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Local activists are lobbying for a brand new city centre park – but they need your help!

Campaigning for a greener future, Trees Not Cars lead the charge to transform Central Retail Park into a new public park
Trees Not Cars

A grassroots movement is gaining momentum as local activists rally for the creation of a new public park.

Led by Gemma Cameron and the Trees Not Cars campaign, these passionate advocates are determined to transform Central Retail Park in Ancoats into a much-needed new park, defying the tide of urbanisation and prioritising community well-being.

A new park for Manchester

The campaign’s vision is clear: to repurpose five acres of publicly owned land in Ancoats, an area historically lacking in green spaces, into a hub for recreation, relaxation, and environmental sustainability.

Five acres of this land has been bought up by the Government for a ‘state-of-the-art government digital campus’, but there’s still plenty left, and Trees not Cars want the site turned into a public park.

With Manchester facing pressing challenges related to pollution, access to nature, and mental health, the call for more green spaces resonates deeply with residents seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Gemma, Julia and the kids – all campaigning for Trees not Cars

We sat down with Gemma to talk about Manchester’s Green Spaces – and how we need more of them.

Gemma Cameron from Trees Not Cars

The campaign, which has been ongoing for the past five years, was born out of Gemma’s observations of the lack of green spaces in her neighbourhood.

” I was walking past where I used to live in Angel Meadow, and I was walking from New Islington to the doctors, which is just behind where Central Retail Park used to be.

“I thought to myself, someone needs to make it their life’s mission to turn that into a park.

“I think there’s probably quite a few people who thought that as they walked past because it’s such a big site in such a big area. Quite perfect, really, for it.

“Then we found out through the Northern Quarter Residents Forum, from that group, that the council was planning – they had already put some planning in for turning the space into a temporary car park.

“Which is grim.”

Upset by these revelations, Trees not Cars was established to help campaign and lobby the council to turn this into a green space.

“It just seemed rather ridiculous, which is why we started ‘Trees, Not Cars’ – to try and help people understand that what the council is trying to do

“So to fast forward to today, we had a petition out, and we’ve got nearly 12,000 signatures to date.”

Clearly there is a public appetite for this, and with Manchester’s population sky rocketing, surely it just makes sense?

Local councillors have also echoed support for the project, with John Lyons raising the issue in a council meeting.

A legal battle with the council

Unfortunately, despite public outcry, the council pressed ahead with their decision to turn the site into a car park.

On Thursday 17th October 2019, Manchester City Council’s planning committee voted through controversial plans to use a former retail park in Ancoats as a temporary 440-space, charging car park for up to two years, (the original plans were for 5 years) next to Co-op  Academy New Islington (formerly known as New Islington Free School).

That was, until Trees not Cars successfully took them to appeal over the shortsighted decision.

You can read more about that decision here

Gemma continued: “We appealed it, fundraised, got a lawyer involved, took them to court, and we actually got the appeal rejected on lawful grounds, so we won that. That was great. So the council was no longer allowed to open it as a car park.

“It was a huge relief, and to be honest, just a massive waste of money from both sides.”

It was during the pandemic when it became clear that the city needed more green space.

“Mayfield opened, which is brilliant, but again, it’s privately owned. One thing we found during the pandemic was that because it is privately owned, it can be closed.

“We still need more green space. We’re hoping that with councillors changing, times changing and needs changing – that people will get behind our latest petition and sign it.

“We want to push for a real, council owned park, a genuine green space for all the cities residents to enjoy.

“Manchester City Centre is being designed for young childless worker bees who move between spaces to work, eat, and sleep.

“It’s not being designed as a livable city with playgrounds and parks for adults and children alike to live happy, healthy, and enriching lives.

“The assumption is families will move out to the suburbs, but this isn’t where families want to live. There’s a global trend of people moving to and spending their lives in cities. Manchester calls itself a leader but it’s designing out the fundamental features it needs to be an exemplar of the city of the future.”

Sign the Trees not Cars petition

You can sign the Trees not Cars petition by clicking here

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