Manchester City Council appears to have scaled back controversial tree felling plans for Alexandra Park in Whalley Range against which local residents have been campaigning since December last year, but the changes were actually made as far back as August 2011.
Although numerous trees have already been felled, it has been reported that only four new tennis courts will be built instead of the original six and a further 33 trees due to be chopped down will be allowed to remain.
In an email dated 18th August 2011 Darren Ashton, Tennis Development Officer for Manchester, informed local resident Ian Brewer that:
“Planning permission was submitted for a 6 tennis court facility, however we are planning to construct a 4 court facility with a view of increasing to 6 if there is the demand.”
This is a clear indication that the council may never have planned to build the full six tennis courts at all and yet are releasing this information to give the impression that they are responding to the on-going protest by local residents.
While those supporting the campaign to minimise the number of trees felled and amount of habitat lost in the redevelopment are pleased with the result they are still very concerned with the way the Council have released this information.
A spokeswoman for the Save Alexandra Park Trees Campaign said:
“Our major concern which will no doubt be shared by all those who rely on the Council for services and transparent, meaningful consultation in the development of their communities, is that the Council seem to be presenting a case to the press which is at odds with the simple truth: this is not a recent decision.
“This decision was made nearly two years ago and is being used now to try and silence an increasingly vocal and widely supported campaign to ensure that the regeneration of Alexandra Park goes ahead with the minimum loss of biodiversity and the maximum of meaningful community engagement and dialogue.
“If they are using this as a way to placate us, then where else are they fudging the truth?”
The Save Alexandra Park Trees Campaign began in December 2012 following the public unveiling of plans to regenerate the park. The protest has been gaining steady momentum since then, with over 4000 signatures on a petition. Although many trees have already been lost the campaign goes on, with the council set to begin felling this week within metres of herons nesting on the island.