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Alexandra Park: A Protest That's Tree Savvy or Tree-son?

Jonathan Schofield and Ben Robinson try to see the wood for the trees

Written by . Published on January 31st 2013.


Alexandra Park: A Protest That's Tree Savvy or Tree-son?

EDDIE FLANAGAN is clear.

And he needs to be. He's started to chop down trees in Alexandra Park and some people aren't happy about the two to three week process of tree culling.

The senior officer in charge of the Alexandra Park project says, "There's a small group of locals who disagree with us over strategy but the council is committed to delivering a restored park.

"We've got £5.5m of improvements taking place. As part of this we're creating 7,000 square metres of new planting, including 100 new trees. We will be taking around 250 trees down from around 1,600 trees. So we're losing around 10% but we're delivering a much better park and a much better amenity."

The project isn’t about restoring the park to exactly the way it was when it was first opened, it’s about ensuring it can be used and enjoyed by as many people as possible. 

The money comes from a split of £2.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), £2.8m from the city council, and £545,000 from the Lawn Tennis Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board. 

The 'small group' Flanagan is referring to is Save Alexandra Park's Trees (SAPT). He seems bemused by some of the attitudes of the protestors. One individual apparently told him they'd rather see no improvements to the park if one tree had to fall. 

 

Cherry trees on a terrace that was surprised to have themCherry trees on a terrace that was surprised to have them

That level of tree-fanaticism, is categorically not the majority view of the protesters. They say they want the park to improve as well, but not this way.

Rionne Brennan, of SAPT, says, "In every communication with the council and councillors the majority of the residents objecting to the extent of fellings have been keen to express support for the development of Alexandra Park. Residents have simply requested that the specific plans for felling should be revisited with a view to seeing if a more sensitive approach can be identified to maximise the protection of this natural asset.

"Residents responded as soon as the exact extent of fellings became more widely communicated in late November 2012.  Many Residents attended the Open Day in Alexandra Park on 1 December at which the detailed felling plans were displayed (click here).

"Concerns were raised at this Open Day. Residents would have preferred to respond to this aspect of the plan during the development stage but unfortunately the exact extent of fellings had not been well publicised.  Indeed on all the plans included in the park, and the plans contained on the official Alexandra Park website, the felling details had been omitted."

Felling AlexandraFelling Alexandra

Both Eddie Flanagan and Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council executive member for culture and leisure, disagree about the council masking the felling.

“Throughout the consultation process we discussed the number of trees that were being taken out of the park, and through discussion with the community the original number of trees to be removed has been reduced," Cllr Battle says.

"We've been working on this, the designs and securing the funding, for ten years," says Eddie Flanagan. "We've involved local people right from the start. One of the problems is that there's been a lack of resource and maintenance, many areas of the park have become overgrown. There's been a lot of self-seeding for instance which would obviously have been removed if the park had had the resources.

Dangerous neglectDangerous neglect"The result is people have told us they don't feel safe in many areas of the park or they fear they might see something inappropriate happening."

Clearing out unintended natural clutter seems eminently reasonable. The disgraceful neglect of public parks across the country, parks once renowned for their beauty, their colour, and the loving care lavished upon them (see yellow box below) led to a collapse of their reputations. The physical fabric of ornamental fountains and benches became degraded, self-seeded thickets grew in which people worried about lurking criminals and perverts.

Alexandra Park like so many others began to look and feel dangerous.

Alexandra Park back in the day, colourful and black and white

Alexandra Park back in the day, colourful and black and white

SAPT understand many of the the points being made by the council over the upgrading of the park, but it's clear they don't trust the local authority. 

Ian Brewer of the group disputes the number of trees that will go and the rationale by which they are chosen. 

"They’re not identifying ash dieback, horse chesnut blight or oak decline," he says. "We think if you did a proper survey of all the trees in this park 25-30% of them are due to die in the next 10 years due to natural fungal infection. This isn’t even being looked at or addressed.

"The Council say they are taking out 250, if you look at the plans properly it's more like 400. They want to plant around 90 trees, so if they take out 400 and maybe another 400 fall over due to fungal infection that’s going to be 800 trees gone and there’s only 1600 here to start with.

"We’re not against the renovation of the park," he continues. "We’re all in favour of seeing Chorlton Lodge (a lovely building close to the entrance of the park) done up, and the pavilion and a lot of the other improvements look really good.

"We’re not in favour of six tennis courts though, clearing the ground for that many courts means taking out about 30 mature ash trees. If they put four courts in they could do that without taking out any trees so I don’t know why they’re insisting on six.”

Ian Brewer then accuses the Council of deceiving the public over the Heritage Lottery Grant. 

“Funding for the park has been partially received from HLF. They want to restore this area (the old terrace) to how it was in the 1920s and 30s. Manchester City Council say that HLF stipulate that they’re not going to put up funding unless this is done. That means no more trees, just ornamental planters.

“But I spoke to HLF and they said they hadn't said that about the terrace. So bullshit from the council to blame the HLF because felling is always going to be unpopular which is why the council have tried to hide it until the last moment from the public.”

The council says that's simply not true.

Eddie Flanagan again.

“None of that makes sense. We’ve not said the Heritage Lottery Fund have stipulated anything, we’ve worked with them and jointly developed the plans for the park. The project isn’t about restoring the park to exactly the way it was when it was first opened, it’s about ensuring it can be used and enjoyed by as many people as possible. We're certainly not blaming the HLF."

To outsiders it's curious how such an eminently worthwhile and seemingly uncontroversial aspect of city life such as spending millions on a neglected park can lead to conflict.

