Greening the LDF

I was emailed a blast from the past yesterday – my contribution to the transport section of the Local Development Framework consultation on its “Core Strategy” document from 2007. Every once in a while another part of the LDF process surfaces, bearing an obscure name, and inviting what the council class as a “consultation” from Manchester residents.

Graeme Sherriff of Manchester Friends of the Earth (FoE) assisted me with my section, and other people worked on a collective document that we called “Green the LDF”. This model of working helped us to pool our skills to produce a very credible response to the Council’s plans, which we regarded as neglecting climate change and the problems associated with rampant economic growth. It seemed sensible for community activists to try to engage with the planning process, to try to pre-empt problems relating to climate change, and maybe even to mitigate them further down the road.

The Core Strategy document was about setting the “vision” of the planning strategy for Manchester for the next twenty years. It is one of many documents that make up the Local Development Framework, and the consultation was supposed to explore the options for the future development of the city. The consultation itself only lasted eight weeks from when the document was made public (six weeks is the minimum they can legally get away with!) It was a steep learning curve for me as my knowledge of planning legislation and even transport planning wasn’t very developed at the time. I used the FoE “Community Resource Pack” to learn the basics, and I attended a training course put on by Planning Aid, who provided free, professional support and advice on planning issues to community groups who cannot afford to hire consultants.

The next phase of the consultation is now underway. But I am reluctant to spend too much energy on it. Despite learning a lot about planning and how the Council worked, our finished product was pretty much ignored. Our response document was received by the Council in Feb 08 but due to technical difficulties these were not even put on to the on-line consultation system by the time consultation on the Refining Options(phase 2) opened in April 09. This despite the fact that we sent our responses in electronically. After waiting the year I received a paragraph made up of council speak and empty rhetoric. It included contradictory statements such as “Manchester will be a successful sustainable City in the front rank of cities in Europe and the world” and “it will be a City with a growing economy driven by the strength of the Regional Centre and Manchester Airport which supports a successful City Region” .

This was a deflating experience – a feeling shared by most of the people I knew who’d responded to the consultation. At the end of the day the Council are legally obliged to consult people on the development plans. But the underlying political reality of such consultations leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.


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