Last Thursday, campaigners aiming to save the old dockland site across the Manchester Ship Canal from Ordsall held a Pomona Day, and yesterday it was the Pomona Festival as the community turned out to view the wildlife and flora that has sprung up on the abandoned dockland site.
Developer, Peel Holdings, which owns the land, wants to concrete over what is now an urban oasis and build two unbelievably ugly blocks of flats on Pomona – but ecologists, bird spotters and the local community want to preserve what they call our `Garden of Eden', which sits right on the boundaries of Salford and Trafford, next to Manchester City Centre.
For years Pomona has been a kind of hidden unofficial green park used by bird spotters, joggers, ecologists, dog walkers, blackberry pickers and casual walkers, all now horrified that Peel can destroy it to build yet more profits. Yesterday's urban safari highlighted the amount of bees, butterflies, birds and plant species that have homed on the land.
"On wasteland areas like this it seems like there's not a lot going on, that they're just scrubby kinds of plants and bits of concrete and things, but because it's undisturbed means that there's actually a huge variety of plants here and wildlife that visits" explained Molly Bushell, a plant science student at the University of Manchester
"It's an important habitat for migrating birds and a refuge for bees and butterflies" she added "There are bee orchids here and yellow-wort, and there's maybe only two places in Manchester where they are found. The last thing they should do is concrete it and put flats on it. They should preserve it as either a Site of Biological Importance or biologically protect it as an interesting place to visit."
The Greater Manchester Ecology Unit hasn't deemed Pomona a Site of Biological Importance (SBI), despite very detailed reports that have been submitted on the amount of breeding bird sites, wildlife and flora present, including 150 plant species.
"We are here to show our love for Pomona Docks and also because Manchester is the European City of Science we are basically promoting Pomona as a wildlife site, rather than a concrete jungle like everywhere else" explained James Walsh of the Manchester Ship Canal World Heritage Group
"There's swifts and sand martins here from Africa, cormorants and mute swans, both part of the Big Five...there's kingfishers; people are seeing otters here, people are reporting water voles; there's warblers passing through, hundreds of house sparrows using the site, hundreds of starlings, lots of goldfinches, a rare bird called the garden warbler has just been seen; there's a spotted fly catcher too..." he said
"There's also loads and loads of flowers... heather, sea buckthorn; really unusual flowers to have in an urban setting and that's always the point – it's an urban site and it's amazing to see these sort of things, and to see skylarks and breeding lapwings so close to a city centre" James added "We want to try and preserve it for future generations of Salfordians, Mancunians and people from Trafford. We're getting in touch with the Eden project in Cornwall; they've got one down south why can't we have one in the north? This is an ecologist's paradise, our Garden of Eden..."
The Heritage Group is calling for a Public Inquiry into Pomona (see here). In the meantime, Peel Holdings' plans are due to be considered by Trafford Council in the coming weeks and people can send in objections to...
Richard gore (Planning Officer) Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
Development Control email@example.com
Strategic Planning firstname.lastname@example.org
There's also a petition with over 1,500 signatures calling on the plans to be put on hold "until viable social and environmentally sustainable alternatives can be put forward" – sign it here.
• For more background see previous Salford Star article – click here
Photos by Anya S Kingston