But maybe that's par for the course at present. Maybe there's something else at work. People have - if council election figures are anything to go by - become divorced from the straightforward democratic process of voting in representives and then going along with the decisions made by them. Have for example the protesters at Alexandra Park all voted in recent local council elections?

Tree freedom-fightersTree freedom-fighters

The way it should work of course is that any grievance is taken to the local councillor who then represents that view in the Town Hall. If the democratically elected council still proceeds having taken an objective decision then due process has been observed. Job done.

But it appears there's a growing issue with people over how the decisions are being made. There's a suspicion the civil service of the council, rather than the elected representatives are setting the agenda and making the decisions? The latter should lead the former not the reverse. Councillors shouldn't be the mouthpiece of the bureaucrats, selling their decisions to the public. They should be the voice of the people telling the bureaucrats what to do. Hence democracy, not bureaucracy.

If Confidential's experience of the Library Walk row (click here) is anything to go by, then these fears are being realised. The councillors on the planning committee at the meeting in which approval was given for blocking Library Walk had no competence in design and planning. Their questions to the planners (the civil service) were an embarrassment. They failed to represent the people so how could they accurately represent people's views to the planning authority?

Of course, things still have to get done, work has to be delivered, government has to govern.

Judgements have to be made. 

So, Confidential is with the council over Alexandra Park. The park is a shambles at present with a reputation to match. What should always be remembered as well is that this was never intended to be a country park in the city, it was always intended to a formally designed, highly maintained park with recreation facilities included. 

As Ben Robinson from Confidential went down there to gather some information and take pictures, all the three women on the editorial desk told him to be careful. They described the park as 'rapey'.

If Alexandra Park can recover even a little of its former glory then all the locals, and their visitors, will benefit. The careful cutting back in tree stock, much of it self-seeded or planted ad hoc as a stop gap measure in the years of decline, is thus a price worth paying.

Despite the two thousand people who have signed a petition about the trees Ian Brewer of SAPT admits there's only "an active core group of about 15." 

He also says, "I’m going to be more than quite upset if the trees go, I’m going to have to find another park to go in because I’m not going to want to come here again because I’ll remember it how it was.”

In that case, as my gran used to say, he'd be cutting off his nose to spite his face. And that's stupid.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield here @JonathSchofield. You can follow Ben Robinson on @BenPRobinson

The Saddest Municipal Tale

THE FALL from grace of Britain's great urban parks (excluding the Royal Parks in London) was one of the biggest disasters of the dire, polarised, eighties. 

Inefficient and narrow-minded councils blamed a heavy handed, occasionally vindictive, government. The result was a collective, and generally disgusting dereliction of duty, the responsibility for which was tossed between left and right factions. It was bad governance all round. 

In the nineties public parks got worse.

The result was the poorest areas lost their most beautiful and useful amenity. The British park, that object of so much local pride a generation or two before, was in the gutter. 

The timing was evil perfection. Just as inner-city communities lost so many jobs, they also lost one of their main civilising resources. 

Families were hit the hardest of course, as playgrounds rusted, playing fields decayed and drainage failed.

Meanwhile park departments were ravaged and destroyed. Flower beds were torn up (Manchester's parks were once famous for the beauty of their floral displays). 'Wild' areas were encouraged and a big fat lie told about how these were better for biodiversity, and so much more natural. 'Cheaper', the officials meant.

Bad landscape designers went one step further and planted low maintenance, dark leaved, spiky things that hoarded litter like dragons jealous of their treasure. It was laughably bad. 

And tragic of course. Especially for the good people, both in councils and in the community around, working hard to maintain parks as, at least, a respectable shadow of their former selves.

Avenue - Alex ParkAvenue - Alex ParkThe result, as stated above, is that municipal public parks, emptied of park keepers. They were left to moulder and worst of all they became a byword for trouble. They became, aside from the odd accidental survival such as the magnifient lime avenue at Alexandra Park (see picture in this panel), almost ugly.

The Victorians it seems, knew better than we did the need for urban populations to have beautifully kept parks on their doorstep.

One of the express aims of Manchester with its nineteenth century parks' policy (Alexandra Park was opened in 1870) was that parks were for everybody regardless of class, providing fresh air, recreation and natural beauty. A target for Alexandra Park was to keep families together in shared recreation. 

Things have been slow to improve.

HLF funding, and targeted council monies have started to scratch the surface, or occasionally with 'star' parks make significant changes in park maintenance and management over the last decade. But the effect has been piecemeal, some excellent work has been done at Heaton Park for example, but it's scarcely parkwide, and excludes the Hall which lies closed to the public.

The work of Friends Groups has helped - some volunteers giving weeks of their personal time and effort to improve their parks. Platt Fields Park friends group is an exemplar.

Nothing has been done in Manchester to match Stanley Park's reinvention in Liverpool. In fact the city lags behind its Merseyside neighbour in the management of its green spaces.

Finally, even with the improvements recently, can we really say that at the highest level of local and national governance the value of well-maintained parks and their contribution to well-being has been understood? 

Are the parks liable in the future to be again the first on the cutback list? 

One last point.

Many of the parks in Greater Manchester, in Britain, were created from private patronage supporting local authorities.

Central and local government are both justified in 2013 in wondering when are the business leaders, entrepreneurs and private individuals with wealth going to again live up to their responsibilities when it comes to parks? (JS) 

I am a broken drink fountain - honestly what happened to my park?I am a broken drinking fountain - honestly what happened to my park, what happened to me?

