Star date: 3rd December 2012


Salford Council, currently struggling with a £4million budget deficit, is giving £300,000 to the Biospheric Foundation's Manchester International Festival project, which it describes as `Growing Peas In Former Print Works'.

Lots of questions surround the funding, like that the Council's `sponsorship' has been announced before a formal decision has been made. There's also a suspicion that some of the £300,000 budget has come from money ringfenced to restore the Salford Quays Cargo Cranes which are about to be demolished.

Full story here…

Tomorrow (Tuesday), the City Mayor is due to make a formal decision on handing £300,000 to the Biospheric Foundation's urban farm project in Blackfriars, part of total costs of £400,000 for the Manchester International Festival `event'.

Before the decision has been formally made by the City Mayor, however, the Council has issued a press release titled `Growing Peas In Former Print Works', announcing that it "is providing £300,000 in sponsorship for the project".
The contract was never put out to public tender so the many food growing groups in Salford couldn't apply for the money, and nowhere publicly are the costs broken down for what the funding is actually being spent on. A Council report merely states that "the Mayor is asked to agree that the detail of the contractual arrangements be delegated to the Chief Executive".

Hard up Salford Council is currently struggling with a budget deficit of £4million and expects to make more cuts after the ConDem Government announces its autumn spending review this week.

The Council meeting that is to decide the foregone conclusion funding is the `Regeneration Briefing' of the City Mayor, Ian Stewart. This is the same `Briefing' which last week agreed to demolish the blue Salford Quays Cargo Cranes (see here). The suspicion is that at least part of the money saved by trashing the cranes is being spent on `Growing Peas In Former Print Works'.

The Council report giving details of the urban farm merely states that the £300,000 funding "exists within 2012/13 Capital & Revenue Budgets in the Chief Executives Regeneration Portfolio and from Public Health non-recurrent funding 2012/13".

Last week, as well as questioning the ethics of announcing the £300,000 `sponsorship' before a decision has been formally made, the Salford Star also put the following questions to Salford Council…

1. Was this contract ever put out to tender?
2. Can we see a breakdown of the costs involved?
3. Can we see the contractual details please?
4. Has the £300,000 Council funding, or any part of it, been taken from the money earmarked for the Salford Quays Cranes restoration?

Salford Council has, of course, so far refused to answer. Instead, the Manchester International Festival's Jennifer Cleary, Director of Creative Learning, did speak to the Star…

First she explained what the Biospheric Foundation's project is actually about…

"It's about transforming a disused space into a sort of prototype urban farm project, a really unique project which has got a range of outputs from food products, to research, to enterprise, to community training and skills" she said "It's about turning that space which is unused at the moment into something productive which explores new ways of looking at food production within the local community."

She added that there are three elements to the project. The first is the development of the site at Irwell House, which is currently owned, we believe, by Urban Splash. This will include an `edible forest and garden' outside, plus an indoor and rooftop food production facility.

There's also a `public programme of activities' during the actual Manchester International Festival in June and July next year, and a `community engagement programme', which began last weekend (and continues next weekend), with volunteers being asked to dig the ground and plant trees… "It's something that is really rooted in the community" Jennifer Cleary insists.

The total cost of £400,000 seems a hell of a lot – what is it being spent on? 

"There's lots of new experiments around food production that bring various parts of the community together, so there's lots of different parties involved with a view to developing enterprise and employment opportunities, and training and skills" she replies "It's a long term project."

Yes, but what is the money being spent on – is it mainly salaries?

"As you can imagine, developing that sort of project has a whole range of different things, so there's the development of the forest garden, the installation of particular food systems, delivery of the training and delivery of the programme activities, there's all sorts of things involved" she says "It's a big project…"

Yes but the people we've spoken to who are involved in allotments and things can't believe how much it's costing, because if you're planting potatoes or peas or whatever, that doesn't actually cost anything but a seed…

"It's not just about planting peas!"

That's what the Council's put out in its press release…

"It's not an allotment site, it's a building with a whole range of different things, and it's about making the building accessible" she says "Of course there are project management fees associated with the project but there are a whole range of different materials and types of activities – the training, the public programme, the forest garden, the fencing. It's something that's going to be there for a very long time." 

We understand that the building is owned by Urban Splash – are they giving it rent free or is some of this money paying for the rent?

"We're not involved in the rent, the Biospheric Foundation has the building on rent and that's a relationship between Biospheric and Urban Splash."

