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SALFORD COUNCIL BLACKLEACH COUNTRY PARK SELL OFF HORROR
 

Star date: 23rd July 2014

SALFORD COUNCIL UNDERHAND SALE OF OPEN SPACE LAND CLAIM WALKDEN RESIDENTS

Walkden residents are up in arms against Salford Council's proposed sell off of land at Hill Top Moss, part of Blackleach Country Park, after they were given just two weeks to object to a statutory notice of intent – when Council agents had been in discussions for two years with developer Redwaters.

Redwaters wants to put up dozens of houses on the green open space land that's classified as a wildlife corridor, and now the residents of Hill Top are accusing Salford Council and Deputy Mayor David Lancaster of underhand practices, while hundreds of people have signed petitions against the sell off.

Full details here…


Blackleach Country Park Salford Council Letter
click image to enlarge

Hill Top Moss is situated just a little further up the road on the right from the giant Walkden Tesco but is a world away from consumer farming and corporate greed.

The Moss is covered with shrubs and grasses, complete with butterflies, toads, foxes and more. It's a wildlife corridor and is formally attached to Blackleach Country Park which has its entrance just a few paces away. The Moss is a local beauty spot and provides spectacular sweeping views across Salford and into Manchester and beyond. …

…Which makes it ideal for developers to destroy and stick dozens of houses up in its place.

Residents only discovered Salford Council's plan to sell off the land when a small `statutory notice of intent' appeared in the local free sheet. Then they discovered that, last October, Deputy Mayor David Lancaster had formally agreed in secret (Part 2 of the meeting) to `dispose' of the open space land `subject to prior fair and due consideration being given to any objections received'

After the small advert appeared, residents were given just two weeks to object…but then further discovered that Salford Council, via Urban Vision, had been in negotiations with Redwaters developers for the previous two years about the sale of the land, with the sweetener of `improvements' to Walkden Cricket Club attached.

"We found out about all this more or less by accident" says Shirley Jones who lives on Hill Top Road backing onto the Moss "We didn't know what it was; we tried phoning councillors and the property services, and were just getting vague answers or no answers at all. Then we found out later that they'd been negotiating for two years with this company and had got to the stage where they guaranteed them six month exclusivity on the site should the proposal go ahead. Now we think it's pretty bad that residents of Salford are only given two weeks and yet they give the company the courtesy of two years and another six months to get their plans together."

When all this came out, another resident, Derek Barlow, couldn't believe what he was hearing… "Apparently it's been going on underhanded for two years but we've only just found out. But this is a proper meadow-type environment with lots of different grasses and shrubs. Even Salford Council described it as a wildlife corridor for Blackleach Country Park and there's recreation and football pitches on it that are used all the time."

Indeed, the newly formed Residents and Friends of Hill Top Moss have sent an open letter to David Lancaster stating all the Council's policies documenting the area as lying within the boundary of Blackleach Country Park (Map 15 of the Salford Greenspace Strategy, if anyone wants to check).

As the letter points out, Blackleach, incorporating Hill Top Moss, forms part of a wildlife corridor and is also protected as a recreational space… "We are quite frankly shocked at the Council's blatant disregard of its own policies, which we believe have been put in place to protect the land for not only the enjoyment of local residents but also of the vast amounts of flora, and fauna that reside and travel through it", the letter adds.

Shirley Jones wrote to the Council ten years ago enquiring about the possibility of buying some of the land. She's passed to Salford Star the reply from Salford Council which states categorically that the sale was refused "on the grounds that the land was acquired by the City Council for the purpose of public recreation and open space" (see photo)

Shirley was also on the committee that created Blackleach Country Park in 1991…  "I know that this was, and still is, attached to the Country Park scheme" she explains "They said that as soon as they'd done with the reservoir and the visitor centre they would start on the Moss and it was down as recreational use for some kind of equestrian centre."

"The Council says it will discuss everything when it gets to planning stage but we don't want it to get to the planning stage, we think it should be considered at this point not further down the line when it might be too late" Shirley adds "To us this isn't available to be sold off. It's like the green at the front of the Country Park - they tried to do the same with that and we stopped them. It's public open space land."

Meanwhile, residents and those who use the area have already begun the campaign to save the Moss with a 400 signature petition signed within the two weeks that they had to object to the statutory notice.

"Obviously we're all objecting" says resident Jennifer Waring "There's enough brown field land without them ruining the countryside. This area, including the football and cricket field, actually belongs to Blackleach Country Park and it should be a sport and leisure area so how can they build on it? I don't think a lot of the Council at all because they always override people every time anyone has any objections"

Pam Mathieson agrees… "There's notices in Hope Hospital and in Heart Foundation places for people to come to Blackleach to see all the wildlife and so forth but it's all going to go" she says "The wildlife comes across here constantly and once that's gone there'll be nothing."

"This is a wildlife corridor and it's just mindless to wreck it" says Derek Barlow

The Residents and Friends of Hill Top Moss group is now fighting on two fronts – the sale of protected land and what they call the `underhand' process of that sale.