Down in the park a hundred years agoDown in the park a hundred years ago

Ugly fence surrounding the felling area in an untended part of the parkUgly fence surrounding the felling area in an untended part of the park

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73 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

"Rapey"? I'm guessing the three women on the editorial desk wouldn't describe similar wooded areas of Chorlton Ees as "rapey". I wonder what the difference could be. I do hope it's nothing to do with the fact that there's a significantly higher number of working class black people frequenting Alexandra Park. I'm sure it's not. They've probably got loads of black friends.

Incidentally, did Ben Robinson manage to take any photos of criminals and perverts lurking in self-seeded thickets during his brave journey to the dark heart of South Manchester? No? Funny that.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
Lynda MoyoFebruary 6th 2013.

I am black and I find it 'rapey'. So there.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 1st 2013.

Jamie, the point being made is 'perception of parks'. And it's nothing to do with the location and could be applied to most parks in Greater Manchester. Without park keepers then that is the problem. It's odd that you should turn this into a racial thing. Disturbing even. The anger in the article is about the decline of parks.

FurFoxAcheFebruary 1st 2013.

Great news that they are getting some money to spend on this. I live just up the road from the park and use it frequently for running or for the occasional walk when its not raining. I agree that the park does feel unsafe at times. I think the word "rapey" is probably a bit strong. I don't visit any of the other large municipal parks in MCR but this park is used by everyone, from all colours, creeds, classes and it will be great to see some cash being spent on making it safer and more attractive whilst providing a huge number of new facilities for everyone. The tennis courts will be fantastic and I for one will use them regularly. We have to travel to Chorlton or Longford parks at the moment.

BenFebruary 1st 2013.

Jamie is right its the old Moss Side stereotyping coming out again.The fact that you have reffered to people in the office shows how little research you have carried out with park users and quite frankly these type of comments are appalling.
In the parks surveys carried out for Alex Park,parks users felt safe most of the time and there are no recent crime statistics to suggest it is unsafe.
Is it G4S or the police who wanted a clear view across the park, i can't tell the difference?

The park users surveys also revealed that people wanted more nature walks not less.You can't zone nature and biodiversity as this plan appears to do.
The reference to Chorlton Ees is important because it refers to the way that urban greenspace management has been going over the past 30 years -more naturalistic more biodiverse.

As Councils across the north west real from cuts where decisions of Parks Management v Social Care they will need to abandon more parks to nature.I would say that those that managed the parks in terms of nature were realistic and forward thinking in terms of budgets.

Chorlton Ees as part of The Mersey Valley as a naturalistic area of biodiversity has now been abandoned by the City Council as part of its proposed cuts as have the Red Rose Forest who promote more tree planting in natural environments.

There is no reference to the park's role in addressing issues of climate change and as a valued source of green infrastructure.The park was subject to a rather closed Planning Permission that included many tree removals (30% of tree stock area) despite the Council's policy aims to increase the net number of trees in any new 'development'.How will the new park layout address the cities GI needs if there are fewer trees and how will it cope with all the extra water,lack of pollution filtration, cooling and carbon storage?

Parks and nature as positive exposure to greenery should be measured in terms of their benefits to health and well being not as places that form part of what is essentially a male dominated sports development strategy by people who have lost touch with nature and the natural environment.

No natural play no family play.

Did i mention that we have had the second wettest year on record within just over a decade and that we need all the trees and nature we have to help soak up some of that rain.The cricket has been cancelled again!!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Harriet HarmanFebruary 2nd 2013.

'Most of the time'?! Jeesus, let us know what time's not safe please and we will stay away then...

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

GMP confirm that Alex park is one of the safest in Manchester. Crine stats for the past year show that there were NO sexual crimes in the park.

A survey of 408 park users by the council in 2012 showed 96% felt very safe or safe in the park in the daytime. You can see the results for yourself on council website

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

GMP confirm Alex park is one of the safest in the city. Their crime stats for the past year show there have been NO sexual crimes in the park.

The visitor survey with 408 people in 2012 found 96% felt very safe or safe in the park in daytime. You can see these results for yourself on council website

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

Hi Jonathan,

The term "rapey" is being specifically used to describe Alexandra Park. What you have done in your article is repeat the prejudices of three of your friends about this specific area - not about parks in general.

There's nothing to back this assertion up - people don't "feel" safe, or they worry they "might" see something inappropriate happening - but there's nothing that describes a specific threat. These feelings can't just be engendered by foliage, otherwise the proponents would be cowering in terror every time they pass a hedge. At the very least they would be campaigining for the removal of any semi-wild parkland in Manchester, not just the small thickets described in this article. Logically, this means there must be something else about Alexandra Park that makes them feel like they're surrounded by criminals. Perhaps it's the duck pond.

I'm not accusing you of racism, just of unconsciously repeating the age-old trope of the black man as rapist. I'm sure your next article will be in support of removing rapist-concealing trees in a white, middle class area.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 1st 2013.

That's a very strange logic James and since I regularly use Alexandra Park and live a twelve minute walk away, somewhat annoying. You haven't read the paragraph from Eddie Flanagan about the consultations. If you don't think that people are wary of using many of our parks in the UK then you clearly need to ask around. And what is your problem with race when you see an intent in words that isn't there, then pull a coward's card by discussing what might take place in my subconscious.

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2013.

Yes if only Manchester could be impelled (by the Government or its citizens) into "subcontracting" the management of its green spaces to Liverpool. All for a handsome fee of course.

(Now that would scare the s**t out of the Town Hall into getting their act together.)

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

Hi Jonathan,

I said unconsciously, not subconscious - meaning "unintentionally". I don't think I'm pulling a coward's card by saying you've unintentionally repeated prejudice. I'm not sure what the relevance of this accusation is. Furthermore, I clearly have read the paragraph about Eddie Flanagan's consultations as I quoted it in my previous comment.

