Despite the increased recognition of the importance of our wetlands as priority habitat.
Technically speaking, lowland raised bog always remains a peat bog in terms of the geological formation of the substrate (the bowl in which the bog was first formed). The physical features of that can never change without massive geological and structural alteration to a whole landscape. This would have a huge impact on local biodiversity, species survival and the essential work as a flood control mechanism that a peat bog provides!
Our peatlands are critical for preserving global biodiversity, providing safe drinking water, minimising flood risk and helping to address climate change. In many parts of the world, peatlands supply food, fibre and other local products that sustain local economies. They also preserve important ecological and archaeological information such as pollen records and human artefacts (take a look at this nearby find Lindow Man).
Some comments have been made recently to suggest that Carrington Moss is no longer a peat moss. Whilst we recognise that, in common with many wetland areas around the world, there has been considerable decline, in both the area and the quality of our mossland habitat, we think these commentators are incorrect.
They may not be aware of the wetlands survey undertaken, in 1995, by Hall, Wells and Huckerby (results available as a publication by Lancaster Imprints, The Wetlands of Greater Manchester), in which the authors concluded that
“a substantial body of peat remains at Carrington Moss”.
The chapter on Carrington Moss gives a short precis of the history of the area incuding the damage to the moss caused by encroaching industrialisation. The document describes the central area of the mossland as “deep peat with a nightsoil covering”. It also confirms that the “total area surveyed of peat more than 0.3m deep is 325 ha”. Furthermore, the authors found that the peat depths ranged from “2.7m to 0.3m”.
More recently, documents within the Heath Farm Lane planning application confirmed that peat “is present in thickness of up to c. 2.5m”.
So, it would appear that the peat is
It is true that the ecosystem services traditionally provided by wetland habitats have been diminished here on Carrington Moss, but they are certainly not eradicated (yet). The frequent sightings of globally threatened species, of birds, wildlife and plants, when out and about on the moss demonstrates the value and importance of this essential habitat. We are so lucky that our local green space is host and home to over 20 red listed birds, for example. School trips to the moss have seen the skylark, recent visitors have seen the willow tit and you may have your own sightings to share (don’t forget to record them).
This treasure chest of biodiversity brings so many benefits that we should be enhancing, helping these species populations to recover, reintroducing previously abundant flora and fauna and encouraging residents to take advantage of this (almost) pollution-free environment for their regular exercise regimes.
Our local peatmosses (both Carrington and Warburton) are highly significant to Trafford’s efforts to address climate change.
You may have also seen that Carrington Lake is back and the moss is once again protecting our local area from significant flooding. This is its job! We are very concerned that the planned developments will bring a huge risk of local flooding because the amount of water currently amassed on the moss will exceed the capacity of the drainage systems, as has happened elsewhere. Take a look at our video which talks about the impact of flooding on local residents here (click on the image below)
In addition, whilst there has been significant damage to our peatmoss in recent times, and that has undoubtedly resulted in CO2 being released into our local atmosphere, draining or removing the moss for development will result in a further, and much more immense, release of carbon, impacting not only the local environment but the health of local residents.
The Heath Farm Lane application, for example, asserts that “United Utilities require that all peat is removed from below the invert level of adoptable drainage” and that the local highways authority “would have a preference for removal of peat from the footprint of adoptable highways”. The peat will also need to be excavated from below all proposed building construction. This will release CO2 into our atmosphere!
It should also be remembered that over 50,000 tons of peat was removed when the Carrington Spur was built (source: Motorway Archives, Lancashire Archives, Preston). At a very rough estimate (varying dependent on whether the peat was wet or dry) this could have equated, at that time, to a minimum of 12,000 tons of CO2.
We have explored a number of academic studies which assess the impact of that carbon release. Our researcher, Dr Charlotte Starkey, has reviewed several assertions in detail, including those set out in the New Scientist (1994), Scientific American (2009) and The Guardian (2017). The results, when applied to Carrington Moss, were quite diverse, ranging from estimates of over 250,000 tonnes of carbon to over 2,200,000 tonnes of carbon. Charlotte believes there is likely to be around 2,000,000 tonnes of carbon in Carrington Moss today.
One of our members, Landscape Architect, Paul Beckmann, has reviewed the Why Mosslands Matter approach. Assuming the area of peat at Carrington Moss is now c.300 ha. (it was 325 ha. in 1995, as mentioned above) and that the average depth is c. 2m (we know in parts it exceeds 3m), Crawford’s calculations suggest the removal of our mossland would result in the release of approximately 2,400,000 tonnes of CO2 into our local atmosphere. So, an estimate at the upper end of the range.
The protection and restoration of our peatlands is vital in the transition towards a carbon neutral economy and should be added as key objective in Trafford’s Carbon Neutral Action Plan.
So, what shall we do? Well, the Friends of Carrington Moss has been working with partners from the Wildlife Trusts, Trafford Wildlife, the RSPB, the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, a Rare Plants expert, local bird watchers and other experts to create an alternative transformation strategy for Carrington Moss. A transformation strategy that results in Carrington Moss becoming a Carbon and Biodiversity Bank
The challenges faced by our local peatland area are not irreversible and, internationally, there is a growing recognition that peatland restoration projects are highly cost-effective when compared to other carbon-reducing technologies or initiatives and there are many other benefits when peat-forming ecosystems are re-established, not least of which is the contribution to Trafford’s (and Greater Manchester’s) Net Zero aims. Restoring the peat moss will also support the recovery of nature, improve the sustainability of our local soils and will help address the impact of the climate emergency, enabling Trafford to comply with local, regional and national environmental policies.
We’ll be providing more information about our Alternative Transformation Strategy in a future blog and you can find more information about how peatmosses work on the Research page of our website. We have also shared some information for younger readers in our previous blog “Why is Carrington Moss so important”
The New Carrington Masterplan recognises concerns raised by residents about the “insufficient public transport service and connections (Bus, Train & Metrolink) available in the area”, yet makes NO commitments for improvements stating that “improving bus accessibility to New Carrington, Altrincham, and Sale should be encouraged”
Transport for Greater Manchester’s Transport Strategy has only one commitment for this area and that is the Carrington Relief Road across our peat moss!!!
There are NO commitments to public transport improvements, and no plans to bring the tram to the largest residential allocation in the whole of Greater Manchester.
What they say is that “In the next five years, we aim to complete business cases for early delivery of…
New bus services to support the New Carrington and Sale West allocations to serve new development at Carrington with improved public transport links, particularly to and from the Regional Centre”
This has been confirmed in the response to our recent Freedom of Information Act request, in which TfGM state that “There are currently no committed schemes to improve public transport in this area.”
They go on to say “TfGM and Trafford Council are planning to take forward the development of business cases for two schemes in the area: a busway between Broadheath and Sale West, which could support the 19 service; and a bus priority scheme where the Cat5a route meets the A56 to improve journey times and reliability of buses between Partington and Altrincham”
These two schemes will not address the significant lack of public transport in this area, will do little to reduce isolation and change the current reliance on the car as the main means of transport to and from New Carrington and surrounding areas.
We need a masterplan that is influenced by residents – not by developers!
We have sent the following feedback about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework to all Trafford Councillors in advance of their discussion about the GMSF on 30th November.
Summarising the issues!
Whilst we totally support the principle of the GMSF, concur with its ambitions, and recognise the considerable effort that has gone into drafting it, we cannot support the current iteration because it still advocates the unnecessary removal of Green Belt land across Greater Manchester, when there ARE clear alternative approaches.
