Peel Holdings got a taste of its own medicine this morning when community protesters blocked off the main road into its Trafford Centre, causing tailbacks on the adjoining M60 motorway.
For months, residents have been complaining about massive congestion going to and from Irlam and Cadishead and the surrounding areas, and the situation has been compounded by the non-opening of the new Barton Lifting Bridge.
Salford Council, Trafford Council and Peel Holdings are currently marooned in legal wrangles over who is to pay for the operation and maintenance of the bridge, estimated at £150,000 a year.* Talks have been ongoing for weeks without any resolution and the bridge is still shut.
Today, residents who have had enough of the impasse over the by-pass, took matters into their own hands with a very public protest on Trafford Boulevard, the main road into the Trafford Centre, where traffic was blocked for short periods, and then on the road leading to the AJ Bell Stadium, where almost every passing car beeped its horn in support.
Alan Whitehead, who runs Moss Farm Fisheries with his family and has had to put the business up for sale due to traffic problems, last week actually drove his car across the closed bridge in protest, leading to hundreds of thousands of views for his video.
"With what Peel Holdings has been doing to us I had to drive across the bridge" he explained "It's affecting people from Merseyside and everywhere, as well as Irlam and Cadishead. There's a special school opened in Irlam and a lad here today gets stuck in traffic two hours there and two hours back every day with his son but no-one is speaking up for them.
"Another woman phoned me who has a very poorly daughter who gets epileptic fits, while she's in traffic" he added "We need that school for the community but they've blocked the road off."
Alan took his protest to Peel's office last week who told him 'We'll open the road when we're good and ready'; "You might as well talk to the wall" he explained "My head was puddled when I came out of there. It's so frustrating."
"It's not just Peel, it's the planning and highways, everything seems to be done on the shush" he added "Salford Council won't speak to us. The Ceremonial Mayor, Peter Connor, and local councillors, Roger Jones and John Walsh, have been very supportive but for something this big, it seems like they're scared of getting involved against the might of Peel."
Alan also went to the last Irlam and Cadishead Community Committee meeting which had the bridge on its agenda but walked out in disgust after telling of the plight of his business.*
"These are the times when we need these organisations but not one person stood up and offered consolation or support. I've got to come here and rant at people because no-one's listening to us, it's heartbreaking" he said "Irlam and Cadishead Community Committee needs a complete re-vamp, it's not worth going."
Joanna Wolthuis came on her first ever protest she felt so strongly about the issue... "I think that Peel Holdings are making our lives a misery by not opening the bridge" she explained "The queues to leave Irlam and Cadishead in the morning are absolutely horrendous. My twelve mile commute takes between fifty and ninety minutes each way, every day.
"I saw a survey on Twitter which showed that people lose a working week each year through congestion and I'm like 'A year?'...I lose one day per week!" she said "I'm debating moving out of the area it's so bad now. Over the last two years it's got worse and nobody seems bothered.
"It's the same on the other side through the Warburton Bridge which Peel Holdings also owns" she added "The queues are about 45 minutes long just to pay your 12p. The guy who owns Peel is a billionaire and he still wants 12p! I'm not bothered about the 12p, I just want to get across. I think all this is Peel's fault as they own both of these bridges which is the common denominator."
Gary Booth runs a boxing club in Irlam and came to support the campaigners, as the young people he mentors and keeps off the street can't get to the place... "It's depriving the children of something that they need" he said "The bridge is all fixed up and ready to go. I don't know the politics behind it but just get it open."
That was the general feeling of those who joined the protest, although many believed that taking the A57 away and forcing cars onto the new road was a bad mistake too. Meanwhile, as Salford Council, Trafford Council and Peel Holdings don't seem to be able to reach agreement, campaigners are promising more of the same if it doesn't get resolved...
"If they don't sit round a table like grown men and talk, and sort this problem out for the people, this is just the start of it" said Alan Whitehead "There's nobody else you can go to, and people only listen when you cause a bit of havoc, and unfortunately that's what we're going to have to start doing..."
* For a full background see previous related Salford Star articles...
Salford Council Held to Ransom By Peel Holdings Over Barton Lifting Bridge - click here
Force Peel Holdings to Open Lifting Bridge Says Irlam Councillor - click here
Sale Sharks at Breaking Point Over Traffic Chaos Stadium - click here
Irlam and Cadishead Community Slams Barton Lifting Bridge Chaos as Peel Holdings and Salford Council Wrangle Continues - click here