take those issues as seriously as we intend to do in this Town Hall.

At this point I’d like to just acknowledge my seconder the motion, Councillor Eve Holt who was working on this plan long before I was given this opportunity, and also the members of the Executive who’ve given me their ideas and supported me and the leader of the Council and other colleagues who have signed this motion, so that it can be heard today.

So what is the plan? It’s quite long and detailed in the motion – I haven’t got time in this speech to go over it all. But just to summarize if we carry this motion we will work with everybody we can:With partners, experts, activists: – anyone who wants to be involved down toward level to ensure that we are moving towards our target to become zero carbon as early as we possibly can.

We will recognize that there is a live debate about what that date should be, and so we will work with everybody to see if it is possible to bring that date forward, while not losing side to the targets we already have

We will work with experts to review the way we are coming up with those targets to make sure that we are properly taken into account those carbon emissions which we don’t have a hundred percent control over.

We will also educate ourselves we will use our influence not just with central government but with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and to ensure that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund divests from fossil fuels as early as possible.

Health, housing, highways procurement planning, everything we do will be subject to review to make sure we are moving towards our carbon neutral targets and that we are not doing anything which takes us further away from that.

None of this is going to be easy, but I think we have great support behind us. Because this is a city of activists. We don’t just believe in the right to protest we believe that protest is right. And that brings me on to the climate strikers because when I was writing this motion, I thought about when I was their age and I used to live in fear of nuclear war. And thinking back now that was a reasonable and rational fear for me to have had at that time.

And I see the climate strikers collectivizing their fears and taking action themselves and demanding that others take action. And it made me think about the trade union movement, where I am active and my own union, PCS, where 10 years ago we had a plan for a million climate jobs. And I think these young activists are opening it up for trade unionists like me to be able to raise these issues in our workplace and with our employers and hopefully to join them and take action as well.

And I just want to say a phrase that used to be sent to me because I think it’s relevant here. People used to say to me back then:  when you’re young you think you know it all. Well I can tell you now when you’re older you might look back and realize that in some respects you did.

Let us have the humility to be led by our young people while taking the responsibility as the Council of the City of Manchester to make sure we do lots and lots of leading as well.

Thank you for listening to me I hope you can vote for me. Let’s change the world together.

Footnotes

(1) The Liberal Democrats proposed the following amendment: “Explore the possibility of introducing a 2030 target in line with the IPCC report and request that a report on its viability be brought back to the Executive before the end of the year.”

(2) The text of the motion, lightly annotated, can be found here.

Climate Emergency Manchester scrutinises report to Council… Weds 17th July

Possibly the least enticing blog post headline of all time, but this stuff matters, no matter how you (don’t) dress it up…

Climate Emergency Manchester has produced a 9 page  report which asks many specific and probing questions of a recent climate report. Working with CEM supporters, and quoting from work by Claire Stocks and Hannah Knox, CEM has produced the report for members of the public and also for members of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee (NESC).

Tomorrow (Wednesday 17th July,) at 1pm, Climate Emergency Manchester will meet at the Waterhouse Pub (67-71 Princess St) for mingling and drinks before heading over to the meeting of the NESC, which runs from3 to 4pm.  There’s a really packed agenda.

The NESC is one of six scrutiny committees of Manchester City Council, tasked with making sure the Council is keeping promises on issues. The Manchester Climate Change Agency – a community interest company established by Manchester City Council and its allies – last week admitted that there had only been a 2.5% reduction in the City’s emissions, missing the 13% target by a country mile. Their report is the subject of the CEM scrutiny. Copies have been sent, separately, to all 18 members of the Scrutiny Committee.

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