The issued documentation declares that Local Authorities are able to make “adequate” provision to meet housing need numbers WITHOUT releasing Green Belt land. It must also be remembered that, back in 2015, a GMSF Option was considered which required NO use of Green Belt land and a decision was specifically made NOT to take this forward. This suggests that the decision to release Green Belt in GM is a desire of the leadership, NOT a requirement. This assertion is further reinforced by the recognition that, whilst a lot of effort has been made to create exceptional circumstances which support the release of Green Belt land, NO attempt has been made to identify exceptional circumstances to reduce the housing need number to ensure all development is focused on brownfield land.
Given that Local Authorities have identified “adequate” sites to meet housing need numbers, together with the expected changes to working practices post-Covid (which we believe will lead to the availability of windfall sites across GM), the extensive feedback from residents against the release of Green Belt land, and the emphasis of all political parties on nature-led recovery and the climate emergency, the only reasonable approach for the GMSF is NOT to release Green Belt land for development. The GMSF could have been prepared within that constraint and should, if confidence in developer delivery is low, also have proposed that an extensive post-Covid review be undertaken during the GMSF period to determine whether further analysis is needed. The current approach is likely to lead to Green Belt being built on, whilst a huge number of windfall (brownfield) sites are left unused.
Furthermore, at a local level, whilst we welcome the work that has been undertaken to reduce Green Belt release in New Carrington, Trafford’s overall reduction in Green Belt take is significantly lower than that of other boroughs in GM. In addition, the plans as documented are NOT plans that are underwritten bylocal residents. The New Carrington Masterplan talks about the intensity of discussions with landowners and developers, yet there have been NO workshops about the Trafford allocations with residents or Parish Councils prior to issuing the documentation. It is certainly a very strange type of democracy that has Local Authorities working on secret plans which significantly impact the local communities they are accountable to, despite a Statement of Community Involvement which suggests, in its introduction, that the Council should be “providing opportunities for active participation and discussions with the community as early in the plan-making and planning application processes as possible.”
With this in mind, the Friends of Carrington Moss are working with local Parish Councils and other community groups to develop alternative proposals for the area. There is a lot of talent in our communities and a large number of ideas have been proposed. These alternative options further demonstrate that the release of Green Belt is NOT necessary.
Unnecessary Release of Green Belt Land for Development
We believe that the GMCA is making a deliberate and conscious decision to unnecessarily release Green Belt land for development. Once this precious resource is released, it is irretrievable for the vital purposes it performs. In our view, this approach is unsound because it is neither justified (given the confirmation of adequate housing supply) nor sustainable (given the selective implementation of GMSF strategic policies).
For clarity, the GMSF paragraph 7.12 states that “in numerical terms, the existing supply of potential housing sites identified in the districts’ strategic housing land availability assessments, small sites and empty properties is adequate to meet the overall identified need”. This means Green Belt land is being released to cover a “buffer”, just in case it is needed. This is not justifiable and any buffer required should have been covered by a case for exceptional circumstances, as set out below.
The release of Green Belt will have a particularly severe impact on Trafford as we have the lowest proportion of Green Belt land in the whole of Greater Manchester, other than the city areas of Manchester and Salford. In addition, St Marys Ward has the lowest proportion of Green Space in Trafford, with Bucklow St Martins Ward close behind. These are the two Wards most affected by the plans for New Carrington. Many of our residents are not affluent and have valued free access to this local green space more than ever since the pandemic began. Whilst you may see a corridor coloured green on the New Carrington map, it should be recognised that much of that “green” space is not green and it is not accessible to the public. This reduced green area will be further diminished if Trafford’s planned roads across the Green Belt go ahead, bringing significant air and noise pollution to residents, sports participants and school pupils. The community has developed alternative proposals which make these roads and the release of Green Belt unnecessary.
GMSF 2020 could have determined not to release Green Belt and could have proposed a post-Covid review, within the GMSF period, to verify whether developer delivery is on target and, if not, whether sufficient windfall sites are available to meet any shortfall. Should that review ascertain that Green Belt release could be necessary, this should be considered further and agreed at that time.
Case for Exceptional Circumstances in calculating Housing Need
We believe insufficient effort has been made by the GMCA to present the case for exceptional circumstances to justify a reduction in the housing need numbers calculated using the Government’s National Formula. This standard method for calculating Housing Need is NOT mandatory. This has been confirmed, both in writing and verbally, by Ministers, on several occasions over the last few years. In a recent example, the Hansard transcript for the GMSF and Green Belt Parliamentary Debate of 18 March 2020 confirms the Minister for Housing’s statement that “It is worth noting that the standard method is not mandatory; in exceptional circumstances, an alternative approach can be used, provided that that reflects the current and future demographic trends and market signals. If my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West cares to check paragraph 60 of the NPPF, he will find reassurance in that paragraph” (Hansard: 18/3/20 Parliamentary Debate).
In addition, it has been demonstrated in responses to previous drafts of the GMSF that a 15-year plan would generate sufficient available brownfield land to meet housing need requirements across the Region, totally removing the need to release Green Belt. A 15-year plan would also allow more flexibility to adapt to the, as yet unforeseen, changes required due to climate change and the current global pandemic (some rethinking of our lifestyles and economy is likely to be required, which will have a direct impact on planning).
So, there are a number of potential exceptional circumstances that do reflect demographic trends and market signals, that could be cited to ensure all development is concentrated on brownfield land. Some examples include utilising the most up-to-date (2018) ONS figures (to determine more accurate local housing need predictions), limiting the GMSF to a period of 15 years (which is all that is required by the NPPF) and confirming a commitment to the post-Covid review (mentioned above). In addition, funding of £81m is now available to tackle the more challenging brownfield sites across the Region.
Addressing the Climate Emergency
We do not believe the plans to release Green Belt in Trafford are consistent with the declaration of a Climate Emergency, made by the Authority in November 2018. The protection of our Green Belt land is now more important than ever as we experience the increasing impact of climate change. As an example, large areas of Carrington Moss were extensively flooded between October 2019 and March 2020 (see our website for photographs and videos), including areas now suggested for housing developments.
The release of Green Belt is also inconsistent with GM’s aim to be “a place at the forefront of action on climate change, with clean air and a flourishing natural environment”. As part of the preparations for the GMSF, GM commissioned The Environment Partnership (TEP) to assess the current state of the natural environment. TEP undertook a review to estimate how many Biodiversity Units (BUs) there are in each of GM’s 10 boroughs. Trafford (at 41k BUs) is the second lowest in the Region, just above Manchester City itself, significantly behind the leading Authority, Oldham (with 139k BUs), and not even comparable to Tameside (95k BUs), which is a similar size in terms of area and population to Trafford.
Releasing the Green Belt in Trafford will reduce our BUs further. The local community has developed an alternative strategy for Carrington Moss which would utilise the area as a carbon and biodiversity bank to “sell” carbon and BUs to businesses and urban developers to help them meet their carbon targets and biodiversity net gain figures and to increase Trafford’s BUs at the same time. Whilst it is impossible to put a price on our green assets, we are seeking to create a viable alternative to the current plans.
All the political parties have a focus on nature-led recovery and the climate emergency. Labour’s Green Economic Recovery paper, for example, quite rightly, suggests that “Future generations will judge us by the choices we make today”. How will a decision to unnecessarily release Green Belt be judged by those who no longer have access to nature and green space, who can no longer see the willow tit and the skylark in their local area (because their breeding and feeding grounds have been destroyed), who can no longer see relatives and friends who have succumbed to illnesses caused by increased air pollution.
