Manchester City Council

The Garden of Manchester

Not a fan of the Garden City movement which has done untold damage but am a fan of gardens.

As a resident of a first floor flat I don't actually have one but I can still enjoy other peoples and really wish we could do more to discourage the growing tendency to brick over front gardens. Trees, flowers, shrubs, grass versus boring brick, oil stains and parked cars isn't much of a competition really and not just because the green stuff looks better either. Having more green stuff ( and less water run-off ) is a key element of building the resilience of the city to climate change. Greener is cooler!

In this context it's great to see Dig the City once again freshening up the city centre. Exchange Square looks a lot better with trees and plants than it did with the big(gish) wheel and of course many of our other public spaces are being similarly enlivened and I hope it's inspiring lots of people to plant up their own front and back yards.

Make a comment

There are 17 responses to “The Garden of Manchester”

  1. Katrina Says:

    Why are you no fan of the Garden City movement? Please explain.
    Also, people pave over their front gardens because older houses are now subdivided into flats, each requiring off street parking. This is a problem of the housing crisis, not of people's preference for tarmac over lawn.

  2. Barry Parker Says:

    Totally agree with you Sir Richard on those awful Garden City Movement lot. What with their decent housing, with gardens and inside toilets and kitchens and other such nonsense. And that considered town planning, giving people a pleasant environment to live? What was all that nonsense? So glad we put a stop to the madness before they did anymore damage. They should have spent less time trying to improve the lives of people and spent their energies on demolishing nice old buildings in the city centre and putting up top quality office developments. Thats we really need.

  3. Johnny Says:

    Leader - that is quite the most ludicrous statement I have heard in a very long time? Open spaces, green belts, proper facilities and housing for working people, separation of filthy industry from housing and schools... all fundamental to the Garden City Movement. Are you bonkers or just wilfully contrary?

  4. franky Says:

    and of course trees and gardens use the carbon that cars exhaust, thus less diseases for young children!!

  5. Ann Says:

    Dig the City is a great idea. Attended a great talk about small space veg growing and hope to get into town again over the weekend. Two questions 1) will any of the trees and plants stay after the end of the festival and 2) CAN WE HAVE A VERTICAL GARDEN ON THE CONCRETE WALL IN PICCADILLY GARDENS?

  6. i love jack russels Says:

    hear hear for the greenery on the berlin wall. can't be many people who don't think this particular bit of street furniture was a mistake. grow something colourful up it !

  7. Aaronc Says:

    I would love to know what damage the leader is referring to? We work hard to green our corner of the city and we have received nothing but praise and appreciation from the residents who actually live there.

    Given that the leader agrees that the city centre looks a lot better with trees and plants, can we expect more of them, on a permanent basis?

  8. Blimey! Says:

    I guess it's also cool/ green to re-use materials, but that's not much of an excuse for someone using the back of a fag packet for your .blog. Not your usual standard, Sir Richard.

  9. franky Says:

    I am a pensioner and remember when gardens were used for growing food. But this year my back garden sprouts have suffered from pigeons, slugs and snails. I guess in cities potatoes are the best crop for gardens.

  10. Greensleeves Says:

    I'm aware that the trees in Exchange will be going to the Coop's NOMA development but I agree (as does practically everyone) that they looked great in Exchange Square so there's really no reason why we shouldn't see as many if not more in the revamped square once it's redesigned as part of 2CC.

    The Berlin Wall has to be 'greened' but then again when we finally get cross-city buses there may be no further need for the Parker Street bus terminal so there could be an opportunity to finally do away with it altogether and create a large public square.

  11. Tony Says:

    The weakness of the garden city idea was that it really was a garden suburb movement, with very low density housing and a reliance on cars. Walkable cities are greener.

  12. Bill Raymond Says:

    Yes that really was an odd statement about Garden Cities because the idea of 'greening the city' is ccnsistent with the philosophy of Ebenzer Howard and the garden cities movement. Maybe you meant the application of some of the thinking in diluted form to create new towns with no reason to exist other than population overspill.

  13. Richard Leese Says:

    If any body is interested in a partial explanation of my thinking try this link

  14. anon Says:

    An interesting read that essay. But talking about living on past glories! Hulme, in planning terms, was a one off born of the unique set of circumstances and people involved in that project. Since then only the most basic principles, such as clearly delineating public and private realm, can be seen to have survived and have long been mainstream planning orthodoxy anyway. The actual realisation of high quality, safe, walkable, mixed income, mixed use, lifetime urban neighbourhoods through good planning and urban design is still unfortunately the exception rather than the rule in Manchester. It is no wonder that too often people still want to escape to the farthest reaches of the conurbation. Less complacency and better, more demanding planning more consistently applied and the city will provide a much better place to live. Unfortunately 'laissez faire' lives long in this city.

