Blow to ‘zombie car parks’: Northern Quarter fire site has planning permission for car park rejected

Green space campaigners are celebrating as planning permission for a Northern Quarter car park has been officially refused at a council meeting.

The car park, on the former Dobbins site on Oldham Street in the heart of Manchester, has already been built.

But now the applicant Craig Jones sought retrospective temporary planning permission for up to two years.

While a previous Manchester City Council planning committee recommended approval, following a meeting last Thursday the 48-space car park was officially rejected.

The land became free when the Dobbins building was demolished following a blaze on April 11 last year.

There has been strong opposition on the car park development from Northern Quarter residents and green space initiative ParkStarter.

‘EYESORE’: The car park has already been built but has now been rejected

Founder of ParkStarter Sam Easterby-Smith told MM: “I just became fed up of all these zombie developments around the city centre… This has become a hopeful site for a park.”

Witnessing the remains on Oldham Street, Sam feared early on that the site would be another car park.

The application made by car park owner Craig Jones was refused after it was noted to contradict The Core Strategy, key to Manchester’s Local Development Framework.

Lacking factors included in the committee meeting’s report was space, appearance, safety and sustainable transport.

The original report stated: “Four emails from residents and a letter of objection from Friends of the Earth have been received.”

The grounds for objection included that the car park was ‘unkempt and hideous’, that we should ‘not encourage people to drive into the city centre’, too few green spaces in the area and the proliferation of ‘zombie’ car parks in the area.

SLAMMED: Friends of the Earth said retrospective planning permission made a ‘mockery’ of the system

It was also noted that the site lies within the Stevenson Square Conservation Area and that the ‘area’s character would be lost’. 

Friends of the Earth Manchester’s arguments were summarised in the report.

Car parks should not be developed without first obtaining planning permission,” it read.

“Applying retrospectively sets a poor precedent and makes a mockery of the planning system by encouraging and rewarding applicants who skirt council regulations.”

The ParkStarter mission began when Sam noticed an excessive number of car parks popping up around the city centre.

“When initial works for the Dobbins site car park took place I thought ‘that site would make a wonderful little park’,” he said.

ParkStarter has been campaigning against permission for the temporary car park since its development and last year held a picnic on the site in protest.

Sam said: “A park would improve community cohesion – reduced crime, improved public health, educational outcomes … a place to play, a place to socialise, to have lunch, a place to sit and think.”

Although the committee report states the site is likely to be cleared on the withdrawal of permission, the car park is currently still in use.

The council has yet to confirm when its decision will be enforced.

ParkStarter’s quest for a park holds a renewed sense of hope.

“We are now looking at how a park might be funded and are hoping to be in touch with members of the planning committee,” Sam explained.

For more on ParkStarter visit:

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