Ben's comment above states that surveys suggest people feel safe in Alexandra Park and crime statistics are normal. I'm sure you read these surveys as part of your research for this article - is he misrepresenting the results?

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 1st 2013.

I'm sure the crime stats are 'normal' whatever 'normal' is. But any survey is only a limited snap shot and I reiterate ask people face to face, eye to eye in the Whalley Range/Old Trafford/Moss Side areas and see what they say. I repeat I live there, do you?

Also I find it difficult to write unconsciously so felt you meant subconscious. Using my subconscious (or even unconscious) to say I am guilty of repeating a vile trope is a coward's card because it's impossible to defend yourself from claims about subconscious thoughts. It alarms me that you immediately came up with that accusation. Look to your own (un) subconscious James perhaps.

Trevor EllisFebruary 1st 2013.

I think people are getting off the point, which is that a major capital project in the park is about to get underway. Distractions about the trees may slow this process up. Sometimes we just have to trust the council, they people working on the park won't deliberately do a bad job.

Tracey GrantFebruary 1st 2013.

Wow, that old photograph. Beautiful. Are the changes going to make it look like that again.

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

Hi Jonathan,

I do live in Whalley Range and have done for about ten years - the park is at the end of my street. I haven't timed my journey to the nearest minute, but I'm confident I count as a local resident.

I'm sure you won't deny that this area of Manchester suffers from undeserved prejudice and that a lot of this is based on either race or class. I've heard these prejudices from many people over the years and - yes - spoken to other residents about them. Repeating these prejudices without backing them up with facts is really not a good look.

The stuff you've written about unconscious/subconscious thought is nonsense - if you've used a prejudiced statement to back up an opinion article, intentionally or otherwise, there's nothing wrong with someone calling you out on this.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 1st 2013.

I'm well aware of the reputation of the area and that's why on tours, and in my writing, I constantly try and make people aware of its manifold merits. It's a great place to live that's why I've brought up three children there. Anger at the decay of the great British park particularly in the eighties and nineties does not betray prejudice - but let's beg to differ on this, shall we?

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

Yeah, I think we're both getting away from our original points - and both have pride in the local area. Again, I'm not accusing you of prejudice - just some of the people quoted in the article. I think the "rapey" comment just wound me up because I've heard it (in various different forms) so many times before.

I think we can both agree that trees are nice though.

JoanFebruary 1st 2013.

Jonathan and Jamie. Can't the two of you just meet up and make-up over a pint. You've got a lot in common. You both have good ideas and you're both a little pedantic; that's not a criticism by the way, Also, JS, I bet you can write when you're unconscious.

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

I was thinking of booking a tour actually...

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 1st 2013.

My favourite tree is a beech, or rather a grove of beeches. I am presently fast asleep Joan.

Estelle KensdaleFebruary 1st 2013.

I am also a local resident and regular user of Alexandra Park, and speaking from my own experience, I did not know about the consultation until the end of last year, or I would have objected sooner!

Flowers are lovely, and important, but why do they need to be at the expense of hundreds of mature trees? Why not have both? Trees are crucial to our mental and physical health and wellbeing, especially in a city - we need more, not fewer.

As for tennis courts - there are already tennis courts in Alexandra Park, which have fallen into disuse and disrepair? Why not get these back up and running and see if anyone uses them, before chopping down trees to build new ones?

Nature, in and of its own sake, is something which sadly a large number of people are losing touch with. It's incredibly important not just for us, but for all the wildlife which depends on it. On a short walk through the park recently I counted no less than 25 different bird species - surely this should be celebrated and encouraged, instead of their habitat being destroyed?

It's all particularly ironic given the fact that Manchester calls itself a 'green' city...

Simon ShortFebruary 1st 2013.

This wholesale destruction of wildlife habitat and the only taste of nature most local residents will get, is far from unique. It's happening all over the country under the part-privatised system.
Parks and open spaces no longer afford proper keepers or gardeners but contract with companies for prestige 'Projects' (With attendant PR) which always include the destruction of mature healthy trees.
Always, consultation is actively avoided and always a slew of erroneous 'reasons' are given The trees are untidy, ill, there's a health and safety risk, there's a problem with insurance, they obscure the view of the trees, they weren't planned, they are preventing more trees from growing... anything will do, but the end result will always be chainsaws and a profitable contract in which the wood will be saleable.
These reasons are no different to the ones used to destroy the rainforests and their effects are the same. More ironic is that these projects are invariably funded as 'Green projects' which does a company's PR no end of good.
At a time where wildlife habitat is critically low, when most children have never had the chance to climb a real tree and when climate change is finally recognised, this is no time to be destroying these sources of biodiversity and carbon capture which the Victorian businessmen seemed to understand better than ours do.
This is a short term financial scam that denudes our scenery and increases climate change.
Anyone or any organisation that says 'They're only some trees' is exactly one who should never be admitted to a park in the first place. Not only are they vandalising vital parts of our world but they're encouraging this as a policy for the future.
If this doesn't stop here, the future is bleak.

CBFebruary 1st 2013.

It's a park. Not a woodland. Parks are managed spaces.

CBFebruary 1st 2013.

Estelle - what is the ratio of number of trees to amount of happiness and wellbeing? How many more will we need to plant before we are all super healthy and joyous?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Martin CooperFebruary 4th 2013.

What a small-minded question, wilfully missing the point.

Jamie TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

I hope "CB" stands for Councillor Battle... I'm just going to assume it does for amusement's sake.

the Whalley RangerFebruary 1st 2013.

