Friday, 14 March 2014

Manchester Airport encroaches on green space

Almost three weeks ago my article  Manchester Airport - the concrete shadow spreads was published on The Ecologist website. Construction projects connected to Manchester Airport: an Enterprise Zone, a 9,000 space car park and a link road to the airport encroach on green space, including land that was formerly designated as ‘green belt’, a buffer area to prevent urban sprawl over remaining countryside. Here are the main issues raised in the article, and more photos.

Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone consists of multiple sites, and the aim is to provide warehouse and office space for firms that are dependent on air services, boosting air traffic. Businesses will be given substantial tax breaks, in particular a business rate discount of £275,000 for each eligible business over a five year period. No doubt firms will move to the Enterprise Zone for the tax breaks, and jobs will be relocated rather than created. If the Enterprise Zone falters, failing to attract sufficient tenants, there may well be pressure to extend government preferential treatment for it. 

construction work for Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone
Earthworks for World Logistics Hub, part of Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone, photo by Jonathan Gatward

Drainage system for World Logistics Hub, part of Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone. Photo Jonathan Gatward
I visited the site of the World Logistics Hub development, the southernmost site of the Enterprise Zone. Earthworks were underway, with recent flooding indicating just how challenging drainage will be. Hedgerows and trees, including oak trees, were being felled. This is not the first incidence of felling oak trees. In March 2013, centuries old trees were destroyed to make way for the World Logistics Hub. The trees were removed even though it was the nesting season, so birds’ eggs might have been destroyed as well. 

site of new 9,000 space car park being built at Manchester Airport
The site of the new 9,000 space car park at Manchester Airport
A new 9,000 space car park, to serve Manchester Airport, is being built on Moss Nook, green space at the end of a runway that was previously a ‘public safety zone’, with development restricted to minimise the number of people in the area as most air accidents occur at landing or take off. Again, you can see the aftermath of recent heavy rains with flooding in the area. Planes fly low over fields and houses. If a plane should crash here, or in the event of a runway excursion, the explosion risk from the aircraft would be compounded by collision with thousands of cars’ petrol tanks. 

A new road, a 10 kilometre stretch of dual carriageway between Manchester Airport and the A6 at Hazel Grove, is planned. The road would increase traffic pollution and cut through green space, including green belt land, in three local authority areas: Manchester, Stockport and Cheshire East. Already, Stockport Council has granted planning permission in spite of vigorous opposition from residents including letters of objection and a petition with more than 2,200 signatures. The road is presented as a 'relief road', a scheme to ease traffic congestion, but the real purpose is to enable growth at Manchester Airport. The campaign group PAULA (Poynton Against Unnecessary Link-Roads To The Airport) has highlighted the environmental damage that would result, including to a 1,000 year old bluebell wood.

The car park and ‘relief’ road show that the airport’s expansion plan prioritises motor vehicles, but a cycle path running adjacent to the link road will provide thin veneer of green garnish. Cycling alongside a dual carriageway, breathing in high concentrations of traffic fumes is not appealing. Airport passengers, carrying heavy suitcases, will not make much use of it. All but the lightest types of air freight will be transport by truck, not by bicycle.

The entire airport centric development, the Enterprise Zone, car park and new road, supporting increasing traffic at Manchester Airport and aviation dependent firms, and increasing road traffic, is incompatible with Manchester City Council’s commitment to building a low carbon economy. Developments of this kind work against efforts to meet the target of reducing emissions by 48 per cent by 2020.


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