Whitworth Park: the most beautiful asset in Moss Side

But Manchester City Council decided that Whitworth Park and Whitworth Art Gallery should be part of Ardwick instead.  (Maps below.)

There was a fight to keep them.  Now it’s a fight to get them back.

Manchester ward boundaries – a scandal

Manchester City Council was asked by a central government agency (the LGBCE) to propose changes to the boundaries.

But this was solely in order to equalise the voting population in each ward.

Of course, nobody lives in the park or in the gallery.  So they make no difference to the population of Moss Side or Ardwick.

So there is absolutely no justification for transferring them.

In fact, Manchester City Council proposed to strip Moss Side of its 3 most valuable assets:

  • Our beautiful Whitworth Park, MCC transfers to Ardwick.
  • The Whitworth Art Gallery with its £15m public funding, MCC transfers to Ardwick.
  • The Princess Rd. development site allocated for private housing, together with the award-winning Moss Side Community Allotments created by and for Moss Siders, MCC transfers to Whalley Range.

In their place MCC is adding to Moss Side more terraced streets, across to the middle of the ‘Curry Mile’.

This is a case of the Council asset-stripping Moss Side and increasing inequality across Manchester.

The failure to notify and consult

Before any of these recommendations could be put to Parliament, there had to be a proper local public consultation.

The Government agency responsible for boundary changes (the LGBCE) requires that residents’ associations and community groups be included on a “comprehensive mailing list”, so they can be notified, and can respond.

But in Manchester, Manchester City Council has acknowledged that it “decided that the list would not contain resident groups”.  So across Manchester, the residents / voters who are most affected by the changes, were not told about the proposals or the consultation, until it was too late to respond.

Neither the Friends of Whitworth Park committee, nor the Rusholme Community Traders Association, nor those who have worked so hard to create and maintain the allotments, were told – until after the consultation period had ended.  Could it be because they are all Moss Siders?

Hence there was a formal complaint by 8 Moss Side and Rusholme organisations.

But the park will still be there! So does it matter?

The short answer is YES.  Because…

1. Whitworth Park creates pride in Moss Side

Whitworth park gives us a pride in the beauty of where we live.  With all the negative stuff said about Moss Side in the media, for local people our beautiful park is part of what defines where we live.

Manchester City Council well know the importance of green spaces.  MCC’s proposal document openly set out a “Proposed Character” for every ward to include green spaces.  Except for Moss Side, which is described as “vibrant” and “multi-cultural”.

Err… do “vibrant” “multi-cultural” people not need green spaces?

We all know that on every sunny evening and weekend, whatever peoples’ cultural background or circumstance, we go to this park.  This beautiful green space brings people together to enjoy it.

In removing Whitworth Park, Manchester City Council achieves its “Proposed Character” for Moss Side, “as a high density residential area”. It is inequality by design.

2. Whitworth Park is geographically part of Moss Side and Hulme, not Ardwick

Whitworth Park and Gallery were created in the 19th Century to meet the need of local people.

The wonderful thing about the park for Moss Siders, is that you walk across it to get to everything.

It is Moss Siders who walk across the park every day to get to shops, buses and the city centre, and to places of work in the hospital and universities. The children at school in Moss Side mingle in the park after school.

By contrast, the people of Ardwick have to cross 2 or 3 main roads and the whole of the hospital complex just to get to it.  Look at the maps below.

MCC Proposed Moss Side ward
MCC Proposed Ardwick ward
3. MCC is taking away democratic control of the park from those who use it

If there’s a problem in the park, it is the people of Moss Side who see it.  We care about it, report it or deal with it.  An improvement in the park will inspire the people of Moss Side who cross it every day, not the people over in Ardwick.

If in future MCC or someone else proposes to build on it again, or the council leaves it to decay again, it will be the people of Moss Side who will be most affected, will care about it, and ultimately defend it.

As part of democracy, we need to be able to hold our Councillors to account on what they do and don’t do about our park.  But that is what MCC is taking away:

MCC’s proposal takes away from Moss Side its democratic control over the largest and most important open space and recreational area in the ward.

If MCC’s proposals go ahead, every time there’s a problem, we will have to convince our Councillors to take it up with Ardwick Councillors.  In other words, it will be so inefficient that it will enable the MCC chiefs to do exactly what they want.  While for ordinary residents who use the park, it will create a democratic nonsense and an administrative nightmare.

4. Whitworth Park + Art Gallery are Moss Side's most valuable assets

The Whitworth Art Gallery has received an amazing £15m in a national public investment.  Yes, £15 million!  The gallery has received architectural recognition for its beautiful new extension.

The Whitworth Art Gallery is now an attraction to UK and international visitors.  How often does that happen in Moss Side?

Manchester City Council’s response?  Change the boundary of course!  Take it out of Moss Side.  It beggars belief.  It is about MCC impoverishing a ward that has already been impoverished.

The Gallery will be a catalyst for local regeneration – for new and existing businesses in the streets nearby, here in Moss Side.  MCC knows that.  It needs to be administratively and democratically in the same ward as it’s main impact.

Personally, I like the fact that visitors to the Art Gallery know they have been to Moss Side, and have seen that it is a great place with a beautiful park.  That is a vital part of changing the media narrative of Moss Side.

The Art Gallery has actually obtained funding because it is in the impoverished area of Manchester, Moss Side.  But even the Gallery Director says they were not informed about what MCC were doing.

This website now includes an annotated library of original documents, for explanation and evidence.

Update – November 2017

OK, it has now happened.  MCC have got away with it for now.  What MCC has done breaches the rules, has no place in an open democracy and should have no place in Manchester.

Don’t give up, make sure everyone knows, and don’t forget.  Our Councillors didn’t stand up for Moss Side on this, so they won’t on other things either.

When you find them on your doorstep for the coming election, telling you the boundaries were somehow changed by a commission in London, just say “No!”.  The new Moss Side boundaries were proposed by MCC, and the reason people didn’t hear in time to respond is because MCC decided not to include residents groups.  It’s that bad.

Don’t underestimate the power of people-power.  Moss Side is one of the most famous wards in the country. Labour’s Manchester City Council don’t want it to be known that they are responsible for asset-stripping an impoverished ward.

All 3 Councillors are up for election on May 3rd 2018. Everyone has 3 votes. Only 1 in 5 people usually vote for this MCC version of Labour.  They win simply because only 1 in 3 vote.  If you have ideas to change that, get in touch.

election [at] WeAreMossSide.org.uk