Big businesses do not change their plans because a few lives are affected.
If you have the money, especially at a time when there is such a shortage, anything is possible.
That is the message for the property owners around Angel Meadows, the David to the Goliath that is the Co-operative Group.
It is investing £800m in its NOMA project, part of which will be used to redevelop the site surrounding Victoria Station into a new 4 million sq ft mixed-use area, with a variety of hotels, apartments and shops.
The Council has approved plans for the Co-operative, a company that has been in Manchester for almost 150 years, to build itself a new headquarters, along with the means to better integrate it into the city’s infrastructure.
City centre property owners are outraged at the change in the layout of one of Manchester’s busiest roads, the inner city ring road, and say that the brevity of the consultation period meant they were not given adequate opportunity to voice their grievances.
The re-routing that the project requires will mainly affect unused open areas. However, also there will also be an impact on many residential areas, which will soon find themselves next to busy
The inner city ring road is to be shifted from its current position in Ancoats north through the peaceful residential area in order to minimise the barrier created by the road and to push back the city boundaries.
The road is invaluable as an access route to the city centre and is essential for growth. The planning application explains the Co-operative’s intention to maintain its “core function and capacity.”
Homeowners and landlords are aware of the effects the redeveloped road will have on their health and property values –– which are now all but out of their control.
Angel Street resident David Sawyer said: “My apartment will go from being a penthouse to a sealed box, where I can't open the windows because of noise and pollution.”
Many residents are considering legal action to claim compensation from the Council.
Some have said that their human rights will be breached and are looking into their case for a judicial review of the planning application so their voices can be heard.
The project will create 4,000 jobs for the construction of Co-operative’s new headquarters, 69% of which have gone to workers from Greater Manchester.
A further 6,000 jobs are predicted to be created by later stages of the project.
Despite the numerous benefits to the city at large that this will bring, residents are concerned about the disruption they will be caused, and were as vocal as the brief consultation period permitted.
More than 120 people objected to proposed changes to Manchester’s inner ring road. Yet others found that the consultation period had finished by the time they were aware of the developments and found that their concerns went unheard.
Occupants who wanted to protest at the proposals were told moments before the meeting that only one person from the opposition was allowed to speak, and for just four minutes.
Those who managed to file complaints say they were ignored. The Co-operative made little attempt to compromise; its plans went largely unchanged.
The arguments put forward by protesters, “appear to have been wilfully ignored in the granting of this road,” said Richard Long, Director of the Friends of Angel Meadow group.
Ruth Guest, of the group Stop The Ring Road by Angel Meadow (STRR), said: “The meeting was a paper exercise. The decision had already been made prior to the meeting.”
The Co-operative has been quick to deny suggestions that residents had no opportunity to object. They distributed public consultation leaflets to 2,500 properties and provided a dedicated website.
A Co-operative spokesperson said: “As we continue to shape and build NOMA, we will use the same values and principles that we have used in building our head office, which will result in continued prosperity for local businesses and continued employment for residents.”
“The health and welfare of residents and decrease in property prices has not been taken into consideration,” said Ms Guest.
“I personally have lost respect for the Co-operative’s ‘values and principles.’ There were alternatives the Co-operative could have pursued but it would have cost them more money.”
Residents have mobilised into groups and are active on social networking sites. STRR has brought together like-minded individuals to hold the council to account.
Mr Sawyer claimed he would need £50,000 in compensation. With an estimated 900 properties affected by the development, this could be very costly for the Co-operative group indeed.
He said: “The Co-operative's development brings a lot to the area, but at a high cost to those who already live here.”
Homeowners and landlords argue that the placement of a busy highway next to their homes will breach their human right to privacy.
STRR are looking into the possibility of a judicial review into the process which led to the proposals being given the go ahead. It will determine whether the council had a conflict of interest in being both the applicant and the body which accepted the application.
Should residents be able to afford to pursue a judicial review – which is expected to cost as much as £40,000 – the council’s plans will not be overruled entirely. They will just have to start again and conduct the procedure under greater scrutiny, ensuring that everything is done by the book and that consultations are taken on decisions.
The Co-operative is investing a lot of money in straitened times. If the judicial review is pursued, the bill will be greater still. But what is the cost of freedom for the people of Angel Meadows?
In the allegory, David was victorious and toppled Goliath with his slingshot. Whether the Angel Meadows residents have a big enough rock for their giant is another question entirely.
Here is a fly-through video of what the development could look like: