Trees and flowers and more cycling for the southern suburb

As a guided tour of goodly folk were admiring Chorlton's manifold and manifest delights on Sunday 18 February a van was loading outside the hapless mess that is Chorlton Precinct, aka Chorlton Cross. The van was owned by Frost, the butchers, who were deserting the suburb after 51 years. You can read Lee Frost's forthright opinions on Chorlton here.

Who will maintain the streetside flower beds, what will they look like in winter?

The new cycle lanes are part of that article. These notorious and expensive (we're asking exactly how much?) cycle lanes turned the main 'Four Banks' junction into a place to literally swerve, a traffic no-go area. They have damaged retail and food and drink businesses along Wilbraham Road, Manchester Road and Barlow Moor Road and don't seem popular with cyclists in terms of numbers currently using them.

Meanwhile some parts of the system have been installed in a shabby manner and the much vaunted 'cyclops' junctions have been reported by pedestrians as making it more difficult to cross roads. Cyclops stands for 'cycle optimised protected signals', bless, but these juncitons are useless for cyclists too, especially for those who actually want to go somewhere. They're mostly ignored by people who do the cycling. 

However, these changes are just the start. Some new suggestions look a little more promising.

Chorlton Public Realm Vision
More sunny day visions Image: City planning document

This is Manchester City Council's announcement and they want the thoughts of the public (the full consultation document is here).

 'A new plan for Chorlton’s district centre is being considered by the Council - and local people and businesses are urged to give their feedback.

'The aim of the Public Realm Plan is to ensure the centre of Chorlton remains an attractive, welcoming and accessible space for local people and visitors to enjoy.    

'The draft Public Realm Plan will help guide investment in the area’s public spaces in the coming years – and is part of a city-wide focus on local district centres to ensure they can benefit from emerging regeneration opportunities.   

'There are a number of development opportunities in the neighbourhood that will be brought forward in the years ahead – most immediately the new affordable older person’s housing at the former leisure centre site.  

'It is therefore a timely opportunity to put in place a vision for how the public realm could be improved in the future.    

'An improved public realm will also benefit the local commercial, retail and food and drink offer – and has been drafted to be flexible to ensure it remains relevant as new opportunities arise.'

2024 02 20 Chorlton Strengths And Weaknesses
The suburb's existing pros and cons Image: City planning document

The plan looks to:    

  • Assess Chorlton’s existing public spaces and streets, how they are used now, and how they could be improved in the future.   
  • Create a distinct district centre plan to illustrate a range of possible projects that could be endorsed by the local community and be used as the basis for future funding bids.  
  • And finally, the plan proposes concept designs at three key locations: outside Chorlton Library, at Four Banks, and at High Lane Junction. 
Wilbraham Road Vision
The flowery vision of Wilbraham Road Image: City planning document

Some of the ideas are pretty good especially with improvements to pavement surfaces and adding benches. Some are less good. Perhaps instead of adding flower beds in places around, for instance the library, wouldn't it be better to spend the money on Chorlton Park, the Green or Beech Road recreation ground? Who will maintain the streetside flower beds, what will they look like in winter?

The consultation document also reinforces the notion that 'active travel' has become a new religion with local authorities. Active travel is all about encouraging people to 'cycle, wheel or walk' to create a zero carbon liveable city. It's a new dogma, no proposal can be offered without the two words being included. Thus there's a serious emphasis on it in the consultation document although little in the way of evidence that more people will be encouraged to, for instance, cycle. 

The document also mentions retail and its importance, in which case let's hope Chorlton doesn't lose any more of its quality shops such as Frost's butchers.

You can either electronically make your voice heard or attend one of these in-person consultationsThursday 7 March, 3–7pm at Chorlton Central Church, Saturday 9 March, 1–4pm at Oswald Road Primary School. 

2024 02 20 Pipeline Chorlton
What's being suggested Image: City planning document

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