Housing plan passed on site of wildlife habitat

A Manchester wildlife habitat once touted as northern England's potential answer to the Eden Project has instead gained planning approval for a housing development.

Bee orchids: rare wildlife at risk from development
Bee orchids: rare wildlife at risk from development

The controversial plans for two apartment towers, of 10 and 11 storeys and holding 164 flats, were created by developer Rowlinsons and property owner Peel Holdings.

The plans include private landscaped space overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal as well as public open space. Trees to be planted include Acer campestre, Alnus glutinosa, Betula pendula, Corylus avellana, Crataegus monogyna, Ilex aquifolium, Pinus sylvestris, Prunus avium, P. spinosa, Quercus robur and Sambucus nigra.

Shrubs and perennials will also be planted including dog roses, Viburnum davidii, hebes, fuschias, pittosporum, sarcococca, hypericum, euonymous, lavender and bergenia.

The plans drew more than 100 letters of objection and sparked an online petition, which garnered more than 1,600 signatures.

Objectors pointed out that the former dockland has been left undisturbed for decades and has become a wilderness full of rare wildlife, with 100 bird species recorded there including the little ringed plover, kingfisher, sand martin and jacksnipe, along with the pipistrelle bat, Daubenton's bat, water vole, cormorant, rare bee orchids and many other plant species.

It had previously been suggested that Pomona could be developed as an "Eden Project for the north". Campaigners also warned that open space is in short supply in Manchester and pointed to studies showing the importance of green space for people living in cities.

However, at the Trafford Council planning hearing on 12 November councillors voted 11-to-three in favour of building the 164-flat development. Many councillors said they felt the brownfield land is not of ecological value and would better serve to alleviate the area's housing shortage.

The flats are just the first phase of development on the 1km-long island, although a full masterplan is yet to be finalised. The council's core development strategy for Pomona calls for a "substantial" new area of recreational open space.

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