That Green Economic Recovery paper also highlights the importance of not only solving the decarbonisation challenge but also in igniting the “broader preservation, enrichment, and protection of the UK’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity”. The Labour document also mentions the importance of restoring peatlands and we agree that significant action is “needed in order to accelerate the benefits of nature restoration and recovery” and that there is “an abundance of natural restoration projects that could begin right now”. The plan for New Carrington is NOT an example of how we can achieve these great ambitions, it also directly contradicts many of the environmental policies set out in the GMSF.
In addition, the 2020 GMSF proposes to expand Manchester airport. It is already a source of considerable air pollution, noise nuisance and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Until green aviation fuel has been developed, which is not likely within GMSF period, there should be no further expansion of the airport or increase to the agreed number of flights (a reduction would be more sensible to align with the GMSF stated aims for carbon neutrality and clean air).
Other points to consider
Whilst the GMSF incorporates a number of aims and ambitions that are laudable, somewhat summarised in paragraph 1.6, which states that “Our ambitions to be carbon neutral by 2038 have never been more necessary – we need to support the creation of resilient, liveable places where walking and cycling are the obvious choice for shorter journeys, where facilities and services are accessible and close at hand and where the past dependency on the car is superseded by a reliable and responsive public transport system.”, the selective adoption of the policies and strategies encompassing the GMSF means that the desired equality objectives cannot be achieved.
One equality objective is to “Prioritise development in well-connected locations” and another is to “Deliver an inclusive and accessible transport network”, which will improve air quality across GM. Paragraph 5.50 states that “The most significant role which the GMSF will play in this respect [improving air quality] is to locate development in the most sustainable locations which reduce the need for car travel, for example by maximising residential densities around transport hubs”.
The New Carrington development is NOT currently a sustainable location and we do not believe it will be transformed to a sustainable residential and industrial location. Public transport improvements have been promised to Carrington, Partington and Sale West in the 2006 UDP and the 2012 Core Strategy but in fact, bus services have reduced in these areas. The GMSF does NOT COMMIT to increasing public transport, instead, the Masterplan suggests “improving bus accessibility to New Carrington, Altrincham, and Sale should be encouraged” and the TfGM Transport Delivery Plan 2020-2025 states that “In the next five years, we aim to complete business cases for early delivery of… New bus services to support the New Carrington and Sale West allocations”. That is not reassuring given residents have been waiting for over 15 years for improvements to public transport.
Furthermore, it is unsustainable to consider the use of Green Belt land for warehouses and industrial with the clear aim of using road transport. The community has developed an alterative Transport Strategy which proposes a new bridge across the Ship Canal, to provide access to Irlam Wharf and Port Salford for businesses in Carrington. This approach, which we have discussed with local businesses, would mean HGV traffic can be significantly reduced and that there is no requirement for a Relief Road across Carrington Moss.
The GMSF 2020 places great emphasis on economic growth, appearing to give this a higher priority than the well-being of residents, yet the importance of access to green spaces and nature for physical and mental health is now well documented. It is recognised that the impact of Covid and economic uncertainty will hit our most vulnerable residents the hardest, yet the GMSF, despite acknowledging the “state of flux”, does not address the inequities that will inevitably follow.
There is also an equality objective to “Strengthen the competitiveness of north Greater Manchester”, yet the largest residential allocation is in Trafford. This means that Trafford residents do not have equity of access to Green Belt areas, they have their access to green space further reduced and for residents of North Manchester, growth is not being prioritised as suggested in the GMSF.
Finally, there are issues about the heritage assets in the area (including the peat moss itself, of course), the harm to be caused by the loss of Green Belt (which is acknowledged in the Masterplan) and the loss of income to local businesses (including riding centres and farmers), which of course impacts Trafford’s local economy too. The New Carrington allocation remains unsound for the many reasons that have been vigorously expressed by local residents in the previous consultation.
An open letter to Sir Graham Brady about the recent Government Consultations
I’d like to share with you some of the key points from my responses to the Government’s consultation about Planning Reform and some of my grave concerns about the approach the Government is taking, which appears to drive yet more power into the hands of developers. I apologise for the length of this letter (and for any repetition that may be in it) but I wanted to get all my points over and to ask you to support my request to halt these reforms until the issues I am raising (as undoubtedly are others) are resolved. It would also be helpful if you could share this letter with your colleagues, the PM and the Secretary of State (SoS).
Overall, the Planning Reforms are extremely biased against communities and in favour of developers. Clear and significant inequities are boldly exhibited within the proposals and it certainly is not clear how the dominance of large companies has been addressed. I have set out some examples in the paragraphs below, which are focused on issues relating to housing, but of course, I recognise planning is so much broader than that.
The Government says they “want all communities, families, groups and individuals to have a say in the future of the places where they live”. Yet the White Paper does not give us that. In fact, it reduces democracy and citizen input, with residents being excluded from parts of the process or ‘allowed’ to participate at the whim of the Local Authority or the Planning Inspector. The SoS says “These proposals will help us to build the homes our country needs”, so where is the focus on social housing? Just stating that the Government supports “inclusive and mixed communities” is not enough. The White Paper does not demonstrate that it meets the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty. It does not appear to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society, including those who share protected characteristics, those who are homeless and those care-leavers who need specific support, ie those who are actually suffering as a consequence of the current housing crisis! The proposals do nothing for those who will NEVER be able to buy their own home (whatever ‘affordable’ housing schemes are considered).
Having openly acknowledged (White Paper para 5.17) that the current key beneficiaries of planning gain are developers and landowners, the Government suggests that they be offered even more benefits through these reforms. There is a proposal, for example, that Local Authorities refund application fees to developers if they do not achieve the new timetable (which will be a real challenge because there appears to be a massive overestimate of the benefits of zoning and a significant underestimate of the administrative burden the Government is planning to impose), yet there is NO charge or penalty to developers if they secure planning permission but don’t ever build any houses.
The Local Government Association reported, earlier this year, that there are over 1m homes with planning permission that have not yet been built. It is, therefore, not justifiable to claim that the planning system has failed, as suggested in the PM’s foreword (or blame the newts, as he suggested in his speech of 30th June) and whoever wrote the statement that “too often excellence in planning is the exception rather than the rule” is mixing up planning with development. A big issue throughout the document but understandable, because we actually have a development system, in which providers have so much influence that the needs of citizens and communities can be ignored, leaving the most vulnerable in our society in crisis and artificially increasing both house prices and land values.
Despite acknowledging (paragraph 40, Changes to the Current Planning System) that “Not all homes that are planned for are built” (rather an understatement), there is not a single proposal to ‘encourage’ developers to build those outstanding homes and accelerate availability of housing. An impartial review of current issues would have resulted in such suggestions. It would be very reasonable to make developers accountable for building outstanding schemes and, in adopting such an approach, there would be NO need for Local Authority targets to meet market housing requirements. Why hasn’t the Government considered this?
Options for such ‘encouragement’ could include removal of planning permission (thereby reducing the value of the land), compulsory purchase and asking SME builders to take forward approved schemes (addressing another commitment in the White Paper), charging developers a fee for each home with planning permission that has not been built (perhaps equivalent to the Council Tax that would have been incurred had the homes been built to a reasonable timetable).
The SoS says ‘We are cutting red tape, but not standards’ – I beg to differ! The proposed expansion of Permitted Development Rights to larger schemes is outrageous, given the scandal of the “rooms with no windows” (and the recently reported flats the size of car parking spaces). This demonstrates that those same organisations, who are failing to deliver approved developments, cannot be trusted to work without mandated standards in all aspects of a scheme. Who will benefit from those cuts to red tape? Oh yes, the developers!
