Just what have Manchester City Council got against green spaces?
First there was Piccadilly Gardens. The only large park in the city itself. Decades of neglect turned it into a haven for drug dealers. Finally Manchester City Council decided to do something to stop the decay. What they did, was to sell half of the park to developers, who wasted no time building an office block on it. The remaining area was ‘re-developed’, which involved ninety percent hard landscaping. They paved it over, planted a handful of small trees through the paving, and laid a couple of tiny, forlorn patches of grass.
They had started with a basic structure of very beautiful, mature trees – some of the very few mature trees in the city. Not one remained. The council threw away decades, perhaps a century of growth and replaced it with the worst of examples of ‘landscape architecture’.
There was an area of land bordered by Whitworth, Princess and Canal Streets. I used to pass it every day on my way to work. It was just rough land, used as a car park. But it was bordered with rows of very beautiful trees. Again, the land was ‘developed’. The trees were destroyed, the whole area excavated to a great depth to provide a basement for an enormous building, to be mostly apartments, I believe. Work stopped – presumably they decided economic conditions weren’t right after all – and now we’re left with a huge building site, fenced off with hoardings decorated with images of the kind of people the developers imagined would live in the apartments (all young, all handsome, all wealthy and wrapped up in their own self-importance).
And now it’s the Peace Gardens, in front of the library. The Peace Gardens were lovely – very small, but an oasis, a refuge, an unexpected natural area, where a path wound its way through grass, mature trees, hedges, flowers. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went back to visit Manchester last month. It’s all gone now, apparently as part of another ‘regeneration’ scheme by the City Council.
There have been other atrocities, and still it continues. Apparently Alexandra Park is the latest casualty, with avenues of mature trees being ripped out, funded by lottery fund money.
How can these vandals in suits live with themselves? Is it corruption – are they being bought off by developers; brown envelopes changing hands, Council members sacrificing our green spaces to make themselves rich? Or is it lack of judgement – are they as soulless as the results of all this redevelopment? Cities need nature. They need trees and grass and plants to absorb pollution and exude fresh air for us all to breath. Some people say they prefer concrete and tarmac, but studies have shown that these things have a detrimental psychological effect on us all, whether we’re aware of it or not. Manchester City Council, hang your heads in shame.