Save Hough End Fields: protest outside Manchester town hall to urge council to reject plans for green space

Campaigners want the plans to make the leisure centre bigger, put down artificial pitches and increase the size of the car park thrown out.

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Residents opposed to development plans at a Manchester green space will take their protest to the city centre on the day planners will decide if the proposals get the green light or not.

Save Hough End Fields is urging supporters to gather outside Manchester Town Hall today (Thursday 17 March) before the planning meeting at which plans to upgrade the sports facilities at the site will be considered.

The campaign group wants the proposals for Hough End Fields thrown out and say there is considerable opposition to the scheme.

When is the protest against the Hough End Fields proposal taking place and why?

Save Hough End Fields is asking supporters to gather outside the town hall extension in Manchester city centre at 1.30pm on Thursday (17 March).

The planning and highways committee meeting at which the proposals to develop Hough End Fields will be considered starts at 2pm.

The campaign group is urging councillors on the committee to refuse planning permission for the development.

The council has received more than 1,000 objections to the proposals, with only 23 responses in favour and and over 3,200 people have signed a petition calling on the local authority to withdraw its plans.

What are the proposals for Hough End Fields?

The planning committee will be asked to consider proposals for a two-storey extension to Hough End Leisure Centre to include changing rooms, a cafe and a bigger gym area.

The existing changing rooms on the site would be demolished.

A dramatic sunset over the sports pitches at Hough End FieldsA dramatic sunset over the sports pitches at Hough End Fields
A dramatic sunset over the sports pitches at Hough End Fields

The plan also calls for the creation of two 3G artificial turf pitches, together with floodlights and fences, a car park with 67 spaces and an overflow site with room for a further 60 vehicles, and associated landscaping work.

In its report on the site the council calls the existing changing facilities at Hough End Fields “deficient” and says it wants to develop the site as a hub for sports and physical activity, particularly in South Manchester.

What are the campaigners against the development saying?

Residents say a key part of their objections is the use of artificial turf and the creation of car parking at Hough End Fields, saying this does not fit with the council’s overall environmental and green targets.

Pauline Hocking from Save Hough End Fields said: “More than 3,000 people have asked the council to protect Hough End Fields, which were given to the people of Manchester as ‘an open space and recreation ground for the free use of the public’.

“The last thing the council should be doing in a climate and nature emergency is ripping up an area of green space the size of Old Moat Park to build artificial pitches and more car parking.

“Replacing grass and trees with plastic turf and concrete is bad news for wildlife, for the climate and for local residents who’d have to suffer more noise, traffic and toxic air pollution.”

Peter Lythgoe, a regular fields user and campaigner, said: “As part of their 10-year plan for the area, the council should be using hybrid pitch technology on Hough End to showcase their credentials as a zero-carbon authority, not applying a quick and dirty fix of plastic pitches and restricted access for short term gain.

“We’re calling on the planning committee to put people and planet before profit and reject this deeply unpopular and misguided proposal.”

What has the council said?

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that there has been huge interest in this development since it was first proposed last year.

“The Planning and Highways committee will consider the application for the development of Hough End site and listen to all representations made for and against the proposals before making an informed decision.

“This will be based on all the available information, supporting assessments and those matters that must be considered in the context of a planning application.”