A footpath running along the River Irwell is in danger of being closed after plans were proposed to build a new multi-million-pound development at Ralli Quays, campaigners have vehemently protested the plans.
Plans submitted to Salford City Council propose a new 16 storey hotel being built in the place of the Ralli Quays building in the New Bailey development.
The plans were originally scrapped by Salford City Council after 55 people objected to the Ralli Quays development. Campaigners were told it would be taken to Manchester Magistrates Court. In May of this year, they were also informed by a town hall solicitor representing the council that it was not going to go ahead with the application to close the right of way.
Anger soon rose again last month as during a meet-up, campaigners realised another new notice had been placed stating a new application had been made to close it.
Dr Morag Rose, lecturer at the University of Liverpool and representative from the Loiterers Resistance, said that it will close off key paths around this part of the country:
“In some ways, it’s quite a small space, it might not feel particularly important. Part of it at the moment is overgrown, but what it is, is it’s really important to allow people to access the River Irwell
“Wouldn’t it be brilliant, if you could walk all the way from Manchester along the Irwell into Salford into Salford Quays, further on into Liverpool, if you wanted to, you know? the River Irwell is particularly important in Manchester, partly because of the industrial heritage.”
She also believes there is a want to remove more spaces for the homeless due to apparent security risks:
“One of the arguments that might be given for the need to close this space will be around security issues
“And there are lightly concerns that people will sleep there, because we know already that homeless people use lots of covered areas to sleep now
“It’s absolutely inhumane to, to do something because it might be used by homeless people.”
Whilst this is general speculation, Dr Rose is confident from past experiences in campaigning that this issue has been papered over by developers:
“I don’t think it’s been explicitly stated at the moment, but we know from past experience that this is likely to be a concern.
“But we do see, and this is not just in Salford in Manchester, hostile and defensive architecture that is designed to stop people hanging around or sleeping in areas and it doesn’t tackle the problem, it just pushes it out.”
Walking with others and even on your own has been a crucial factor in improving people’s mental and physical wellbeing, and Dr Rose believes this will put that aspect at risk:
“People, especially without gardens without access to their own space, go to places like the river because it’s good for mental health, it’s good for physical health. And at the moment to close it off and to lose the potential of that route just seems absolutely contradictory for everything” she said.
“Fundamentally, I don’t think we should be losing public access to private gain. And that’s been a bigger issue across Salford and Manchester for a while.”
The complications also stem to permission of use, which would potentially seal Ralli Quays off from public use and general activity.
“If we lose this fight, then the right of away is closed, and what we’ll have instead is what’s called a permissive route that goes through the Ralli Quays development. And that permissive route means that you are allowed there by permission, basically. So that permission can be revoked at any time.
“There will be restrictions on what you can do in that space as well. So, for example, restrictions on I don’t know, political campaigning or photography, or filming”
As well as the modern issues that are linked to this plan of action, there is also the historical importance of this site which Dr Rose believes should be preserved, she said:
“Part of the whole history of our cities is linked to those waterways and of course, it’s not all a positive history, you know, there’s histories of exploitation, and slavery and colonialism and etc. But we need to face that as well. So altogether, you know, it’s, it’s what connects us to the world. And it is what enabled Manchester and Salford to be so important in me Industrial Revolution.
“But I do think that here now, even if you’re not interested in the history, the the kind of the connection with wildlife, the natural environment, you know, parts of green space are really important as well”
She also knows it’s important to stress the key point of their campaign as they are aware of the fact the area might need some renovation:
“So, we’re not, just to be clear, we’re not asking people to object to this development per se, and we don’t think that the building that’s going to be knocked down is particularly attractive or important or anything, but we do feel like their new plans could be modified to allow access to the towpath and the river for everyone.”
Despite the deadline for opposition closing today, she was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support shown by the general public, she said:
“Oh, it’s been absolutely astonishing. Actually, I think it’s really captured people’s concerns, we were a little bit worried that, you know, the time frame would be problematic and actually, I can’t, I feel like the last time a campaign that I was involved in got this much interest.
“And I think it’s because the spaces that people really feel attached to, and that they feel like it is their place, you know, they feel an attachment. So yeah, I’ve been absolutely blown away.”
Dr Rose believes that they have a good chance of seeing this through due to all the support for their cause:
“I’m extremely hopeful, actually, because I think we’ve got an amazingly strong case and we’ve got voices from a lot of different areas, a lot of different people are standing up to this. And as I said, I hope it will be a catalyst for further conversations about access to public space.
Despite the strong start, the process itself is certainly complex with them having to object to Salford City Council and the Department of Transport in two days. She explains:
“It’s a little bit complicated in that there are two emails to send, because the planning application is for the demolition of existing buildings and the building of the new premises and that’s what we’re asking to be modified. But we’re also asking people to write to the Department of Transport about the stopping up order.
“The two applications are interlinked and are both really important because if the planning application is stopped, or is modified, because of our campaign, then there’s actually very little reason to stop up the towpath.”
Whilst the deadline for both ends tomorrow, their certainly seems to be a feeling of confidence growing that the appeal can go through successfully. Whilst the future of the path is uncertain, the cries of the local community are sure to be heard.
You can find out more information on how to support the cause in the Facebook group linked here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/10667409530