So, none of this money is going to Urban Splash?

"We'll support some of the project overheads in supporting Vincent [Walsh, Director of Biospheric] and his team but we're supporting them in terms of their project management and what they are trying to do over the next three or four years" she replies "Vincent's a really interesting character and his research is being spoken about as one of the 100 big ideas to affect the future.

"He's been trying to galvanise a range of partners to achieve this vision which is about building sustainable futures in Salford and giving the community access to really healthy fresh food and to learn how to produce their own food themselves" she adds "I think it's really exciting."

But you're not answering the question about Urban Splash…

"I think it's a really innovative project putting Salford alongside other cities with really innovative growing projects. It's a really positive thing."

We don't think anybody is actually knocking the project itself but can you understand that, with Salford Council giving it £300,000 when it's actually making cuts to public services, it seems very strange to people. Can you understand that?

"I think it's a question for Salford Council" Jennifer responds "We presented them with a proposal and I think they're quite convinced on the impact the work will have. For me the investment in the project is investment in a long term local engagement project, with the grass roots community helping people to positively change their attitudes to food. I think there's a wealth of different impacts for individuals and groups and projects. That's how I see it."

So, still no questions answered about how the £300,000 funding was allocated, what the funding is actually being spent on, whether part of it is merely paying the rent to Urban Splash, and, indeed, whether any part of it has been taken from the money earmarked for the Salford Quays Cranes restoration.

In the absence of any direct Salford Council answers, however, we can quote Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart from the `Growing Peas In Former Print Works' press release issued by Salford Council before the £300,000 funding decision has been formally made…

"Encouraging people to grow and eat their own produce" he says "while showcasing Salford as supporting innovative, cutting edge research as part of this major international festival is money well spent."

* For the full Salford Council report to tomorrow's Regeneration Briefing which will, er, decide on the £300,000 `sponsorship' click here

