Picture House plans on a ‘knife-edge’

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At the beginning of the year, we reported a number of positive developments on our plans for the Co-operative Funeralcare site, which we are referring to as The Picture House. In particular, our constructive discussion with the planning team at Manchester City Council who were broadly supportive of our scheme, recognising that it retains the original Gaumont Cinema building which is now classed as a “non-designated heritage asset”.

On this basis, we submitted our final bid to Co-operative Group, with our development partners Brook Finch, hopeful that it would be taken forward. However, the initial response from the Group is that the commercial terms we have proposed are not sufficient for them to accept. However, they have kept the door open for us to revise the offer.

We are working hard to improve the terms of the bid but we continue to believe that our proposal is suitably competitive given that it seeks to retain the heritage asset and bring it back into community use. Ultimately, we cannot compete with the values that may result from demolishing the building and developing the site for exclusively residential. On this basis, we are continuing to engage with the Co-operative Group to find a way through with our proposal.

To this end, we have put together a summary of our bid that went to the Co-operative Group, so members and pledgers can get a better feel of our plans and why we believe it should be supported. We are working hard over the next few weeks to reach agreement and expect a final decision will be reached by the end of April latest. We will update members and pledgers accordingly.

Our initial thoughts on latest cycle lane proposals

The Chorlton CLT Board met to discuss our position on the question of closing Longford Road as part of the Cycle Lane plans. The CLT has a direct interest in the Co-op Funeralcare building and has floated the idea previously of closing Nicolas Road in order to extend the outdoor space and to create a larger pedestrianised area linking into the precinct. Below is an illustration which gives a sense of our vision.

Image: Editional Studio

We believe the closure of Nicolas Road would create a bigger dividend for more people as it would create a genuinely valuable space that connects the school and library to the precinct in a car free zone and could be used for markets, outdoor gatherings and on street eating/drinking, and open up public realm improvement opportunities which could enhance the local environment and attract more footfall to the heart of Chorlton.

Our proposal would be to experiment with an initial closure of Nicolas Road using planters from the junction of Manchester Road to the car park entrance as shown. This would quickly create a new public space at the heart of Chorlton that we would like to encourage local businesses, groups and residents to use as the weather improves and we await widespread vaccine in the first part of 2021. Three immediate opportunities could then be explored:

  1. The monthly Makers Market would immediately have a more socially distanced space to operate within.
  2. Oswald Road School’s distanced queueing arrangement at school start up time could have more space to work with.
  3. New meanwhile uses that test the market for food stalls and occasional performances that are proposed for the future redevelopment of the Picture House.

If successful, we would aim longer term for a permanent solution in the context of the wider redevelopment of the precinct and access requirements of the medical centre.

We appreciate that part of the rationale for selecting Longford Road may be to reduce cars doing school runs to St Johns, however we cannot see that the closure will materially reduce the number of trips; parents concerned about their children’s safety are not likely to drop their children outside the library to walk the last part. They are instead likely to drive up one of the other roads to get to the school gates. To help ease this ongoing challenge, one of the emerging use ideas for The Picture House could be a breakfast club and drop off for the two schools. This would allow children to be safely dropped off in the morning and walked into school by volunteer parents and staff; we believe this could have a much bigger material impact on car journeys in the morning.

Ultimately there may be a case to close both Nicolas and Longford Road, however the plan right now is to experiment with one closure and to learn lessons on its impact. Our strong preference is to experiment with Nicolas Road in the first instance and to then consider Longford Road once lessons have been learnt.

Demographic Survey #2 Nov 2020

In September 2019, Chorlton CLT was one of sixteen community land trusts to be awarded a share of £329,000 to strengthen their membership base and be champions of inclusivity, equality and diversity.

In February of this year we baselined how well Chorlton CLT reflected our local community of Chorlton and Chorlton Park wards, and posted the results from that survey in July.

Following our first AGM in October we asked all our members to complete the same simple anonymous survey, to give us data which could be directly compared with the 2011 census data for our local area. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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Setting out our expectations and aspirations for Ryebank Fields 

The governors of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have now decided to progress with the sale of the Ryebank Fields site and has begun to market the site to developers through agents Cushman & Wakefield.  

Should development go ahead, the CLT wishes to engage proactively with MMU and their selected development partner to achieve an exemplar scheme at Ryebank Fields. 

We acknowledge that some people in our community, including some CLT members, are opposed to any development on Ryebank Fields. To ensure we have appropriate support, the CLT surveyed its members last month and has secured a mandate to engage in the process and to aim for a development that exceeds the Development Framework adopted for the site by Manchester City Council. 

The CLT Board believe that a high-quality development on this site, building on the expectations of the Development Framework, can raise the bar for sustainable low carbon community living alongside nature within the City of Manchester.

To this end, we have captured the views of members from the Early Feedback Engagement Survey and fed these into an overarching Expectations and Aspirations Statement that sets out our broad position as we begin to engage in the development process, given the Development Framework’s commitment for developers to “work with a local community housing group to develop part, or all of the site” and to ensure there is “extensive engagement with the local community”. 

Key Findings from the Chorlton Picture House Social Value Consultation

In February 2020 members of the CLT were invited to a consultation workshop to discuss the benefits they would like to see from the Picture House project. Their contributions were grouped within 4 themes – ‘Strength of community’, ‘Health and wellbeing’, ‘The building and the environment’ and ‘Jobs and the local economy’. This enabled a set of social value outcomes to be developed for each theme.

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Recommendations of the CLT Independent Governance Review

Introduction

In June 2020 the Chorlton CLT Board initiated a Governance review which was carried out by The Greater Manchester Community Led Housing Hub. The work was undertaken by the Hub Interim Director, Tom Hopkins in the period June – August 2020.

The overall aim is to ensure that the CLT board is fit for purpose and has a clear plan for actions to take forward. 

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Ryebank Fields Update: Oct 2020

As stated previously the CLT Board decided not to put a paper to the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) governing body who discussed the Fields at their meeting at the end of March, 2020 so as not to stand in the way of those campaigning against any development.  Despite groups making submissions asking the governors not to sell the land for housing and presenting alternative uses, the governors decided to progress with the sale.  Since then asbestos has been found on the site at surface level.  MMU has commissioned more site investigations, installed fencing and urged local residents not to access the land.

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