The proposal that communities have only 14 days to provide their representations on these large schemes is contemptible and is NOT compliant with the Government’s own guidelines on consultation. Who will benefit from the reduction in the time allowed for public comment? Oh yes, the developers, once again!
The SoS says the proposals will “recreate an ownership society” – where is the evidence that we need to do this (renting can be a lifestyle choice) and why is this the priority? The people who would like to buy a property may have challenges but are not typically in crisis! If the Government is honest about its “levelling up” agenda, it will recognise that the mandated targets for market housing should be agreed with developers in relation to those permissions already given. The ambition to deliver 300,000 dwellings per annum should be reviewed to determine its appropriateness and updated to require (for the next 5 years as a minimum) that at least 60% of those homes be social housing, supported by a new mandated formula to calculate social housing need for each Local Authority area.
The House of Commons Research Briefing promises improvements to the planning ecosystem, but the reality, set out in the documents, is somewhat different. Local communities will ONLY have a voice in the aesthetics of the buildings, not in the what, the where and the when of planning in their area. This is a huge backwards step from what is set out in today’s Statements of Community Involvement. The elimination of our democratic right to be involved in planning should not be acceptable to anyone, especially not the Members of Parliament, who represent our communities.
The Green Belt is not protected, as claimed, it is just subject to the current processes. Important ecological habitats (including that of the globally threatened newt, and, closer to home, the water vole) will no longer be assured of an Environmental Survey to determine the appropriateness of development. The Government supposedly have an aim to reverse the decline in nature (not just stop it), yet there is nothing in the documents that suggests support for this aspiration (and promising a further consultation at a later date is not helpful).
The TCPA suggest that “around 90% of applications for planning permission are approved in England”. Yet there is no mention of this statistic in the very misleading statement that “around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned”. Of course, whatever the number (presumably around 10% of planning applications), two thirds are not overturned! The author of this document should be thoroughly ashamed!
The proposal about the simpler national levy seems to be aimed at benefiting developers (again)! There is nothing in the White Paper that “makes it harder for developers to dodge their obligations” as suggested by the PM. Local Authorities should influence what is needed in their area, scheme viability should be independently assessed and funding for such an important resource as social housing should be specifically reviewed and consulted upon separately as it is clear registered housing providers cannot meet this need alone.
The White Paper seems to be obsessed with speed and beauty rather than with high quality homes (including provision for those in crisis) and, whilst zero-carbon homes are welcome, the plan to allocate £27b of public money to the construction of (unneeded) new roads should be reviewed. Both the White Paper and that objective need to be re-written to reflect the post-Covid world.
Some of the other issues that concern me are the lack of involvement of communities and specialists in the development of these proposals and the lack of opportunity to comment on issues such as costs and the future plans for Environmental Surveys.
It seems “The Government has welcomed contributions from experts, including Savills and Lichfields” but when organisations such as the Local Government Association, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Institute of British Architects, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Shelter are raising serious concerns about the White Paper, it is extremely alarming. The opportunity to create a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ to support discussions about these reforms was not even considered. Is there not an understanding of the importance of stakeholder involvement? (and let’s be clear – Government Advisers are not stakeholder representatives but maybe they do know a lot of developers!).
The White Paper says “we will streamline the opportunity for consultation at the planning application stage, because this adds delay to the process and allows a small minority of voices, some from the local area and often some not, to shape outcomes”. Yet the Government purports to recognise communities as key stakeholders. If this is the case, those “voices” would be considered essential and it should be remembered that the “small minority of voices” are very welcome to the communities they live in (especially for those vulnerable residents who may be unable to articulate their concerns themselves). Citizens should not be losing their democratic rights because developers are not building the homes which HAVE been approved and do not want to justify their new plans to residents! Who benefits from the removal of those “voices”? Once again, the developer!
It is clear that the White Paper does not propose any new rights for community participation, despite the promise to “increase access and engagement”. In fact it appears to reduce both rights and opportunities and, whilst digitisation will undoubtedly be welcome by many residents, there are also some who will be excluded by this approach and there is nothing to show how their involvement will be retained.
There was no opportunity to comment on the Government’s assertion that the “cost of operating the new planning system should be principally funded by the beneficiaries of planning gain – landowners and developers – rather than the national or local taxpayer”. What does this do to impartiality in the system? This approach could introduce significant bias as there would almost certainly be a perceived obligation to find in favour of the funder. Questions should also be asked about why is a mere supplier of a product the key beneficiary of planning gain?
The White Paper states that “Processes for environmental assessment and mitigation need to be quicker”. This is one of the most concerning parts of the consultation, yet there were no questions to respond to about the Effective Stewardship and Enhancement of our Natural and Historic Environment. Given the declarations of a Climate Emergency (nationally, regionally and locally), environmental and biodiversity protection has to be one of the most important considerations within the overall ecosystem and safeguards should not be abandoned, condensed or limited by the quest for process speed! And who will benefit from this introduction of simpler systems? Yes, it is the developer (again)!
Will it speed up delivery of development projects – NO because there are no penalties for developers if they never deliver! And, what about that promise to our children and grandchildren that these “reforms will leave an inheritance of environmental improvement – with environmental assets protected” etc – not a hope, given the way the documents are currently written!
Whilst the Conservative agenda for private sector innovation and investment is well understood, this should not put developers in an exalted position and does not preclude access to democracy or the benefits of citizen leadership. What we actually need is to move to a true Planning System, one that is community-led and demonstrates full accountability for action. The Neighbourhood Plans are a great starting point. Many people have volunteered huge amounts of their own time in the construction of these documents. It is offensive that the Government has not explicitly acknowledged and demonstrated the value of these contributions in the White Paper.
Digitisation is a great idea and I support this, but anyone in the business will tell you that you do not automate a bad process. Residents do not just want transparency through technology – we want a say in what happens in our locality. With this in mind, communities should be identifying what is needed for their area, working with ecologists and other specialists to assess the suitability of their local environment to meet their plans and leading the process! Developers may be the source of some of the investment, but they should not be driving, they should be taken on our journeys.
Given the level of influence developers have today, it will take time to move to this approach, but we can start by ensuring they are not given the ability to further dominate the planning system. The Government should give real power to communities instead. Yes, they will need support, yes there will be challenges and yes there will be costs associated with this approach, but our communities are our heritage. They should not be given away to organisations whose focus is on their bottom line.
In summary, quite frankly, the White Paper is a poorly constructed, repetitive document which does not deliver the promised benefits and the Changes to the Planning System document is completely focused on the wrong targets and the expansion of an already discredited initiative. How does the Government expect to make progress in addressing the housing crisis when they are whipping their public servants, punishing their communities and giving carrots to those organisations that cause the problem?
Whilst I agree, the current planning system has its faults, and I am all for progress and change that is beneficial, I do not think these proposals are well-thought-out, and they are certainly not an improvement on what there is today! I have previously written to you (for onward transmission to the SoS) about the appointment of Citizens’ Advocates. I believe they would accelerate change, bring considerable improvements to the planning ecosystem, and put communities at its heart.
It is very sad that the Government has not taken the opportunity of these reforms to enable planning to have a huge and positive impact on our communities, but this is a White Paper and it can be amended. In the meantime, let’s push those developers to build all the homes they already have approval for.
At our AGM on Wednesday, we had two excellent and very interesting speakers.