at 18:39:29 on 16 December 2012
salford pimpernel wrote
at 10:59:44 on 16 December 2012
let's grow vegetables at the new Salford reds ground, at least we will get a return on our money. we can sell vegetables, instead of paying them
mary ferrer wrote
at 08:12:46 on 15 December 2012
The project that Peeing down the irwell writes about sounds fantastic, but we are in Salford where it is easy to hand over our cash to fat cats to make them fatter and me and you more bloody skint. ThinG is there is no one to challange decisions this council make.Half the thinks they do are behind closed doors.
Peeing Down the Irwell wrote
at 14:56:45 on 14 December 2012
First of all, let me mention the Incrediable Edible project in Todmorden. A group of volunteers go around town planting vegetables in public spaces, and then tending to them, and then they say that anybody who is hungry can pick anything they want and take it home for the pot.//They have been approached by every major supermarket, looking to back them because it would look good for them.//Incredible Edible have refused.//Incredible Edible take ZERO funding from anywhere.//They refuse it every time it is offered; and it is offered a lot as I understand it.//Now whole communities in the are are involved.//The local police and fire brigade help out too.//So, that's that.//What we have in Salford is yet another big money spinner for somebody in the guise of being altruistic and useful to the local community - erm...that would be the local community that has been slowly but surely moved out of the years to allow for trendy little apartments that the native population cannot afford or want (imagine trying to find £96 a WEEK for a one bedroom flat in a high rise in Blackfriars, for example).//This whole thing stems from the small, urban farms that have sprung up on vacant lots all over Detroit - largely because the city is mostly a ghost town with the only people left being those dirt poor Americans who cannot afford to flee.//So, there are very few shops or stores left for miles in any direction.//So people started to plant on crofts and vacant land and all of a sudden some billionaire comes along and sees it as a business opportunity - enter Hantz Farms, buying up vast urban spaces to make more money out of what is left to those with nothing at all.//This is the usual, Salford council way - zero innovation, zero imagination, only greedy, backward little men in cheap suits dreaming big dreams and cheating the people of the city./? Ian Stewart, John Merry, and every member of Salfords 'Labour' council - I challenge every one of you to write to the Salford Star and explain how you dare call yourself Labour men.
Just a thought.... wrote
at 16:45:29 on 11 December 2012
The council has an obligation to spend its monies received from council taxpayers to do the best for those who live and work here in an open and honest way, can someone please tell me why then - given our council seems to have a deficit coming its way - we're spending £300,000 pounds on something our Neighbour appears to be hosting? What exactly is this expected to achieve for the people of Salford and How is this meant to improve Salford's image? Seems our Neighbour's having a laugh at our expense (Again). And as for the use of Part II legislation to fund this - Disgraceful...it should have been earmarked from Arts and Leisure's take of Council Coffers - Then we would have seen what the hell we were paying for!
Do They Care? wrote
at 17:36:23 on 04 December 2012
Its not the project that deserves investigating.Although there are just as many deserving allotments,garden growing schemes and community gardens in Salford that could if they had known applied for such funding. Therein lies the historical problems of this City. Deals done behind closed doors, without accountability,transparency and more importantly the actual benefits to the communities this funding is meant to support. Where do projects like this originate and where does the involvement of the wider community priorities come into play? Does Ian Stewart know, not less than 800 Meters away is a new Garden project utilising waste ground that has its own funding attached?Can anyone say all the monies spent in the past on such projects have worked for communities such as Blackfriers? Is it what they want? The Ideology of the few have little impacts on people that are dictated by low incomes and special offers at Tesco and alike.Have you thought of that in your succession plans Mr Mayor. Decisions like this remind me of ""peas in a pod"
Winston Smith wrote
at 11:11:27 on 04 December 2012
This says it all: Our bloody Mayor would rather spend £400,000 on a fekkin urban pea factory than £2000 fighting an urban poison air factory. (I refer to the fact that the Breath Clean Air Group, who are putting up a valiant fight against Peel's Barton Incinerator, are £2k off their £12500 target for legal representation). Your priorities, Mr Mayor, are literally pea brained.
Captain Birdseye wrote
at 10:34:02 on 04 December 2012
The Biospheric Foundation has also had a public money grant of £2500 from the Irwell Riverside Community Panel - whatever the hell that is!
Nachtschleper wrote
at 10:31:49 on 04 December 2012
"A worthwhile asset" are you taking the peas?
Transparent wrote
at 10:31:44 on 04 December 2012
For once, this council have been "open and transparent". They have told us what the decision will be before the meeting. ?????????
Mr I Jones wrote
at 09:44:09 on 04 December 2012
Good point Insider, and if this is the case i suspect we can look forward to large ongoing running costs to the tax payer to pay the very large electric bills.
Clever Clive wrote
at 09:44:04 on 04 December 2012
To my knowledge "part 2" of council meetings is normally closed to the public for reasons of commercial sensitivity, however we are dealing with the "third sector" and indead with SCC's own quangos i think we have a right to know with all these type of descions 1) who made a desicion and how it was made. 2) with what data was a descicion based upon. 3) why do SCC not want the public to have this info. Is their not an ombudsman who can order that the info be made public?
Salford Star wrote
at 09:43:29 on 04 December 2012
See comments below... Mary, this partic decision is actually being made in part 1 which is open to the public. The info was originally `withheld' but the Council had a change of heart, for a change. See all the other comments...We've made it quite clear in the article that we are not knocking the project itself, but we are questioning the amount and process of the funding and the Council's attitude towards answering questions about it - ie `sod off!'
