Tuesday, 29 December 2009

What's the Core Strategy? - Comments

Firstly, a Very Happy New Year to one and all!

Now back to 2027...

Following on from my last post on the City Council's Core Strategy document for now until 2027, and having had a chance to read and comment on the document, here are some observations and thoughts.

Unsurprisingly, a key theme is 'growth' - not just the economy but the population as well. To some extent the City is at the mercy of higher bodies, the Region (which has its own 'Spatial Strategy', The 'Northern Way' group of northern cities and the Government itself. Even allowing for these constraints, the plan shows insufficient recognition of the imminent challenges of climate change and peak oil.

For instance, when listing employment opportunities in the city, the six main sources are stated as being aviation/airport, new media, financial services, IT, life sciences and manufactoring. Environmental technology only makes it into the second division here, despite the clear opportunities for retrofitting housing stock and other buildings.

The Airport is very prominent in the document generally; here the figures in particular seem to reflect pre-crash, pre-climate change optimism. Three options are offered posing three degrees of impact on the green belt; the least damaging is the first of these, which retains the existing Green Belt, and requires any expansion to be managed around that.

A population growth of around 100,000 (to 557,800) is planned over the next 20 years, with the increase in housing targeted mainly for the city centre (28%) and east Manchester (32%). 63,000 new residential units are planned in all. Affordable housing is encouraged, although they have given themselves a couple of get-outs i.e. "not if it would undermine 'proposals critical to economic growth' or if 'financial impact would affect scheme viability".

Despite the population increase, the number of District Centres is almost the same, the only new centre being Baguley, in Wythenshawe. It surprises me that there is no increase in the number of District Centres in the north and east and it makes me wonder what quality of services the increased population in those areas will get.

Incidentally the main reason for the population increase is givan as Manchester's regional capital status, i.e. forces outside the Council's control. There is no doubt however that our City fathers (and they are mostly men) welcome the challenges which this increase will bring. It is true that there are some environmental benefits in relatively high city centre dwelling, if that is also where people are working, but the city will have its work cut out providing sufficient local services, and balancing the increase with preservation of what green infrastructure remains.

A word that seems to crop up even more than growth is 'sustainable', which is used, misused and abused on a regular basis. Climate Change is mentioned extensively but it is clear that its challenges have not really been taken on board. The intention is that growth will be zero-carbon, 'decoupling growth from emissions', but as with the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP)there is insufficient detail on how they are going to achieve this, although it does include more detail than the climate change action plan with respect to improved energy rating of new build.

The targets on carbon reduction predate the CCAP and are slightly less bold (36% by 2020 vs 42%, and no mention of embedded carbon).

Once you find it (Manchester City Council just love to consult), the ability to respond online is good, with a chance to see previous comments, not just on this document, but on previous stages in the process. It's a pity that there are not more comments (and there's only 3 days to go now), particularly from ordinary citizens; good to see some fellow Greens in there though. Hopefully we'll have some effect.

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