We started the meeting with a quick poll in which participants told us whether they had visited Carrington Moss in the last week, how they had travelled, if they had seen any wildlife on the Moss and whether they had recorded it.
Stuart then talked to us about the importance of recording all our bird and wildlife sightings, he told us a little about the records held by the GMLRC pertaining to Carrington Moss and provided some insights into the protected species found here. There is a link to the recording site later in this blog.
James talked in a little more detail about the bird species on Carrington Moss, including the, red listed, willow tit. He described our important habitats as the The Masai Mara of the North and shared a number of links to videos and blogs which may be interesting for our members (the links are embedded in the AGM slide pack – click on the button above). James also mentioned Greater Manchester’s (virtual) Green Summit, which, this year, will be running from 21st to 24th September. If you’d like more information, or to receive the links to a Welcome Pack for the GM Green Summit, please subscribe to the Green City Region mailing list.
Stuart and James responded to a number of questions from participants about a wide variety of issues. More public (virtual) meetings and outdoor recording events (when safe to do so) will be held in the near future, but in the meantime, we’re asking our members to consider contributing to identifying the Carrington Moss Big Five
To support our aim to promote the ecology, the habitats and the wildlife on Carrington Moss, we’d like your help in selecting the species YOU think best represent Carrington Moss
If you need a reminder about what is out there – take a look at our website at these links:
We’d like as many of you as possible to record your sightings to help confirm just how important the area is to endangered and at-risk species. You can find out more about the GMLRC by clicking on this logo
If you are not sure which species you have seen, you can use an app such as iNaturalist to look up the species but it is better to record directly on the GMLRC site above.
Following these two outstanding presentations, we elected/re-elected our Committee, huge thanks to Jan for her support in doing this and a huge thank you to both existing and new Committee members for their continuing work on behalf of our communities.
You will find the updated Committee information on our website (click on the graphic to go to our Committee page).
We then briefly reviewed our Annual Report, click on the graphic to go directly to the report, highlighting our work on Air Quality monitoring in the area and providing a summary of progress against our key aims.
Following our finance report, we launched our very important Friends of Carrington Moss 200 Club, (click on the logo for more information).
We recognise that we may need to take legal and/or other specialist advice in the near future and this is expensive, so please do take the opportunity to join our little lottery. It provides us with much needed funding and you with a chance to win a percentage of our takings.
We closed the meeting with an update on a number of important items, including:
Feedback on our Importance of Carrington Moss Survey
Our joint work with Carrington Parish Council to create a Balanced, Community Focused Transport Strategy for the area
Our next Master Plan workshop, which will focus on Air Quality
An update on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework
An outline of the latest Government Consultations about the planning process.
More information about all these items will be included in our September newsletter.
We hope those who came along enjoyed our first online public meeting and will join our future online events.
Many of you are using Carrington Moss as part of your daily exercise routine and, whilst you are out an about, you are highly likely to see lots of birds and other wildlife in this rich, nature-filled environment. So, we are particularly delighted to announce that we will have two special guests at our online AGM on 26th August. We will hear firstly from Stuart Fraser, Environmental Records Officer at Greater Manchester’s Local Records Centre (GMLRC), which is part of the GM Ecology Unit. Stuart will talk to us about recording our bird and wildlife sightings on Carrington Moss and he will tell us a little about the records held by the GMLRC pertaining to Carrington Moss.
We’d like as many of you as possible to record your sightings to help confirm just how important the area is to endangered and at-risk species. You can find out more about the GMLRC by clicking on the logo.
James is an ecologist, a birding expert and the author of “Greater Manchester Birding City Region”, which is available as a free e-book, with colour photos, via Borrowbox (see below). The Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project (GMBCR) have selected a specific bird species to represent each of the 10 boroughs, with the Northern Lapwing being Trafford’s emblem. Take a look at the GMBCR Project “Perfect 10” film, including the Northern Lapwing in Trafford – click on the picture to the right
Like Stuart and James, our group aims to connect people with nature and we are really looking forward to hearing their presentations on 26th August.
Click on the picture to the left to go directly to the Borrowbox webpage to borrow this fantastic book. The photographs are wonderful and James mentions how important the Mosses in the Region are. There are also lots of interesting links to other resources at the end of the book.
For information, Borrowbox makes available a wide range of eBooks and eAudiiobooks. If you don’t have one already, you will need to create an account with Borrowbox either on the Borrowbox website or by downloading the app to your mobile device. You will need your borrower number and PIN to create an account. Click here for more information about Trafford’s online library services.
We will also use our AGM to elect/re-elect our Committee for a further year and to update you on our activities. If you are interested in being nominated for a role on the Committee please let us know by 31st July by clicking on the button below and completing the contact form.
For information, Committee members are typically attending between 3 and 5 Carrington Moss related meetings a week (sometimes more), we also spend a lot of time reading and researching and represent the Friends Committee, speaking at public meetings and other events. New Committee members need to be able to fulfil these activities. The Friends of Carrington Moss is not politically affiliated and, therefore, it would not be appropriate for elected members of political parties, or those seeking to be elected, to be nominated for positions on the Committee.
If you’d like to join us at our AGM, please click on the link below and complete the contact form, so we can send you the details for the online meeting. Many people have used various types of virtual meeting over the past few months but if you feel you need help to get connected for our AGM, don’t hesitate to tell us when you click below.
It is fantastic to have the opportunity to talk to our friend and local historian, Dr Charlotte Starkey about the History of Carrington Moss and the (lack of) Archaeological Studies that have been carried out on this wonderfully, rich and diverse landscape. Charlotte talks about everything, from our local Medieval history, to the current day, from the heavily industrialised North West quadrant of the Moss, to the nature-rich peat-moss that we all know and love.
FOCM: So Charlotte, I know you have recently updated your page on our website with some information about the history of Carrington Moss. Can you summarise briefly and we’ll include a link to your page so people can find out more?
Charlotte: The area is rich in Medieval History. Yes please do take a look at the latest page on the website here for my detailed reflexions on the Medieval period. In these latest musings, I’ve focussed on the first part of the talk I have given to a number of groups about the Medieval Carrington story and there is more to come. I really want to share this history, largely ignored in many circles, in order to give context to discussions about the Moss and its function.
Carrington Hall, the seat of the Carrington family (those descended from Adam de Carinton), was sited to the north of Carrington Moss, almost opposite the Carrington Lane/Ackers Lane junction, west of ‘the Mile Road’. Further along, just beyond the Windmill Inn (pictured left, courtesy of David Dixon, 2011), is the site of what was the old mill. Part of the last of the buildings is still there, very dilapidated (you can tell the lack of respect for the history of this area; the rear of the remains of the mill which channelled the tailrace back to the River Mersey is covered with a film of oil with the pungent odour of crude oil and is quite dangerous). The actual mill pond was a significant structure in its heyday, but it was in-filled and lost when the highways department (Ministry of Transport) and local government re-routed the old lane directly across the mill pond to straighten the road for heavy goods vehicles.
It is possible that Carrington Lane or its equivalent was a route for the Romans to Wilderspool and one cannot rule out the possibility of archaeological remains along the navigable River Mersey.
Interestingly, a Manchester painter (Thomas Barritt, 1743-1820), who was also an antiquarian, described what he named as a sword once belonging to the Black Prince. Not that the sword came from Carrington but it reminds us that the Caryngton men-at-arms were heavily involved in the Hundred Years War (and note that the spelling of the ‘modern’ Carrington surname changes as we move through the archives). J. P. Earwaker dismissed Barritt’s curved scimitar sword because he found that the scabbard on the Black Prince’s effigy at Canterbury was straight; but that does not preclude the possibility that Edward had more than one sword and it would be quite unusual for just one sword to have lasted his many battles in the Hundred Years War.
