Conversations Autumn 2019

Chorlton Community Land Trust delivered 7 conversation workshops for members between September and November 2019. All took place in Chorlton Library on a range of days and times. 37 people attended across all the sessions and their contributions were much appreciated. These are the notes of those discussions.

Living in a shared community-dream or dread?

It was suggested that people need to have choices about how much they want to be part of a community and what the boundaries are (e.g. to behaviour/ what is and isn’t acceptable or permitted). This was thought to be particularly important regarding the use of shared space, public and family events in the community house may need negotiation and agreement.
There was discussion about community, people don’t always know who their neighbours are or have a relationship with them. The group liked the idea of having more of a community feel e.g. recognising when someone’s curtains were closed and there may be an issue. Also, that the good ideas about community could spread to the neighbouring streets.
The idea of designing in opportunities for people to bump into each other was discussed. For example, no letter boxes in cohousing and people having to pick up their mail from a common point. A community doesn’t just happen and needs time to evolve, it may help to start small and learn from the experience.
There was reaction against “retirement living” and people wanted more of an intergenerational feel. This could be achieved for over 50s cohousing, in terms of its design in relation to other homes. People didn’t want an older persons ghetto and preferred a more fluid mix of households. Also older people might want to have younger family or friends living with them for periods of time.
There was discussion as to how ‘buy to let’ or Air BnB could be prevented – perhaps through leasing – this is something that the CLT need to look into. “Fair BnB” was mentioned which could potentially be an income generator for the CLT.
The importance of good design in fostering social interaction was emphasised. It was suggested that the different housing types needed to relate to each other through good design. There was discussion about the natural areas helping with social interaction and the comment was made that even a very small well-designed area of trees can change the whole feel of an area (example MMU’s Birley Fields campus Hulme – small orchard)

Reducing traffic congestion – all our responsibilities

It was agreed that many roads were very congested in Chorlton- both main and side roads. Also acknowledged that there is an increasing problem with pavement congestion caused by pavement parking.
It was felt there are many reasons why people have to use cars but that we can do more to encourage people to be less dependant on cars and for families to own fewer cars and share their use. There also appears to be a good tradition of walking in Chorlton.
The commitment to less car use can be encouraged by design. For businesses and new housing to have large bike sheds and small car parks. There needs to be more incentives to not own or use a car, perhaps in, house rental/ ownership or reduced council tax payments. It would be great if Manchester could attract an alternative shared bike company.
Those present were excited by the new walk/ride plans for Chorlton and hoped that this will encourage people to consider other ways to travel and not just increase congestion on side roads. We wondered whether London style parking permits would reduce parking congestion and perhaps car ownership in Chorlton.

The challenges of carbon reduction in design and build

It was acknowledged that Manchester declared a climate emergency but that the rapid development and building in the city centre appears to take place with little commitment to carbon reduction. It was suggested that standards for building in this way are complex and methods aren’t well enough known by builders.
Those present hoped that any development on Ryebank Fields was designed and built with carbon reduction as a priority, and that it may be a beacon for high standards in Eco housing.

What do we mean by affordable housing?

It was suggested that this was housing that was achievable through rent or purchase for those on a limited income. It was acknowledged that social housing is under great pressure. There is increasing demand and a reduction in properties available due to the Right to Buy policy and drastic reduction in new homes built.
We discussed why it is that people in this country wish to purchase property and this is less common in other countries. This tradition has become harder to achieve over the last 20 years. House prices have soared and this made the deposit and mortgage payments unaffordable for many first time buyers. There are good reasons to rent – more flexible, no house maintenance, no deposit. There are also changing patterns – those in their 20s are less likely to wish to purchase.
The Community Land Trust have high aspirations for the affordable housing that may be provided on the Ryebank Fields site. Protecting the affordability of housing on the site with convenants and contract arrangements to prevent residents reselling or reletting for profit was thought to be of great importance.

Housing design Imaginarium!

The range of elements that may influence housing design at Ryebank Fields were discussed, the first was the ownership and use of cars.
One idea may be to push cars to the edge of site and provide shared vehicle use, no parking near properties and landscaping to define separation. Design can encourage drivers to drive more slowly and be more cautious.
House design was discussed. People favoured elements of red brick and timber facing that are visually acceptable in the local neighbourhood, capturing some of the Victorian design elements but not reproducing them. Also texture in design and construction can create interest. The range of housing types gives us opportunities for creative and diverse designs. It was suggested that we look at a new development on Chapel St in Salford.
Low carbon construction and design. High insulation specification may cause problems with overheating. This may be helped by orientation and tree shade.
Community spaces must allow interaction between neighbours but also provide opportunities for privacy. Home zones further enable this interaction with play equipment and shared community space.
Some residents would prefer a private garden and this needs to be taken into account. Large windows will make the best of the park views. One idea may be for service road at the rear of the property and communal gardens/ leisure area to the front.
The co housing group are now interested in some terraced houses rather than all apartments – we talked about the Victoria housing at Ancoats. It was agreed that all housing should reflect the park setting with natural sculpture and structures that enhance the environment.

Can the natural and built environment have equal priority at Ryebank Fields?

The aspirations of both the Save Ryebank Fields Group and the Community Land Trust were discussed. Although, focusing on different realities it was agreed that our common ground was in both hoping to protect the Fields environment.
This included protecting the trees and the need for clarity about which trees were important. The detail in the MMU Development Framework which divided the trees into various grades was discussed and it was agreed that we needed further clarity on this assessment. Protecting as much of the green wealth of this site was a priority on so many levels not least that Manchester have now declared a climate emergency.
Some participants talked about English bluebells and ancient hawthorn hedgerows on the site. Bats have been seen over the Fields in the evenings.
There was a lot of discussion about what is thought to be a Nico Ditch running through the Fields. It is thought that archeological investigation will take place shortly. It was suggested this may have been compromised by the clay excavation and brick works over the last century. All were in agreement however, that whatever remains of this structure, it must be respected and enhanced if the development takes place. It would be good to make a wetland feature out of the area around the ditch so that it may be enhanced and properly appreciated.

Community representation – fact or fiction?

The group were asked whether any individual or organisation can honestly say they speak on behalf of or represent others. Apart from government representation through the local Member of Parliament it was felt that nobody can say they represent a community. Organisations need to keep constantly working at representation and trying to find different methods to increase community involvement. Through this you can reflect the thoughts of those contributing but this does not mean you can say you represent the views of all. It’s also important that those organising events keep a watch on the demography of involvement to ensure a cross section of the community is participating.
The range of methodology used to reach people is important and underpins the success of the participation opportunities.
Provision of leaflets and paper copy of materials remains important
Range of meeting types
Going to meet people at school gates, library, bars and leisure venues and local events.
Social media
Use radio and television
It is important to share the notes of these conversations.