As my avatar implies, I am also a local resident and make use of the park on an almost daily basis - I have little objections to the plans.

Historically, Alexandra Park was conceived as a prime example of excellent Victorian park design, not the *nature reserve* it has turned out to become. The process of having professionals grade the value of existing tree stock and shrubbery, and then conceive a up-to-date vision of what a modern park (not nature reserve) could cater for beats hands down the desire to preserve for the sake of preservation.

Alexandra Park will continue to provide the function of a 'green lung' in its upgraded form, all whilst simultaneously increasing the user friendliness, versatility and restoring the key features of Victorian park design.

Estelle KensdaleFebruary 1st 2013.

CB - I was trying to make the general point that trees are important - for people, for wildlife, for the environment. I'm not interested in obtuse comments.

I am however interested in whether anyone can give a valid reason why so many trees 'need' to be felled in order to create "raised beds". Will raised beds provide a habitat for birds and bats? Vital drainage in times of flooding? Contribute to cleaner air in this urban area?

If we can so flippantly chop down approx 400 trees - what next?

Maybe we should turn your question on its head - how many trees does a neighbourhood need? None? One? Is it desirable to work towards a society that has no respect for nature or wildlife, preferring to destroy than to appreciate?

I'm not being obtuse - I'm genuinely interested.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerFebruary 1st 2013.

Alexandra Park is not a nature reserve, it is a public park perhaps acting as an intermediary between fully built-up areas and the countryside.

There are multitude of spaces within the city's urban footprint that cater for the habitat of birds and bats, most notably a wide range of disused rail tracks, arches, landscaping along the canals etc - even right in the centre of the city. Making a case for the city to turn into the countryside and thus perhaps the countryside turn into a city is a questionable position to take.

Let's make sure we understand the *nature* of the two before adopting a blanket approach to all urban areas.

Estelle KensdaleFebruary 1st 2013.

One of the amazing things about nature, as you rightly point out, is that it can, and does, create habitats in the most unlikely places. It is inevitable that a park will attract wildlife and natural habitats form. Are you saying it is right to kill off that wildlife just because we didn't 'plan' for it to be there?

Or is it that we should aim for just a small amount of nature and wildlife in our cities - because after all, they're cities, and so should have a minimal number of trees, birds and so on?

Perhaps you are suggesting that if city dwellers wish to hear and see birds, butterflies, trees, etc they should travel to the countryside? Or move?

Why such a fear of nature?

Why are raised beds more desirable in an inner city park than mature trees?

the Whalley RangerFebruary 3rd 2013.

Estelle
Fear of nature? Not at all, but perhaps an understanding of that *nature* can mean different things in different environments.

Without arrogance I perhaps ought to venture and declare that I have planted more than 10,000 trees in my student days, and am not unfamiliar with matters arboricultural. In response to your queries:

1- wildlife will not be seen to be 'killed off', but perhaps displaced. I have explained above the vast alternatives that exist for these species in the immediate surroundings.

2- the butterfly population is most likely to thrive under the new proposal, not suffer - that's what raised beds do for you.

3- the mature tree population is not under threat though, is it? The clean up exercise and the revegetation of Victorian design elements will have negligible effect on now matured design features of first rate arboricultural stock. It's the self-seeded, overgrown and unkept areas of the park that
will finally get the attention they deserve. As stated before, this is not a nature reserve, but a public park.

In conclusion, Alexandra Park will continue to provide a habitat for a wide range of species, all whilst addressing the the growing and changing needs of the population that it was designed for.

For that reason I welcome the proposal.

Martin CooperFebruary 4th 2013.

@ The Whalley Ranger

But what do you think about the completely ignored proposal that putting 4 tennis courts in rather than 6 would mean not having to chop down a bunch of 30 mature trees? Does that disturb your serenity at all?

the Whalley RangerFebruary 5th 2013.

Martin
I hereby disclose that I am not a member of any Whalley Range Tennis Association, but I can see how this function will benefit the users of the park hugely - without us losing sight of the wood for the trees that remain.

Martin CooperFebruary 7th 2013.

Indeed, but what about the matter of having fewer tennis courts would mean not felling a large copse of trees? Your response makes no sense if you actually read my question!

How about not thinking it's either/or - we can have both if we are listened to. You seem to be good at ignoring valid points that would make a great many people happier, maybe you should go and work for the council...

AnonymousFebruary 1st 2013.

It could be worse. They could have sold the land to developers so that houses and a supermarket could be built in its place with a small square of green in the middle for walking around.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 1st 2013.

Now don't be giving Bernstein & Leese ideas.

Simon TurnerFebruary 1st 2013.

Trees being "untidy" shock. Only recourse; tear them down. Replace with flower beds/planters. Which will need tending etc, that's a proper job. Maintenance cost. I'm assuming the Council have enough money to pay for the extra maintenance costs of tennis courts and flowerbeds??

Anna Verges - letter sent to ConfidentialFebruary 2nd 2013.

Dear Media/Reporters

Amidst the negative publicity that the Restoration work at Alexandra Park has generated, our organisation would like to contribute to what we strongly believe is a fair view of the consultation and involvement of the residents in the current plans; and to fully support the current works both for the park and for offering better opportunities to the diverse communities that live in the area.

I attach a letter of support.

Many thanks,
Anna Verges
Co-chair

--
Open Athletics
http://www.openathletics.org

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

Improving sports & leisure facilities are welcomed by the campaigners - but this can easily be done without felling so many trees and clearing important wildlife habitat of protected and priority species that are in serious decline in the UK. It's not either/or - the council, with some smarter design, could have found a way to accomodate the needs of all users of the park, human and nonhuman.

