Article published: Sunday, January 17th 2010
Campaigners scored a decisive victory in the fight to save Chorlton Meadows on Thursday 14 January, as developers withdrew plans for a sports complex on Hardy Farm at a meeting of the Manchester City Council Planning Committee.
Planning officers had indicated that they would refuse permission to West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC to pursue the development. However, before the decision was announced the agent of the football club dramatically withdrew the plans at the last minute rather than see them rejected. The result ultimately came as a surprise, as a planning report published prior to the meeting suggested the committee should be ‘minded to approve’ the development.
The meeting was attended by around 80 members of the Save Chorlton Meadows campaign group and during discussions local councillors on the committee unanimously asked the planning officers to reject the proposals. Local residents also spoke of the dangers posed to biodiversity as well as the risk of light and noise pollution.
The football club had proposed to build two astro-turf and all-weather football pitches on the land along with floodlights and a club house. According to campaigners, this would have amounted to three-quarters of the meadows before Jackson’s Boat and the River Mersey being lost as public space. For many residents the meadows are a valuable local amenity as well as being rich in wildlife.
In their report, the Planning and Highways Committee noted that in the consultation with local residents 9389 responses were received objecting to the development with only 189 in favour.
A campaign running for several months gained much momentum and support from local residents and users of the meadows. Protest picnics and a carolling event were held, over 1,000 letters of complaints were received by the Council and a Facebook group set up to oppose the development numbered over 6,000 members.
Brian Candeland, Green Party candidate for Chorlton, said: “This is a huge tribute to the enthusiasm and hard work of the Save Chorlton Meadows campaign. As a result a beautiful local amenity has been preserved for all the community. The cross-party support in the Chorlton area has also been a great help.”
A triumphant tone was also to be seen on the Friends of Chorlton Meadow blog: “What a wonderful example of community spirit, team work, brilliant organisation, never ending positivity and enthusiasm, and determination not to give up. People power at its best.”
Yet the celebrations were tinged with caution, with campaigners keen to indicate that this does not mark the end of the road as the football club still owns the site has the right to make future applications.
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