Manchester’s incoming chief executive Joanne Roney, due to replace Sir Howard Bernstein as town hall boss next month, is to face demands that she rips up all existing plans for the city and start again.
A coalition of campaign groups sees an opportunity to pile pressure on her to not only scrap the controversial St Michael’s development but every other scheme in the pipeline.
The Letters Change Manchester campaign is calling on residents to sign a letter asking for a new plan to put sustainable housing, the environment, and real dialogue with residents on the agenda.
The campaign brings together an alliance of groups working for a better urban environment including Greater Manchester Housing Action, Manchester Shield, Steady State Manchester and the Loiterers Resistance Movement.
The letter begins: “Manchester is an inspiring place to live, to work, to create in, to enjoy. But we are in danger of losing what is great about it. Developments are crowding in. Valuable green space is being lost and under threat. Social problems are not being solved. Residents feel alienated and ignored. We have been destroying our past and not securing a sustainable future.
It is time for a rethink. Time for a change of plan. It’s time to rip up all the strategic and neighbourhood plans for the city. This is the only way we can secure the future we want and need.”
Housing is a particular focus for the campaign, which is calling for truly affordable quality housing and creative models to diversify choices in the market as well as focusing on liveable density, community cohesion and energy efficient zero carbon homes.
Greater Manchester Housing Action’s Isaac Rose said: “It’s clear there is deep dissatisfaction with the direction this city has been going in, with citizens feeling locked out of the decisions that affect our lives. GMHA is joining our partners on this campaign and will fight for new planning frameworks that will put affordable homes and liveable communities at their heart.”
Roney’s experience in housing is extensive. Her first job as a Birmingham city council apprentice at 16 was in the housing department. She later became director of housing at Kirklees where she oversaw housing market renewal projects in pit villages in the late 1990s.
She moved on to become executive director of housing and community care at Sheffield city council and during her 10-year stint there she was involved in the early stages of Urban Splash’s vast Park Hill towers regeneration project.
She’s previously said her experience of growing up in a Birmingham council house drove her interest in housing policy and most of her family still live in Shard End, the estate where she was born. Roney is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing. She also has an OBE for services to local government.
Letters Change Manchester spokesman Adam Prince said: “We will definitely be lobbying the new mayor too and using the election hustings to get out message across. We cannot go chasing every building development. We are calling for a new start and a change in planning ethos.”
Manchester Shield’s Loz Kaye said: “A new chief executive offers a chance for real change in this city. But we are asking her to be bold to solve the many deep problems we have. We need more than luxury apartments, hotels and skyscrapers; we need a plan for everyone. We’re saying, work with Manchester residents to achieve that.”
It looks like Roney – whose twitter account photo used to show her wearing a cowboy hat – is heading for a showdown when she rides into town.
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