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

It's not either/or. Improved sports & leisure facilities are welcomed by campaigners - but it doesn't require felling of so many trees and clearing important wildlife habitat supporting protected & priority species.
At 60 acres the park is large enough to accomodate the needs of all its users (human and nonhuman) with some smart design,

Friends of Alexandra ParkFebruary 2nd 2013.

Following the recent press and media coverage of the protests in Alexandra Park, Manchester, the following statement has been issued by the Chair of the Friends of Alexandra Park, in support of the work being undertaken by Manchester City Council:-

"The Friends of Alexandra Park is a Group made up of local residents and representatives of sports bodies and other community groups that are all regular users of Alexandra Park. As a group we have been very closely involved over the last 10 years in the proposals to restore and regenerate Alexandra Park. The Group has been consulted at every step of the long and detailed process that has finally resulted in the Council securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and various sports bodies, which together with funds pledged by the Council, will provide in the region of £5m investment in this important local facility.

The Friends Group is wholeheartedly supportive of the Council's efforts to restore this Park to its former glory, and to provide much needed sports and community facilities within the Park. The Group is dismayed by the actions of protesters who have come along at the last minute to try to derail the restoration plans, after so many years of consultation, planning and hard work.

These protesters do not speak for the Friends Group, nor do we believe that they speak for the majority of park users. This project is really exciting for the local communities surrounding Alexandra Park and the benefit to those communities will be very obvious and welcome when the Park has new sports facilities, community space, cafe and toilets, and five full time dedicated staff to look after the place."

Paul Benson-Hannam
Chair

1 Response: Reply To This...
Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

Paul, it's not true there has been wholehearted support from the Friends. Many left the group as you well know, because they did not agree and felt their voice wasn't being heard. I expect they will tell their story in the days to come

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2013.

If you visit London check out the sort of parks they have there because that's the sort of park we're going to be getting here. I know what kind I prefer and it doesn't look like the countryside with added litter.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Martin CooperFebruary 7th 2013.

Great, neither does Alexandra park.

Simon MarshFebruary 2nd 2013.

In Victorian times, the great plant explorers would undertake ten year voyages to discover new types of tree and bring them back to Britain at immense financial cost.

The great landscape designers – William Kent, Capability Brown and Humphry Repton, routinely incorporated pre-existing landscape features like mature and ancient trees and old hedgerow into their designs.

The Victorians would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid killing a tree when creating their new parks, often whole avenues of trees were dug up and relocated. Queen Victoria herself instructed her Royal Foresters not to damage any tree in her Royal Parks and to leave dead trees standing.

Such widespread destruction of mature trees in a public park as we are seeing at Alexandra Park, would have outraged the public if it had taken place in Victorian times.

"The man of science and of taste will discover the beauties in a tree which others would condemn for its decay". Humphry Repton “Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening” 1803

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2013.

You are looking at the trees from an aesthetic viewpoint, not from a common sense one.

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2013.

Generally speaking I'm in favour of the tree removal in the area where the contractors have been busy. That area of the park was dark and gloomy and the trees that were previously there did not add much to the park. (I do think though that legislation should be passed instructing local authorities that for every tree felled 2 should be planted somewhere else within their jurisdiction). However if you stand on the cricket field open space the effect given by what was once a circle of trees has been lost and I hope they haven't taken out too many trees there. I know there are plans for other trees to be planted and hope that they will restore this view to some extent.

I have studied the plans for the park and would encourage anyone who hasn't to view them on the City Council website. They look good and I for one can't wait for the work to be completed.

I am a local resident who uses the park very regularly along with my children.

I'm all for the right to protest but wonder whether the protesters represent the majority view of the local residents?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Simon MarshFebruary 2nd 2013.

You are looking at the trees from an aesthetic viewpoint, not from a common sense one.

Air pollutants kills 13,000 people a year in the UK, most of them living in polluted inner-city areas like Whalley Range.

As soon as a tree is felled it stops filtering harmful pollutants and instead this pollution ends being filtered by people through their lungs. Each tree chopped down in the park increases your children's daily exposure to particulate air pollution and increases the statistical chance of them dying prematurely.

Trees are more than just objects to look at and judge, they have supported and sustained life on this planet for over 300 million years.

You live in an area where the air you and your children breathe is laced with pollution and you are in favour of chopping down the few remaining trees. More than that you think the guys with chainsaws are doing a good job! Maybe this is the "majority view", but being in the majority doesn't make what you believe is right.

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2013.

From the comments you'd think the choice in Alexandra Park was between a lifeless ornamental garden on one side and a sprawling wilderness on the other. Necessarily these seem to be stereotypical arguments pitched at winning an argument but the reality is that the future park will feature both formal aspects and areas of biodiversity.

Picking up on JS's point, I do think there is generally a lot of anger nascent in society at the moment, people are itching for a scrap and the real targets seem so elusive in Manchester (bankers, Tories etc), so here's a chance to bash someone, in this case the bad old council (those people you have to pay tax to and never pick up the bins properly).

Reading the article, they've done what they could, there's been consultation and negotiation with community groups including the Friends, it seems the consultation will now have to repeated with the minority of protestors, probably at great expense - let's be realistic, inevitably there will be a compromise and inevitably it wont be too far away from what's there at the moment.

paulsouthernFebruary 2nd 2013.

It's an Urban park, in a city, not a nature reserve. Lose the trees!

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2013.

