During the pandemic lock-down one of the places we rediscovered for local walks is the large area of Hough End Fields. Curiously, this was the site of Manchester’s first airport. It is a wide open space with playing fields for competitive sports. What we call “the other room” or the North Field, is smaller area bounded by trees and a stream.
Recently, the council built a brand new leisure centre there, with entrance on Princess Parkway, a commuter route into the city from the wealthier regions of Cheshire. For us in Chorlton, the centre replaced the local swimming paths, with gym, and this has made it harder for many people in the Chorlton area to access swimming and the other activities. The tramway goes past it but it is no longer a short walk and the tram isn’t cheap. Buses, pending the Mayor’s plan for re-regulation, provide an uneven service.
But with its position on the busy Princess Road artery, it is in a good position to capture “passing trade”. Now the council wants to extend the centre and “upgrade” the fields. Some aspects of the plan are reasonable: improving the pitches, which tend to get waterlogged, and adding a cafe to the building. There is poor quality changing room that it is proposed to replace with an extension to the new building. So far so good, but there are also proposals for all weather pitches, more car parking, and new pitches for rounders – sorry baseball and soft-ball. There is no recognition of the non-competitive uses of the fields. The biodiversity of the area is dismissed as poor, rather than planning to improve it but habitat restoration and creation. The all weather pitches potentially constitute a pollution problem, and increasing car parking is the last thing you would expect a city council that has declared a “climate emergency” to do.
One of those “done deal” consultations is in process – done deal in the sense that there appears to have been little or no involvement of the local community prior to drawing up the plans, but rather, a comprehensive proposal is offered with no scope for citizens redesigning it.
I have made comments and I share them here in case others would like to make use of some of the arguments and evidence that I have assembled.
Direct link to the planning proposal: CITY COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT Erection of a two-storey extension to form sports field changing rooms, cafe facilities, flexible club/social/training rooms and gym space following the demolition of the existing building on site, formation of 3G football turf pitches and associated floodlighting and fencing together with associated 67no.car park and an additional 100 space overflow car park