Local people, campaign groups from across Salford and all the main political parties came together yesterday to protest against plans in Salford Council's `Draft Core Strategy' to trash 40 hectares of Green Belt land in Barton.
The huge site, opposite Peel Holdings' planned Port Salford development on Liverpool Road near Irlam, is currently a mix of Grade 1 agricultural land owned by Peel Holdings, and a golf course currently in private hands. But local people fear it will all become a 24 hour fume infested mix of trains, boats, planes and lorries if a massive container depot springs up as a result of Salford Council's proposed `strategy'.
Protesters included Parliamentary candidates, Norman Owen (Lib Dem), Iain Lindley (Conservative) and Richard Carvath (Independent), the Save Burgess Farm group from Little Hulton which is fighting a similar battle against Green Belt destruction, and Eccles Labour MP Ian Stewart who denounced the proposals…
"This area in Barton is the green lung of Salford" said Stewart, who's lived locally since he was 12 "I understand the pressure on the Council as we develop the city to have more and more industrial land but that's got to be done in a balanced way. And I'm confident that my constituents, with this broad based local campaign, will be able to put good arguments of why this development should not take place, and I support that."
Much of the anger at the protest was directed against Peel Holdings and its expansionist plans for the area, including larger use of its Barton Aerodrome (now re-titled `City Airport Manchester'), its enormous Port Salford scheme and the plans for industrial warehousing on Green Belt land.
Even Salford Council's own Sustainability Assessment of the proposals stated that "it could potentially have localised air quality impacts given the number of movements in and out of the site. When coupled with the proposals…relating to 40 hectares of employment development in the Barton Green Belt and increased activity at City Airport Manchester, there is a potential for significant air pollution impact in this part of the city."
A report in today's Observer newspaper claims that traffic fumes increase the risk of pneumonia in children, citing a new study by Professor Joanthon Grigg, a consultant at Royal London Hospital and an academic paediatrician at the University of London. He studied the effect of airborne pollutants on human lung cells and, the Observer reported he "has made the link between exposure to particles from vehicle exhausts and a child's susceptibility to the chest infection, which can be fatal."
Ian Stewart would not be drawn when asked if Peel Holdings were acting irresponsibly…
"`Irresponsible' is not the word I would use, I just don't agree with the plans" he said, although he added "Peel are one of the most powerful companies in our region and our country – they will do what they no doubt sincerely think is in the best interests of both the company and the shareholders. That doesn't necessarily mean the same as what's in the best interests of local people and their environment.
"So I expect that companies like Peel will do what they want to do for the reasons that they choose" he continued "But they must understand also that local people have the right to say how they want their local area to develop and the council and the other authorities should listen to that."
Judging by the sheer ferocity of the yesterday's protest, Salford Council – and Peel Holdings – would do well to, not only listen to the concerns of local people, but also to heed the advice and put a stop to proposals to pollute Salford's `green lung'…