Sad to say, much of the named artefacts of the Caryngtons, in wills and other documents from the medieval period, have not survived, or at least have not been discovered, in this area. One has to remember that, when the Booths took over Carrington circa 1600, they systematically appear to have wiped the Caryngton name ‘off the map’, as Sir Peter Leycester suggested in his history of the Bucklow Hundred written in the mid-seventeenth century.
One piece of the Carrington dynasty is the portion of their medieval chapel dedicated to St Nicholas in Bowdon Church and the ‘Carrington Knight’ in St John’s Collegiate Church in Chester which has been mutilated at some point in the distant past. Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of seafarers and numerous members of the Caryngtons sailed regularly to Normandy, La Rochelle and Bordeaux from Calais, Portsmouth, Southampton and possibly Chester, which was a very busy commercial port in the Middle Ages.
FOCM: Fascinating, so, have there been any recent archaeology studies of Carrington Moss, do you know?
Charlotte: One study, mainly a geological survey, was carried out under the auspices of Lancaster University in 1995. The results can be found in a book by David Hall, C. E. Wells and Elizabeth Huckerdy, called the Wetlands of Greater Manchester (there is a copy in Manchester Central Library Special Collections). Though geology was their main emphasis, they mentioned the problems of conducting archaeological studies on the Moss stating that the Moss was very ‘busy’, referring to the amount of urban waste which was thrown on the Moss by Manchester Corporation. They themselves did not carry out a detailed archaeological survey.
FOCM: The history of the Moss is so interesting. When did Manchester Corporation start to use the site?
Charlotte: In 1886, when the Stamfords of Dunham Massey, then owners of the Moss, faced increasing financial concerns, they sold the Moss to Manchester Corporation’s Cleansing Department. This was also the time when the landowners of England were coming under increasing pressure from the newly formed local councils to release land for other uses. Initially, the agreement was that only ‘night soil’ (human waste) would be thrown on the Moss to be used as fertiliser for the newly laid out agricultural fields, organised in a series of square and rectangular patterns along the routes which you can still walk today: Birch Road, Woodcote Road, Ashton Road, North Road and so on. This was in the central area where Manchester United has its training ground. By calling these tracks ‘Roads’ Manchester Corporation tried to recreate the Moss as an extension of its ‘urbanisation’ into north-east Cheshire but, before then, most of these ‘roads’ did not exist except as tracks, and certainly not in the regimented manner in which the Corporation set them out for the light railway system they introduced to disperse the ‘night soil’. Moss Lane is a very old track into the Moss.
FOCM: But they didn’t just stick to human waste, did they?
Charlotte: No, the City soon began to dump its refuse on the Moss, which is why you can find lots of oyster shells, glass bottles, pots, shards and many other things, even on the surface of the Moss. This was not the agreement with the Stamfords, who objected, but by then it was too late. They had sold the Moss for £38,000, which was £13,000 more than their own estimates (though they didn’t tell the Corporation that). From that point onwards the Corporation regarded the Moss as their own and it was a significant move because that also meant that Manchester had gained a major foothold into north-east Cheshire, a fact which is quite obvious today with the spread of their airport.
FOCM: Oh those canny Stamfords! Some of the farms are still there today.
Charlotte: Yes, the farms are the result of intensive draining from the Corporation’s efforts to increase the agricultural benefits of the Moss. At first, a great success (it was actually listed as ‘Park’ with days out for visitors to view the nurseries etc.). It grew flowers and vegetables for the increasing populations of Manchester and peat was used for the stabling of all the Corporation’s horses. At one point, before all this, a commercial company had extracted peat from the Moss much earlier in the nineteenth century. Civic dignitaries would visit the Moss on specified weekends dressed in their finery, travelling, much to the amusement of the locals, on gleaming steamboats that on working weekdays towed behind them to the Moss barge-loads of manure, stinking to high heaven. The Corporation took great pride in their new-found greenspace.
FOCM: So what happened next?
Charlotte: With the dumping of urban waste, which began relatively quickly (1900s),the Moss fell into disuse apart from the work on the few remaining tenancies (all the smaller tenancies were ousted when Manchester bought the Moss). One has to remember the traumatic impact of two World Wars as well. That put paid to the efforts to keep the Moss a ‘pleasant prospect’ and, like much of the surrounding land around the River Mersey, from here southwards to Northenden, the Moss became a vast municipal tip. It’s not so long ago they were still burning methane off the urban tip that skirted the River Mersey from the A56 towards Urmston Meadows. This problem was made worse when, in 1947, under government auspices, a petrochemical industry was introduced along Carrington Lane (Petrocarbon to 1955ish; Shell up to 2014; Lyondellbasell now).
FOCM: Did those companies bring benefits to the Moss?
Charlotte: No, they introduced serious contamination to the North-Western quadrant of the Moss: whilst discovering the method for fractionating crude oil, they introduced polymers, polycarbons, methane, cyanide, nitrogen dioxide, adding to the cocktail of zinc, chrome and other hard metals, asbestos etc, already introduced by Manchester Corporation with the gas works and other industries. In fact, a recent commercially sponsored ‘dig’ on the north-eastern sector of the Moss listed ‘plastic’ among the subsoil as an archaeological find! Modern plastic sheeting was actually ‘invented’ here, with Petrocarbon, the very first petrochemical company specifically established to create an alternative to rubber for industrial and commercial use in 1947. This was, of course, emulated across the world once the chemists at Petrocarbon left, were poached or enticed by more lucrative salaries abroad. We all know the disastrous consequences the world now faces with plastic pollution. Spoil from the earlier gas works and coking plants, the Irlam Steel works etc, all added to serious hazardous materials on that sector of the Moss, and these are still major problems. There is a curious converse parallel here for the Moss to locations where mining destroyed landscapes in England and Wales. Coal mining led to the release of vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when burnt. The industrial revolution of Manchester and the world was built on that energy source. On the Moss, there was, and still is the residue of, a substantial body of peat in which carbon dioxide has been locked (as in all peat bogs) naturally. Yet, industrialists and politicians at a local and national level encouraged the importation of a major pollutant, oil, onto the pristine natural site of the peat bog. That insult to a natural carbon sink began a process of degradation of the Moss as a carbon-capture source whilst polluting the subsurface of the Moss. In every sense Manchester’s industrial past is marked by dreadful pollution of the natural world, a tradition which is continued in attempts to degrade Carrington Moss still further.
FOCM: The tragedy of “progress”, is there any of the original peat moss left?
Charlotte: This is a key heritage asset for the North West Region. It is one of the last remaining peat bogs from the last Ice Age, along with Chat Moss, and it is (a) land designated as Green Belt; (b) a carbon-capture sink, like all peat bogs; (c) a source of great joy and wellbeing to many walkers, cyclists, and horse-riders (the horses bringing the equestrian tradition of the Medieval age that continues right into the present day). It has designated sites of special scientific interest and biodiversity. By Moss Lane there is still evidence of the original Moss, as well as at Birch Moss Covert. When the Carrington Spur was constructed, 50,000 tons of peat had to be removed before the land could be considered safe for heavy traffic. One can understand, therefore, that, outside the heavily industrialised sector, there are vast quantities of peat beneath the agricultural surfaces elsewhere. You can see this in the coloured water of the drainage, that deep red-brown colour of peat leaching from the land, taking carbon-dioxide with it.