If the protesters had been a bit more organised and been more keen to be involved in the long slog of getting funding, to have made their voice better heard at the consultation, to have held protests earlier, to have shown a consideration of the arguments for felling the trees etc I would have more sympathy. As it is, I agree with the above commentator in that the regeneration has become something to kick against and the protesters have come across as impulsive, sentimental and self indulgent. The Park needs a new lease of life and the regeneration provides a rare opportunity for this. It would be good to see people who consider themselves environmentalists to be a more visible part of shaping the future nature of the park, not always as those in opposition to change.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

Anonymous - As one of the campaigners I can say people had been objecting since the scale of tree felling and wildlife habitat become apparent to us in March 2011 at the first and only public open day about the plans, but were ignored. We had a meeting in Dec 17th 2012 with the council & HLF to present our concerns again but the council chose not to compromise. That is why some have chosen direct action.

We support renovation and improved sports & leisure facilities but it does not require the felling of 400 trees and 3 acres of habitat supporting protected and priority species like bats, hedgehogs, song thrush and house sparrow that are in serious decline in the UK.

At 60 acres the park is large enough to meet the needs of all its users, human and non-human, with a bit of smart design. 2.925 people have signed the petition, most are local and say they were not consulted.

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

As one of the campaigners, I can say that people have objected since March 2011 when some of the detail about the scale of tree felling & wildlife habitat clearance became apparent at the first and only public open day about the plans. People weren't listened to and the plans were submitted unchanged a couple months later. We had a meeting with the council & HLF Dec 17th to voice our concerns again but the council chose not to compromise. We welcome renovation and ecologically responsible tree and habitat management. But we dont want unnecessary tree felling and shrub clearance - that is the point.

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

There is a lot of misinformation flying around, about both the detail of the council renovation plans and the campaigners aims and concerns.

I can only suggest people visit savealexandraparkstrees.wordpress.com/about/… to get accurate information

Nadine AndrewsFebruary 3rd 2013.

Sorry for the duplicated posts - for some reason the site deleted all my posts so I had to repost, but now they've all reappeared!

Whalley ResidentFebruary 3rd 2013.

I am a local resident and am a regular user/dog walker in the park.
I totally agree with the council plans that I saw when announced and gave feedback at the time. The regeneration is a step forward, the park has become very over grown in parts and is not a wild nature reserve, it is a city park that needs a new lease of life and I believe that the changes will open up the spaces to encourage more visitors to a more welcoming park to use it’s new facilities, wouldn’t it be great to see more young people playing tennis or sport on the more open fields.
Returning some of it to the original design is great, I have seen many Victorian photos of the terraced part of the park and it looks a lot better that what it had become over the years.
I have been approached by protesters in the park and asked to join the campaign and I’m afraid that I don’t recognize any of you as regular users of the park, you seem like professional tree huggers, I like trees and there will be many trees left in the park and yes I have seen the plans that list every tree that will be felled and every new tree or flower bed that will be planted.
All you will do is delay the works, cost the council tens of thousands of pounds in additional security and eventually evicting you, please leave the park and let the works get completed as soon as possible so regular users and local residents can get to enjoy the whole of the park, and encourage more people to visit.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Mike HarropFebruary 3rd 2013.

Well said. As another Whalley Range resident living just off the park, I welcome the plans to overhaul the long neglected park. I have been kept informed of the plans and consulted several times. I have also made the effort to go to park when the public consultations were held to see the plans and to raise my views. I wonder how many of the people who have signed the online petition to stop the plans bothered to even find out the facts. 258 trees will be felled out of nearly 1800 and most of tress going are crowded or self sown. There will also be nearly 100 new specimen trees planted. The park desperately needs the overhaul - protesters please leave the park and let the work continue. By the way I've been to the park today and I don't recognise any of you.

Simon MarshFebruary 3rd 2013.

The Council have been marketing the park as a nature reserve for years. Google "alexandra park manchester + nature reserve" and you get results from Council- run websites like Visit Manchester and Manchester.gov categorising the Alexandra Park as a nature reserve.

Look at somewhere like Delamere Forest Park. Woodland offers superb opportunities for kids to have fun without the need for deforestation and more tarmac. Ask a teenager if they would rather play tennis or go to somewhere with mountain biking, aerial zip slides and a Ray Mears style bushcraft school and see what reply you get.

Parks have to move with the times to stay relevant. High-maintenance, formally-designed, horticultural landscapes have disappeared from our cities because they were too expensive to maintain and became less and less socially-relevant. On the other hand, large areas of wildlife-rich, semi-natural woodland costs very little to maintain in comparison to its many benefits.

9% of premature deaths in some inner-city areas of the UK are the direct result of air pollution. Victorian terraces and large open spaces don't protect your family from air pollution - healthy, mature trees do. A single tree can filter 27 kilograms of pollutants from the air in one year.

Air pollution is so insidious it begins affecting us in our mother's womb before we are even born, reducing the birth weight of babies. Children then breathe in these fine particles of air pollution triggering asthma. This isn't about "tree hugging" but about saving ourselves and our families from long-term exposure to deadly particles by saving the trees which purify our air.

Before you decide not to support the campaign I urge you to read up on air pollution and the role trees, especially mature trees, play in combating it.

Jo HarropFebruary 3rd 2013.

I’m a resident who has lived next to the park for 12 years. My whole family use every facility within the park including the children club, playgrounds, taking part in 5k runs and use the park frequently; it is so precious to us. We are so excited about the redevelopment and can’t wait to use the new facilities and see the new design and planting.

The people who are currently ‘camping out’ (all 10 of them :-) over the tree felling DO NOT represent local residents (certainly don’t recognise any of them and when you look at online petition signers a fair percentage don’t even live in Manchester, Saudi Arabia was the least local contributor!).