mary ferrer wrote
at 07:46:38 on 04 December 2012
So WE are splashing out £300.000 of the £400.000 for the MANCHESTER festival.WHY????? As the saying goes "we haven't a pot to pee in" yet we can find this money for a bloody festival. But this council do know how to use the buss words TRAINING, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT,SKILLS.All this is going to be rubber stamped by OUR Elected members in "PART TWO" behind closed doors. This project has been going on in this city for years its called "THE MUSHROOMS" Just in case some of you don't know about the MUSHROOMS, well. "TREAT THE RESIDENTS OF SALFORD LIKE MUSHROOMS, KEEP THEM IN THE DARK AND SHOVEL SHIT ON THEM, AGAIN AND AGAIN. The best bit is WE let them.
City of Tiny Lites wrote
at 07:45:37 on 04 December 2012
The press release from Salford Council is very mis leading, and unfortunately it seems Salford Star has bitten on the lazy smelly old red herring they offered. Looking at the Biospheric Foundation's website, there seems to be a lot more to what they are trying to achieve, than growing Pea's in a former Print Works. I assume that Salford Star didn't research this properly, or are just trying to provoke indignation amongst it's readers because of the cranes being scrapped ? It's understandable that there are concerns about giving £300k to a seemingly silly project while public services are being cut. But the glare of opinion should be more on Salford Council rather than a group of people who seem to be trying to do something that engages and provides a positive service to the local community. All in all, I think this pea's...sorry piece ... is a bit tabloidy. Gunning for the easy cheap headline, stirring up the hate mob, and appearing to miss the opportunity to take the moral high ground over the Council . Instead it could be promoting a worthwhile asset to the Salford Community.
Insider wrote
at 22:03:51 on 03 December 2012
As there is no light in this warehouse I suspect that the bulk of the cash is for hydrophonic lighting and irrigation like cannabis farmers have. That is why they ie th council and these hippy types are avoiding answering your question. It is surely no coincidence that Councillor Antrobus (another one who the Mayor can;t or wont control) held the £300,000 budget for the cranes - or am I just being cynical!!
Next cabinet? wrote
at 19:52:56 on 03 December 2012
Maybe they are trying to genetically engineer the next Labour cabinet? Oh sorry---peas not cabbages.
joseph O'Neill wrote
at 19:10:56 on 03 December 2012
Speaking for Salford Green party i am a little unsure of the date! are we in April and i have lost some time?Projects to utilise space to grow peas? i think i would be looking the Allotments around salford and any one wanting to take on waste land,then we could support it but in the midst of some of the most shocking public service cuts this story beggers belief.I really think Mr Stewart and is band of ragged followers have lost the plot,we spoke with one ex senior council officer today who was more than damning of his tenure and i sit in fear of what's to come.
Paul B wrote
at 19:10:49 on 03 December 2012
Crass head-liner from the Council's press team does not do justice to any of the Biospheric Foundation innovative projects,(WholeBox being the most publicised) and should not detract from the incredible amount of engagement and support from the local community. Misleading Press Release!
at 16:32:53 on 03 December 2012
On their website its states that the project is supported by MIRIAD, a MMU research facility and Manchester Uni,Salford, Salford Council, Urban Vision-aka SCC arms length quango, Urban Slash, sorry-Splash and they have SARF (of the Guardian riots stories)settled in as a tenant. Thats quite enough public money to be going on with. Why dont they go to the private sector companies or dragons den!
Jacqui pollock wrote
at 16:32:22 on 03 December 2012
I love the idea, don't have the info to comment on the finances but the idea works for me. Or am I easily peasd?
Winston Smith wrote
at 15:41:43 on 03 December 2012
Er, this stuff they're growing...does everybody get some or is the Mayor going to smoke it all himself? No wonder he's paranoid about answering all those questions. Pass it around yer tight git, it'll numb our suffering
at 15:41:39 on 03 December 2012
Smokey Joe wrote
at 15:41:19 on 03 December 2012
"Growing Peas In Former Print Works" = waste of money. Growing weed in former print works, now that could bring some investment into Salford. The council already deal with crooks so they will be right at home, i belive we have the knowledge in this city to do this, and think of all that cash circulating in Salfords economy they have to launder it somewhere. Maybe the council could have a smoke of the produce before a meeting, they can't make worse decisions than they do already.
Alan Sugar wrote
at 13:51:10 on 03 December 2012
I would like to offer Mr Mayor the chance to purchase some of my magic Salford peas. These are not normal peas these are magic and they are magenta in colour (note to star: colour big selling point, need bold type). These peas normally retail at £10 a seed but as it's such a good cause and in the intrests of Salfords future i can let him have a job lot of 10000 peas for a fraction of the retail at £80k. Also my mate has an old wheelbarrow he don't need no more, it's not like he is looking to cash in like, but he did say you can have it for £500 delivered. Please can you let me know via the star when the competative tendering process will start for supplies on this project.
not happy wrote
at 13:51:06 on 03 December 2012
Here we go again Salford Council giving £300,000 for something we don't want and need.What we want is to leave or heritage a lone,and what we need is the council to spend the money on where it's needed in stead of making cuts to public services,and why is this DECISION PART 2 (CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC):all council meetings should be open and let the public know whats going on so come on Mr Mayor make the right decision no pea's please.
tom nolan wrote
at 13:50:57 on 03 December 2012
wats up with iceland frozen peas the a, hole..
Dead City Inmate wrote
at 13:50:10 on 03 December 2012
The peas should replace the pea-brained Mayor Greedy Bullshitter , all Assistant Mayor Greedy Bullshitters , and Fat Controllers Spicey and Biffo .
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