FOCM: So we should retain, preserve and restore as much as we can of the peat moss, it is so valuable in the current battle against climate change?
Charlotte: The great threat now comes from Trafford Council’s plan to construct 4 major roads and build a huge housing estate on the Moss, in spite of numerous studies, old and new. The Manchester and District Regional Planning Proposals, 1945, for example, produced by Rowland Nicholas (Jarrold & Sons, 1945, see p. 11). Nicholas (a Surveyor and Chief Engineer to the Manchester and District Regional Planning Committee) specifically stated that the Moss was unsuitable for housing; and this came from a man who had revolutionary visions of change to Manchester that never materialised. The most telling evidence of all, of course, is the fact that, for over twelve thousand years no one built upon it; and the supposed genius of modern construction and engineering techniques are never going to improve on what nature has built on the Moss over many millions of years. If these plans go ahead, they would not only destroy the Moss and create an unhealthy urban mess; they would create a major source of additional pollution, destroy a key carbon capture area, and lead to massive flooding. As a peat bog, it retains vast quantities of excess water which otherwise would have nowhere to go. The building of any major roads here will generate a huge number of additional traffic journeys, including countless numbers of cars coming into the area from outside Trafford, saturating the roads beyond, thus leading to even more road building in more green belt areas around and beyond Sinderland. Home builders’ bodies also consistently warn against building on Peat Bogs.
Equally important is the World Health Organisation’s warning of the links between climate change and abuse of the natural world on the one hand, and the spread of infectious diseases in the modern world, on the other. In the light of the concerns for our climate, and because of the mounting evidence that abuse of the natural landscape and the creatures on it is not unconnected to the fact that we have a major pandemic threat with us this very moment, it is astonishing that the political will to listen to the science and respect the natural world seems as far away as ever in Trafford and Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It is hugely worrying, particularly when we know that the Covid-19 threat has basically brought every country in the world to a standstill and crippled the world economy. Where is the sense in building new roads across a peat bog which will mean the destruction of one of nature’s climate and flood control mechanisms, a resource of huge biodiversity, which helps to sustain the health of the planet and the people and animals on it, in the light of the science of climate catastrophe and human disease?
Ominously an article in New Scientist of 15th October 2019, using a predictive model that had proved successful in forewarning of every past pandemic when applied retrospectively, warned precisely of the link between human disease and climate change at the very moment the Covid-19 pandemic was establishing itself without much of the western world having a clue (New Scientist, 15th October 2019, “How Deadly Disease Outbreaks could worsen as the climate changes”). We all know what happened just about the time of the publication of this article and the consequences across the world even as we discuss these issues this very minute: in reality coronavirus was already afoot by early Autumn 2019. The same subject was examined extensively in a powerful study by the World Health Organisation in 2018: Climate Change and Human Health (World Health Organisation, Feb. 2018).
When Charles Dickens spoke to the Manchester Athenaeum in 1843, he praised its members for enabling study and reading to take place amidst the business of the industrial world because reflection and thought encouraged self-respect, self-confidence and respect for all around oneself. Some of these qualities are desperately needed in the world of the Manchester Planners today as they try to steam ahead with the destruction of all that is important and beautiful around them in places such as Carrington Moss.
FOCM: That would certainly be a tragedy for our Moss, should we be asking for more archaeological studies to be carried out?
Charlotte: The evidence of archaeology in the Moss has hardly been touched by specialist archaeologists. Part of the problem is that, as a subject, archaeology was still in the early stages of development in universities, such as the University of Manchester, which was in the process of being formed as the Moss was being developed. Modern archaeological work is a relatively new science and has recently developed fantastic resources with the growth of technology in geophysics, lidar and ground-penetrating radar. There had been a strong, long-established antiquarian tradition in the region with fascinating results which, however, did not include the Moss. Though The Manchester Guardian carried numerous naturalist studies mentioning the Moss in the nineteenth century, no one mentioned the archaeology. Archaeological interest in peat bogs, however, had grown from the mid-eighteenth century when a peat bog body was found in Lincolnshire. Since then increasing numbers of such bodies have been found across the world. The most famous local examples, of course, are Lindow Man from Lindow Moss, near Wilmslow (1984 / British Museum), and Worsley Man (1953), on a Salford Peat Bog. Leather shoes have been found at Chat Moss, but, sadly, whatever is buried underneath Carrington has suffered the fate of the surface of the Moss in large sections where industrial and other waste has dominated the environment.
The Moss, however, is much, much more than the industrialised quadrant and has hardly been excavated. Much will have been destroyed and usually an archaeological dig only happens when there is good evidence of a specific archaeological/historical reason or if, as happens with planning regulations, a survey is conducted. Funding is always an issue but some of these commercial studies are not detailed and they look mainly for expected agrarian use in field contours. In the case of Carrington Moss, they do not consider (perhaps do not even know) that this was a hive of activity in the Middle Ages focused upon Caryngton Hall, Carrington Lane, the equestrian tradition for which it was known in the Middle Ages, and the widely travelled experiences of the Caryngton family, not simply abroad to Normandy, Aquitaine and Navarre, but also within the British Isles during the wars with Wales and Scotland, and in tending their estates further afield in the Longdendale Valley, the Forest of Wyrehale (Wirral) and Marcher lands. I believe the site of Carrington Hall, and parts of the area where the old mill existed along the Lanewould be useful points with which to begin. That whole section north of Carrington Lane was a key transport route in the Middle Ages and, of course, it was connected to other routes by the River Mersey. Two dug-out canoes (c.AD/CE 1030-1245 radio-carbon dating) were discovered along local river banks when the ditch for the Ship Canal was excavated.
As we mentioned in our previous blog, the Friends of Carrington Moss recently arranged two workshops to provide input to the local Master Plan.
We’d like to take this opportunity to provide some feedback on the outputs from these workshops. We’ll give you some information about next steps and we’d love to have your thoughts about some of the key issues, because, of course, the
(ie what happens in response to the workshops) are, most importantly, why we spent so much time planning, preparing and hosting these sessions.
The Coronavirus has impacted timescales, so please bear with us and our partners over the coming months as some of the planned activities will not be completed within the same timescales now.
The first deliverable from each workshop was a set of key design principles which were discussed and agreed within the participant groups. We also received further feedback after the workshops. The graphic below represents the final output, which has been updated for all comments and responses received.
The core principle for each of the two topics is shown at the centre of the graphics. We believe these core principles are the overarching imperatives in the Master Planning process for these two themes. Some suggestions were also made about additional principles, which need further discussion.
The workshops also discussed the key assets we have on the Moss. This activity was structured in a slightly different way in the two workshops.
In the Ecology and Biodiversity Workshop:
We looked at the quantitative values of the ecology and biodiversity on the Moss and how they can be measured. Quantitative values can typically be measured numerically in some way, such as by size of the area, the number of creatures supported by that feature, or by using a pre-determined metric established by experts.
To facilitate this discussion, Trafford Wildlife shared their assessment of the wide variety of existing habitats on Carrington Moss and a representative from the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit (GMEU) presented information about the sites of biological importance and the presence of endangered species on Carrington Moss.
The break-out groups then considered the qualitative values, discussing their views about the most important ecological assets on Carrington Moss. Qualitative values are things that would not necessarily be counted numerically, they can be perceptions and feelings, not just tangible measurements and typically relate to the quality of a feature.