Urban Vision is adamant that everything is above board. In a letter to Shirley Jones, the company's Associate Director states: "There are two stages of approval, firstly on the terms for disposal, secondly determination of the planning application. Terms for the disposal have been provisionally agreed and approved by the Deputy City Mayor but this approval is subject to the advertisement of the possible disposal of open space and the terms are subject to planning consent being obtained.

"We have agreed to enter into an Exclusivity Agreement for a period of six months to allow the developer to work proposals up" he adds "This has not yet been signed and will only be signed once full consideration has been given to the comments received on the advertisement of the possible disposal of the open space."

Shirley, however, is not so sure… "They keep saying that they have met their legal obligations but have they? I suspect not!" she says "Is it enough to simply say that they've met their legal obligations and so are not prepared to go any further for Salford residents, when clearly this out of town developer has been granted every courtesy going...meetings, correspondence, everything, and have had two years to consider their options? What did residents get? Two weeks and information slow in being made available and at times not at all, leaving us to find it out for ourselves."

This fight for open space land and against Salford Council's seemingly cosy relationship with developers is set to run and run...

 

 

Matt wrote
at 06:46:03 on 24 July 2015
firstly the blackleach will still be there for all to use as the land in question is where kids are riding up & down on motorbikes and occasionally where the travellers set up camp. Lived in Walkden all my life and this is a great opportunity that will benefit future generations. If 60 dwellings is the price what a small cost shame on the people who appose this come on council leaders see that it is good for our community a pass it through!!
 
Pat Ruaune wrote
at 19:46:50 on 28 September 2014
We started a Campaign on 38degrees as well as the paper petition. Stockport is having the same problem. They want to take our Country Park for housing too. The Planning policy does not allow it except "in very special circumstances." We have 13,500 signaturea altogether and we have just got news that the planning application has been submitted. Look on www.reddishvalecountrypark.com For more details
 
mike wrote
at 16:46:09 on 09 September 2014
If people clean up after there dogs and stop yobs messing on there it would be worth saving..but it no longer nice on there .just build on it i say.....
 
pete johnson wrote
at 15:46:07 on 31 August 2014
we all should do a protest outside the Civic Centre in Swinton to get Salford council's attention.
 
shirley jones wrote
at 15:50:48 on 26 July 2014
Steve North please contact me via Steve Kingston would like to speak with you. The letter to me above states that the land was specifically ACQUIRED for the purposes of recreation and open space. Trouble is because Salford Council messed up over the Burgess Farm development off Hilton Lane , Walkden it now leaves all of the public open space land vulnerable I was told. Sounds about right doesn't it. They mess up and we lose out. Once gone these things are gone forever. We have to fight quickly, David Lancaster is going to make a decision any day. Mind you according to official records it's been pre agreed anyway and they've already gone against their own policies and his own official authorisation which was made in October 2013. Even before it was advertised they'd already granted a 6month exclusivity deal with a developer. Didn't even bother to try and get the best price for it. Why? It's a valuable piece of land, if Salford Council are so strapped for cash then why limit themselves like that? Stinks to high heaven! But what's new there!
 
Terry wrote
at 09:14:13 on 26 July 2014
Thomas Potter left the Buile Hill Estate to the Nation . It is not permissible for the secretive , duplicitous , self-serving , Clowncil Parasites to sell . It is not theirs to sell. The People own it , not the Parasites.
 
Insider wrote
at 07:03:04 on 25 July 2014
I've herd that salford council are in talks with a certain hotel group to sell the whole of buile hill park, not just part of it, to them, there going to invest in the park, but hotel guests will have priority over public users, ie golf course and there's talk of banning dog walkers from the park, when you look at how the council is running that park down, just look at the golf course at the moment, you can only worry of how long it's going to remain in public ownership, and for that matter, other parks
 
maria fernihough wrote
at 22:38:53 on 24 July 2014
this is a total disgrace,no regard for peoples feelings or quality of living conditions,the wildlife will go lets hope there are some protected species that cant be disturbed there are many bats around that area the cant be disturbed can the ? what help can I give how can I get involved
 
Steven North wrote
at 22:13:41 on 23 July 2014
I grew up across the road from Blackleach and I loved playing on there when I was a kid. In fact I think my first ever demo was against houses being built on it. It's such an important part of Walkden. If there are any plans for public meetings or activities I'd love to be involved.
 
Not suprised, just pi55ed off wrote
at 22:13:07 on 23 July 2014
Yet more under-handed asset stripping by the city council in progress then. The mayor of this city and his Labour followers will not rest until they have stripped this city of all it's public assets in order to line the nest of Peel holdings. And yet the ignorant idiots of this city keep on voting for them, for gods sake get me out of here PLEASE.
 
monty wrote
at 18:11:11 on 23 July 2014
Did anybody seriously expect any other outcome? The devious and secretive self-serving parasites will answer for this .
 
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