Ancoats community group continues fight against council plans despite successful court appeal

  • Trees Not Cars successfully appealed council plans to build car park next to school
  • Despite court win council wants to build office development on 10 acre site 
  • Campaigners want site turned into green space and say councillors are not listening 

A group of women in Ancoats are making their voices heard in a battle with the council to get a public park in the heart of Manchester city centre. 

Earlier this year, the community group succeeded in blocking the council’s plan to build a multi-storey car park on the 10.5 acre patch next to New Islington free school. 

Trees not Cars MCRwere able to appeal the council’s plans on three grounds: there is a primary school next to the land, the use of the ground would change significantly as it had been dormant for two years, and the issue of a multi-storey car park creating a huge rise in pollution levels.

After a four-hour court case and a deliberation over three weeks, the judicial review decided that all three grounds were relevant and said the council should not build the car park.

Despite the group defeating the council’s plans for the car park, the council now wants to build a luxury office site on the space, a plan which has attracted around 500 objections from local residents.

Tree not Cars say the patch of land next to New Islington free school should be transformed into a city centre green space as many properties in the Ancoats area are apartment blocks with no gardens. 

Campaigner Julia Kovaliova said green spaces were important for people who want to relax, exercise and eat their lunch outside and also act as a safe space for children to play in.

The 10 acre piece of land next to New Islington free school

Julia has two sons attending New Islington free school, one of whom has asthma, and the campaign for green spaces and clean air is particularly important to her. 

“After the court case, the council announced long-term plans to build offices on the whole 10 acres of land,” she said.

“We went on to Twitter and asked people what they thought about it, and on our website we posted a macro survey which we carried out ourselves.

“We named it ‘future of the site’ and asked what local people thought about the plans to build the offices and it managed to get over 200 responses.” 

A total of 85% of responses came from people who live or work in the Ancoats area, while 84% of respondents were keen to see more public spaces in the city centre and 90% thought the area didn’t need more offices.

Julia said: “That’s basically where we’re trying to hold the fort now.

“We’ve been successful with the courts and we were really happy about it, but now the car park issue has gone our next step is to try and negotiate that the majority of this land be used as a public space.

“We hope that now is the time we’re going to start the campaign, in light of the office proposals and the relaxed lockdown restrictions.

“With the whole climate change conference coming up, we think it’s a good cause to just show up and campaign for the importance of green space in Manchester.”

A placard from one of Trees not Cars’ campaigns 

Julia said: “There were 500 objections but the council still voted for the development of offices.

“Two out of the three councillors [for Ancoats and Beswick] haven’t supported us.

“Even when we’ve invited them to campaigns they haven’t shown up.”

One local figure who has supported the Trees not Cars campaign is Alan Good, who is seeking election as a Liberal Democrat councillor for Ancoats and Beswick.

One of Alan’s key campaign messages is the importance of public spaces. He regularly scrutinises council decisions and calls on them to implement green spaces in the city’s central areas.

One of his main arguments is that the Ancoats area has suffered a huge population boom, so there needs to be more public spaces to accommodate this. 

“We need green parks, not car parks,” he said.

“It makes me happy to say that I’ve supported Trees not Cars since they first started this campaign around 18 months ago.

“In 2019, the council declared a climate emergency, but they’ve ignored their climate pledges in spite of knowing that air pollution has been at illegal levels in Manchester for years. 

“The council know this, but their proposals for the office space will only make things worse.

“I’ve taken it upon myself to stand up for Ancoats residents and prioritise green spaces in the area.”