The results of this activity are shown in the graphic below:
As you can see, there was a lot of consistency in the discussions that took place in each break-out group, so it is important that these values are considered in the design and development of the updated Master Plan.
In the Interconnected Traffic-Free Routes across Carrington Moss
We categorised the various routes across Carrington Moss that are used today and also identified potential future traffic-free routes that will be important to consider in the Master Planning process.
Again, there was a lot of consistency between the groups, including in their assessment of potential future routes. Connectivity with the wider network of walking and cycling routes is considered to be very important. There was a lot of discussion about the dismantled railway line and it is important to take the number of horse riders using the Moss on a day to day basis into account. Our friends in the horse riding community tell us that there are over 1,000 horses stabled in the area, no wonder we see someone on horseback almost every time we go onto the Moss.
Finally, the third activity was to identify the key next steps to help progress the Master Plan and ensure community engagement continues as a key part of the discussions. These have been consolidated because there was so much overlap between the break-out groups and lots of actions were suggested.
Let’s look first at the Quick Wins, these are things we can do in the short term (in the next three to six months), without too much difficulty. We are already working with our partners to deliver these:
Plant wildflower meadows (next to the footpaths, ditches, solar farm, hedgerows)
We have already discussed this with HIMOR and hope to sow seed over the coming months
Plant bulbs/understorey in the woodlands
Again, we are actively planning this with HIMOR
Create a programme of work for schools (including, if possible, on-line resources), arrange school/resident visits onto the Moss
Two school visits already arranged, with more to follow, we are also planning some community walks over the coming months
Introduce more way markers and signage to help those using the Moss
Again, HIMOR are actively supporting this initiative
Do litter picks on and near the footpaths
We held our first litter pick in February and will be doing more over the coming months
Involve representatives from all communities in discussions about the Master Plan for the area, invite those representatives to the existing forums which are part of the Master Plan process
Whilst we feel this must be a quick win, community engagement on Master Planning is not yet in place, but we hope to bring more information on this over the coming weeks.
The workshops also identified things that would take a bit more discussion but we believe can be achieved in the medium term (in the next six to nine months) and also some more challenging actions which may start over the coming weeks but will take much longer to complete (possibly up to a year or longer):
We’d also like to have your inputs into the next steps and with that in mind, we have created a very short survey, which should take less than 5 minutes to complete. We are keen to secure inputs from as many in the community as possible, so please encourage your family, friends and neighbours to respond too. Click on the button below to access the survey.
We are now planning our next workshops, the first of which will consider the plans for the Strategic Road Network to be constructed across the Moss, these currently include the Carrington Relief Road, the Sale West Link Road, the Birch Road Link and the Southern Link Road. We will be seeking to identify quick wins, route options and alternatives to the reduce the need for so much new tarmac! A further workshop will look Risks and Issues (for example, Air Pollution, Noise Pollution, other impacts of high volume HGV traffic and potential COMAH site topics). More information will follow on these workshops over the coming weeks. They may, of course, need to be on-line sessions, due to the Coronavirus.
Carrington” and we are working with Trafford Council’s
Strategic Planning Team to ensure community
representatives are able to input into the design of that
This is important, because if lots of money is spent developing a plan, it is much harder to effect change in later phases of the process.
With this in mind, the Friends of Carrington Moss recently arranged two workshops to provide input to the local Master Plan.
The first workshop focused on the Ecology and Biodiversity on Carrington Moss, and the second covered Interconnected Traffic-Free Routes across Carrington Moss. Participants included landowners, developers, Trafford Council, specialists from local regional and national groups (see the graphic below for a full list), school pupils and representatives from local community groups.
Why is the Master Plan important?
The Master Plan will shape the future of our local landscape. It will act as a framework for upcoming planning applications and will be a supporting document in the final iteration of the GMSF which is due to be published later this year. The community are extremely important in this process. The other people who are involved may not live in the area and may not know its existing features and unique characteristics as local residents do.
In line with their Statement of Community Involvement (available at this link Trafford’s Statement of Community Involvement), Trafford will be seeking to consult and engage with residents and other interested parties throughout all phases of the Master Planning process.
Trafford Council’s planning officers have confirmed that the new version of the Master Plan for the area will use the HIMOR Master Plan, which is available at this link HIMOR Master Plan March 2019, as its starting point.
As it is a strategic document, the Master Plan will aim to show what the vision, ie the long-term proposition, for the area looks like. It will include some analysis of the existing site, highlighting the constraints and the opportunities which may arise during the plan period.
The work of the Friends group will provide some useful baseline information which can be included in the inputs to the Master Plan, including, for example, our monitoring of air quality on and around Carrington Moss.
In addition, the outputs from our recent workshops definitively demonstrate that local residents and specialists can add real value to the Master Planning process. The design principles for each theme (Ecology/Biodiversity and Interconnected Traffic-Free Routes) were discussed and updated during the workshops and attendees have had the opportunity to comment further during the review of the workshop outputs.
We are now working with workshop participants to consider the next step actions, particularly focusing initially on the quick wins, which could include, for example, route signage and wildflower planting.
Whilst these workshops aimed to support Master Planning for our own area, this is a great framework which can be adopted by others and is a huge opportunity to enable local communities to be involved in the design phase of the Master Plan. We are creating a toolkit which can be shared with other groups and we believe this will help change the perception that residents can add little value to the planning process.
Just labelling an activity “consultation” is not enough.
It is important that all those involved
in the planning ecosystem recognise the difference between real and robust consultation
and simple information sharing (however complex the data being shared happens
Consultation involves taking account of, as well as
listening to, the views of those citizens being
consulted and must, therefore, take place before
any decisions are made.
We, the citizen, should be clear, that consultation
does not mean that our views always have to be acted upon. There may be good practical or financial
reasons for not doing so. When a
citizen’s views are rejected though, the justification for doing so should be
Making a pretence of consultation is unproductive,
engenders suspicion and increases mistrust.
True consultation will enable the citizen to contribute to scheme
designs, will stimulate debate and encourage “buy-in” to the proposals.
Real, robust consultation should, firstly, consider
whether there is a need for what is being planned and then, secondly, consider
how those needs are to be addressed. It would
also helpful to inform people about how the decision-making process works.
So, looking at the “committed” road across Carrington Moss – we should, firstly, have been consulted about whether a new road is actually needed. IF it is agreed that a new road IS needed, we should then be consulted about the design and placement of that road. Alternatively, if it is agreed that improved public transport would address the existing traffic challenges (and we could get a lot of public transport for the £33 million estimate that the new road is going to cost), we should be consulted about the public transport needs for the area.
Designing the new road will, like the overall Trafford
Masterplan for the area, cost lots of money, so how likely is it that the design
will be changed as a result of any “consultation” to be carried out? It is, therefore, imperative that citizens
are fully involved in that design process!
All roads are extremely busy during rush hour but we cannot duplicate them all just to satisfy the needs of one type of road user – the driver! If more focus was given to other users and public transport/traffic free routes were given a higher priority, we (and our children/grandchildren) would all be a lot healthier.
Remember, if a new road is built, it is likely to be full of traffic from outside the borough before a single new house is built. So, if the traffic chaos during rush hour continues either before, during or after the new houses have been built, what is the answer?
Someone is bound to suggest yet another highly polluting new road, rather than the public transport improvements we so desperately need!
With this in mind, please don’t forget that we have a petition against the new roads across Carrington Moss. If you live in Trafford and haven’t signed it yet, and are unable to print your own copy, get in touch. If you can print out the petition and get signatures from your family, friends and neighbours, we’d be delighted.