  15. Erica Says:

    'As a resident of a first floor flat I don't actually have one but I can still enjoy other peoples and really wish we could do more to discourage the growing tendency to brick over front gardens'.

    As opposed to the tendency of MCC, allowing Piccadilly Gardens to be paved over, built on and ruined? The fountains are a joke, the building at the Portland Street end is boring and depressing to look at and the whole area is awful. The gardens may have had their problems but they were colourful and green. You should be ashamed of what is there now.

  16. Amal Basu Says:

    Why am I having problems in sending my reponse?

  17. Amal Basu Says:

    The philosophy behind the Garden City Movement was that humanity and nature are intrinsic part of each other. With alacrity some of the Victorians realised that modern urbanization was drifting these two elements apart. The Garden city Movement aimed to bring countrylife to the urban life. Sir Ebenezer Howard thought a rapidly urbanized British life with a touch of country environments would be realistically achievable. The Garden City concept was to rescue the Londoners from the Dickensian London to the better environment. But our present modern life where urbanization is rapidly invading the countryside by leaving our ever dwindling green and pleasant lands with receding breathing space, we have to put Sir Howard’s concept in a reverse gear.
    We know urban life is an essential ingredient of modern living; and we have little room left to escape from that grim reality, so why not bring some of the countryside facilities to our urban life? Instead of concreted open spaces why not bring greenery in shape of neighbourhood greens or squares in the residential quarters of the urban citizens? Sir Leese is quite right in praising concreted space with a few trees in commerce dominated Exchange Square considering nature of the surrounding. But bringing the same concept within the residential area as in Cutting Room Square of Ancoats Urban Village is puzzling. His suggestion “I hope it's inspiring lots of people to plant up their own front and back yards” does not apply to Ancoats since following his council’s policy there is no front and backyard in Ancoats to plant any shrubs or anything like that. Ancoats Urban Village is becoming a concrete jungle. Following the slum clearance there are two adjacent small open spaces in that concrete jungle. Now the local HCA is proposing to the Council to sell off the only precious open space to private developers for constructing more buildings! Sir Richard if you are a “fan of gardens” why don’t you extend open spaces facilities to the locals to create their own community gardens to make Manchester green? Why kill off the only open space left in Ancoats?
    London’s Ladbroke Estate in Kensington’s Notting Hill Gate transformed the area of defunct Hippodrome Racecourse with classical villas and stucco terrace houses with the communal gardens attached to three to four blocks of houses making the place most attractive area in the heart of Central London, where once Roy Jenkins, Tony Crosland and Leon Brittan lived. Indeed, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster are the most sought after residential areas in London because they are adorned with the small neighbourhood gardens, in addition to their world famous parks. They have achieved to bring a little country living in the harshness of city life. With vision and imagination Manchester can do what London had done in its city centre.
    The Council is planning to expand Manchester City to the Northern and Eastern fringes of the city centre. There are vast derelict area around Holt Town that could be rebuilt to make Manchester a city of communal gardens with buildings not higher than five floors. Vienna’s famous The Ring Strasse, and the Haussmannian boulevards of Central Paris were all created from the ruins, why can’t we?
    After the slum clearance there are no sign of heritage in Ancoats except some old Victorian Mills which have been refurbished and rightly preserved. What is the idea of filling up the cleared areas with more concrete blocks with no open green spaces? Why Ancoats should not have open space for the communal/neighbourhood gardens considering no real heritage is left in Ancoats? I suggest the expanded Manchester should have neighbourhood gardens and greens with real plants and shrubs in the proper soils with grass coverings. The buildings will be of reasonable heights (preferably with balconies) and of mixed character i.e. Social and Private Housings.
    Maintenance & Finance
    The neighbourhood greens and squares should be public property lent out to the surrounding freeholders/head leaseholders to maintain them through the management committees consisted of the members of the residents. The financing would be done through subsidies from the local government through social housing management bodies and also levies from the private/head leaseholders for owning the properties under long lease in such a desirable city centre, either in the shape of a part of Council tax or a Service Charge for maintenance of their local amenities, in which case they may have the right of control to the use of these squares/greens by their own tenants or sub-leaseholders. No foreigners should be allowed to the freehold investments..
    I could say that bringing the neighbourhood greens to the city centre by using the derelict brown fields would alleviate the suffocating conditions that are being created for the ever increasing population in Manchester with its excuses of heritage and passion for concretes. This proposal might satisfy to a great extent Sir Leese’s sentiment that residents are using their semi-backyard to make Manchester the City of Gardens/Greens.



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

Recent posts