On Saturday 3rd November 2012, around 100 local residents and campaigners took part in a protest walk against the proposed 'World Logistics Hub' at Manchester Airport. The protesters braved the cold to take a route around the 90 acre former greenbelt site, which is threatened by the plans to build 43 cargo sheds and almost 1,500 car parking spaces.
Local residents, wildlife enthusiasts and environmental campaigners spoke at various points along the walk, sharing their experiences of fighting Manchester Airport expansion and highlighting the numerous ways that the plans would affect local people and the environment.
Audrey O’Donovan, local resident and Chair of Ringway Parish Council, said "The World Logistics Hub, should it get final approval, would result in serious loss of amenity and environmental damage for local people. The Airport's application is based on unsubstantiated claims regarding the number of jobs they hope to create. There are also unsubstantiated claims in relation to finding potential occupiers of these new warehouses. The impact upon local wildlife and ecology would have serious consequences forthe biodiversity of this area."
The Wildlife Walk came one week after Councillors on the Wythenshawe Area Committee ‘recommended for approval’ the World Logistics Hub plans. The application will now be sent to the Planning and Highways Committee at Manchester City Council for a final decision on 22nd November 2012. A number of attendees at the Wildlife Walk, keen for their concerns to be brought to this Committee, pledged to attend this November meeting at Manchester Town Hall.
Several Manchester Councillors of the Wythenshawe Area Committee backed the Logistics Hub plans based on the Airport's promises of local job opportunities. However campaigners argue that job creation figures proposed by the Airport are inflated. Jane Beetson from 'Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport' campaign said “When Manchester Airport first announced plans for a second runway, they claimed 50,000 jobs would be created. No-where near that number of jobs materialised. Just like then, they are misleading the public now.”
She added, “Local Councillors say they will force the Airport to give jobs to local people but in practice they will have no way of enforcing this on the firms that move into the new office and warehouse spaces. We need to create green jobs in sustainable industries not dirty aviation.”
The Save Sunbank Wildlife Walk was also an opportunity for biodiversity experts to explain that Airport's promises of preserving wildlife are also unrealistic, and that creating a 'mitigation zone' is no substitute for leaving habitats untouched.
Along the route, campaigners encountered the threatened habitats of numerous plant and animal species. Several mature oak trees line Sunbank Lane, providing nesting opportunities for rare birds, and potential roosting spots for endangered bat species. The site is also home to 12 ponds occupied by Great Crested Newts, an endangered species found only in the North West of England. Walkers were also able to spot signs of protected animals for example badger snuffle holes and mole hills in the green space around Sunbank.
Manchester Airport has announced plans to concrete over former greenbelt land around Sunbank Lane to make way for a 'World Logistics Hub'. The area is currently home to residential houses and greenfields and also borders onto Cotterill Clough - a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The plans involve the construction of around 43 warehouses and office units of various sizes on land adjacent to the A538, as well as 1,473 carparking spaces, 134 bike parking spaces and a re-landscaped green zone. The plans form part of the wider Airport City Enterprise Zone.
The Airport 'anticipate' that 1800 jobs will be created over a 15 year period. However, a report on the wider Airport City proposals in Autumn 2011 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that many of these job creation projections actually involved displacing pre-existing jobs from elsewhere in Manchester, as firms relocate to take advantage of the cheap business rates on offer. The land around Sunbank Lane was recently taken out of the Greenbelt in the Manchester City Council's 'Core Strategy' which was approved in July 2012.
Many residents say they were not informed or consulted of these plans. Audrey O'Donovan said, "As a resident and chairman of Ringway Parish Council I am appalled at the lack of consultation by Manchester Airport when removing Oak Farm and surrounding area out of the green belt and changing the planning status enabling them to once again encroach on our countryside. All in the name of so called progress. What concerns me is the World Logistics Hub as they have called this latest expansion will expand to the other side of the A538 spreading their operations still further into our very small Parish of Ringway."
The Airport have published an 'informal' consultation document with images of the plans. They say they intend to submit a formal planning application to Manchester City Council at some point in August 2012.
Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport organised a 'Biodiversity Walk' around the affected site in May 2010. Shortly after local activists from Manchester Climate Action blockaded the current World Freight Centre and staged an airside protest around the wheel of Monarch Airline jet against plans to expand the airport and demolish local homes.