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Final decision on East Didsbury’s Blackbird Yard Development to be determined by public inquiry

Residents fighting plans for a block of flats at a Tesco car park in East Didsbury feel ‘let down’ following a U-turn by Manchester Council.

The plans to build 75 flats off Parrs Wood Lane were rejected by councillors last year after town hall planners raised concerns, but developer Dandara later appealed the decision.

A final decision on the development dubbed Blackbird Yard is now due to be determined after a public inquiry set to take place later this month.

However, Manchester Council has now decided it will no longer be fighting the appeal.

It comes after ‘additional information’ which addresses the reasons why the application was refused was submitted by the developer as part of the appeal. As a result, the town hall has decided it will not defend its decision to refuse it.

The fight to stop the development has now been left to residents and local councillors who oppose it. They gathered by the clock tower at the car park where the six-storey scheme is planned for a protest on Saturday (April 29).

Tracy Lyn, who lives in Parrs Wood Avenue, brought a balloon which was raised above the clock tower using ribbon to illustrate how tall the new development would be.

She told I Love Manchester: “We feel let down.”

She said that the junction by the south Manchester supermarket is already congested at rush hour, claiming that traffic is often backed up all the way to Burnage and into Stockport. She said: “Once this is built, traffic will get worse.”

Simon Miles, who also lives in Parrs Wood Avenue, described the ratio of apartments to parking spaces provided as ‘inordinate’, claiming that parking on the neighbouring roads is already ‘at capacity’ sometimes. He said: “We believe it’s overdevelopment. It’s a huge imposition on a suburban site.”

In a report to the planning committee last year, the council’s planning officers referred to parking and traffic in their reasons for recommending refusal. They also said that this ‘high density’ development does not address the housing needs of the area. Those objecting to the plans also raised concerns about the clock tower – part of Didsbury’s ‘civic history’ – being ‘dwarved’ by the building.

Following feedback from the public, the proposal was revised last year with one floor fewer than previously planned and an extra nine parking spaces, taking the total to 36. But Sandra Hill, who lives in Parrs Wood Road, said developer Dandara has ‘not listened’. Explaining her objection, she said: “It’s not just because it’s Didsbury, it’s because we want it to be the right height.”

However, not everyone in the area is opposed to the development. Ellie Hall of Saddlewood Avenue attended the event to express her support for the plans.

The 21-year-old who studied at Oxford University told the protestors that, in a housing crisis, ‘all housing is good housing’. She said: “I’m part of a generation that may never own a house. More housing is good – especially here where there’s public transport, schools and a supermarket within walking distance.

“I live at home. I’m very lucky to live in an area with such good transport links.

“But I know that I may never afford to move out and rent alone or own my own property. I wanted to make my voice heard because the people often at these protests already have somewhere to live.”

It comes five years after plans to build a McDonalds drive-thru restaurant on the site were thrown out following a local campaign. Members of the group which was behind the ‘East Didsbury Not Lovin’ It’ campaign have come together again to oppose the latest proposal to develop part of the car park.

Speaking on behalf of the East Didsbury Community Group, Simon, who is also a local resident, said: “Most people just feel let down because it went through a democratic process. It’s the wrong build in the wrong place. We’ve got cross party support locally. The local councillors have been really supportive.”

Local councillors say they asked to meet with Tesco to discuss building social housing on the site instead. The supermarket did not respond to these claims, but said it is working with Dandara, ward councillors and the local community.

A Manchester council spokesperson said: “Every application that is received is robustly assessed on its own merits, having full consideration to local and national planning policy frameworks – and site consideration. If an appellant provides additional information that addresses the reasons for refusal as part of the appeals process, the Local Planning Authority must decide whether it is reasonable to defend its decision.”

A Dandara spokesperson: “Dandara Living are pleased that the council have published their statement of case effectively stating that our scheme is considered to be compliant with planning policy and will no longer be contesting the appeal at the forthcoming inquiry.”

The public inquiry is expected to start on May 23 and last several days.

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