Local residents have been involved in the whole consultation process and have had the opportunity to comment on plans for years! We have been kept well informed by Friends of the Park and our views have been listened to and where possible included. Yet this ill-informed group choose to try and scupper the plans now?? Why have they not been involved for the 10 years of plan development?

The huge amount of work in gaining lottery funding and getting all the plans approved are in danger of being overshadowed and damaged by a small group who haven’t even bothered to read proposals fully and are simply giving a knee-jerk reaction without listening to what is taking place.

Yes 250 trees are to be removed (which sounds a large amount but there are almost 2000 in the park) but they are mostly too large for the park, diseased or self seeded weed trees – they are also being replaced with many new native specimens which will not only enhance the park’s bio-diversity but allow the park to develop and thrive for its next 150 years.

This redesign is a huge positive, not a negative. Leave the workers alone and let it continue.

RosaFebruary 4th 2013.

It seems from here that many residents support the plans just as much as some others think they are wrong. In which case the council has to make a judgement. I support the changes.

Matty WhyteFebruary 4th 2013.

Simon, to compare Delamere with Alexandra Park is wild. The two are different in every way. Walk around London's Royal Parks and tell me that people don't want formal parks anymore. Walk around the gardens in stately homes like Tatton. People want that well tended formal beauty more than you think. That is not to say a good rope walk area in Alexandra Park, possibly the boating lake end, wouldn't go amiss. As for your 'breathing' facts you're wide of the mark again. Sit in United's North Stand and look south and east across the city and you can't see the houses for the trees. Mature trees dominate the streets, gardens and parks of south Manchester. It is more wooded than at anytime in the last five hundred years. We really have quite a lot of trees.

John GordonFebruary 4th 2013.

platt fields and swinton park in particular where I live have gone from something to be proud of and enjoy to grassy muddy fields within a generation, a recent investment has seen swinton park cleaned up somewhat but nothing compared to what is once was when my mother used the park growing up. I regularly encounter drunks in the park at all hours when walking my dog, once a plastic policeman walked through the park and strolled right past and elderly gentleman drinking cider on a bench... he carried on strolling. fantastic. add scatterings of dog much everywhere and it makes a lovely place for communtiy to avoid.

Another TimFebruary 4th 2013.

Such a shame, considering money is so tight and there is so much which could be done to Manchester parks with universal approval - sorting out drainage, restoring paths, mending and painting walls and fences, planting beds, providing decent toilets.

As others have pointed out, Platt Fields is in a terrible mess after being treated as a short-term cash-cow, venue-for-hire, with no real money spent on reinstatement.

And yet, given this windfall, either through poor decisions or bad communication MCC have managed to turn great news into a PR disaster, complete with local residents involved in demonstrations and direct action.

Perhaps one of the problems is that this is a one off-spend, rather than the kind of reliable consistent income which can bring real change.

I really hope that either way the changes result in a better more popular park in the long term.

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2013.

I now fully under stand what it is to be a"friend" of alex park ,scary

Rionne BrennanFebruary 6th 2013.

An Eviction Notice has been served on the residents camping out in Alexandra Park protesting at the level of tree fellings and habitat clearance being undertaken in Alexandra Park. These residents have been given 1 hour leave the park.

Residents are in despair as, despite countless mails and calls to MCC and Councillors to consider a compromise in relation to the plan (400 trees due to be felled), MCC are insisting on progressing with the full extent of fellings. All this despite HLF assuring residents that they are keen to see a compromise which ensures the project has the full backing of the community.

Despite over 3500 signatures on the petition requesting suspension of felling and over 465 followers of the protest wordpress site it seems that MCC and Whalley Range Councillors Mary Watson and Angelika Stogia continue to believe they have the majority backing of local residents. Countless requests have been made to both Council and Councillors to provide any documentation to support this claim. Neither have been unable to do so.

Many residents attended the Whalley Range drop in advice session with Councilors Mary Watson, Angelika Stogia and Aftab Razaq to be told by Councillor Watson that there was nothing that the Councillors could do to stop the progress or this project. How is democracy being well served If our Council is not answerable to our Councillors for local development issues. How is democracy well served if our Council and Councillors can make bold claims for community support without the requirement to provide any evidence.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
FurFoxAcheFebruary 6th 2013.

I'm a resident and don't support your protests. Don't think you are protesting on the residents' behalf as you are not.

the Whalley RangerFebruary 7th 2013.

I concur, fox.

Martin CooperFebruary 7th 2013.

I disagree, and think that they are helping. Please carry on for as long as you can with our local support.

Paula DarwishFebruary 16th 2013.

Can I just clear up one thing - no-one is protesting on anyone's behalf. Both anti tree felling protestors and pro tree felling non protestors we are all local residents so lets have a bit of respect and stop belittling people just because we don't agree with them..

Hero
Manc GuyFebruary 17th 2013.

Anyone see all of the trees being felled behind the town hall this week, on the corner of Princess Street and Mosley Street? I assume it's for the relocation of the cenotaph. Sad really. I thought the older trees wouldhave looked nice amongst the monuments.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2013.

nah old trees are like old folks.... lets have new modern slim ones like those appearing in Health and Beauty

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

The tree fellings and scrub clearances are very damaging. Wildlife spaces in cities are needed more than ever, as biodiversity in the countryside is reduced. We are told by conservation charities that gardens and parks are of critical importance for wildlife - any park should consider the area's wildlife. This park was a cathedral, its mature trees of far more value to wildlife than flowerbeds, or newly planted trees. I walked there on my own often (as a woman) and did not feel unsafe.

When we destroy wildlife, we are destroying part of ourselves.

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