The Fields are currently designated as a green space and are not available for residential development.
But MAN would like to overturn this designation for over one third of the Fields.
MFFG has used the money you donated to commission independent expert legal advice on the MAN proposal to build 200 houses on Mirrlees Fields.
The advice has been provided by an expert in planning law – Matthew Fraser of Landmark Chambers, 180 Fleet Street, London.
In summary Matthew Fraser says:
“The main weakness of the application is the permanent loss to housing of 4.4 hectares of long-standing Strategic Open Space as designated in the development plan, in a context where there is already a greater open space deficiency in the Stepping Hill area when compared with other areas of Stockport (which also has an overall open space deficiency).
The main benefit of the proposal is the conversion of 18.3 hectares from private open space land into publicly-accessible land (secured as such in perpetuity) with a range of ecological and landscape enhancements, together with the provision of much-needed market and affordable housing to address significant shortfalls.”
We specifically asked about the security offered for the remaining area of the fields not being developed - does MAN’s proposal genuinely safeguard the remaining fields in perpetuity?
The answer from our expert is: "In my view, MFFG can have full confidence in the robustness and security of the proposed arrangements for the provision of open space in perpetuity."
Here are some extracts from the report in a bit more detail.
How does national policy influence the decision SMBC will have to take?
“National policy provides that, given the absence of a five year housing land supply in Stockport, planning permission should be granted unless the adverse impacts of a development “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits. Although the loss of part of the Site to housing would potentially be regarded as, in my view, a significant harm due to the reduction in Strategic Open Space, this is likely to be seen as counterbalanced by the important release of the majority of the Site to public open space (rather than private land with permissive rights), the provision of market and affordable housing to address acute shortages, and the provision of other benefits, e.g. biodiversity net gain.”
What are the pros and cons of the application?
Loss to the community:
(1) A loss of 4.4 hectares of open land to housing. This adverse impact is more significant due to the identified deficiency of open space in the Stepping Hill analysis area within the Council’s Sport, Recreation and Open Space Study 2017, and the absence of a “relative high provision” in the area.
(2) The loss of a significant number of trees (131), including four category A trees.
(3) Harm in terms of townscape impact - the townscape impact of a loss of 4.4 hectares of open fields is hard to characterise as “minor”.
(4) Adverse visual effects
Gains to the community:
(1) The delivery of 100 market homes to address the very significant housing land supply shortfall in Stockport.
(2) The delivery of 100 affordable homes to address the acute needs in the area.
(3) The release of 18.30 hectares of currently private open space (albeit with permissive access and public rights of way) to become publicly accessible open space managed and maintained by the Land Trust in perpetuity, backed by a £1.27m endowment from MAN to the Land Trust.
(4) Significant ecological and landscape improvements to that public portion, including the planting of 262 new trees, and achieving 10% biodiversity net gain.
(5) The provision of 3.41 hectares of on-site open space for the housing development, including a Local Equipped Area for Play and a village green (accessible to both new residents and the existing community).
(6) The delivery of housing in a location which will enable sustainable modes of travel (e.g. the proximity of the train station and bus options, as well as local facilities and services).
(7) A circa £2m contribution towards education infrastructure;
(8) Other economic benefits flowing from the development, including the provision of construction jobs (going to local labourers).
Overall, although the harms are not insignificant in this case, I would not be surprised if the Council decide to give less weight to the loss of open space given that the current status of the land is private, with only permissive use other than on the public rights of way. Policy CS8 clearly acknowledges that improvements to recreational facilities can outweigh the protection of existing assets, and that overriding community needs such as the provision of affordable housing can outweigh the loss of the open space.”
In the light of this conclusion Matthew estimates that it is likely the application will be successful.
What is the strength of the security being offered to ensure that the majority of the site will be publicly-accessible open space in perpetuity for the enjoyment of the local community?
“In my view, MFFG can have full confidence in the robustness and security of the proposed arrangements for the provision of open space in perpetuity. Section 106 agreements are entered into as deeds, and the obligations will be legally enforceable by the Council against both MAN and the Land Trust (if necessary) by an injunction ordered by the High Court. “
The report suggests some points which members can raise in their response to the application. Here is the link to the full advice: Landmarl Chambers Mirrlees Fields Advice.pdf
Although the date given for the end of the consultation period is 26th September, the Council is legally obliged to consider comments received up and until a decision has been made.
Email your comments to email@example.com citing the reference number DC/081719.
As you’ll now be aware the planning application for the proposed development on Mirrlees Fields went live on the planning portal last week.
The application can be viewed on the SMBC Planning website – case number DC/081719. The key documents are the Design and Access Statement and the Supporting Planning Statement.
MFFG has always stated that once the application was submitted, we would employ a reputable law firm who specialise in planning to scrutinise the application to provide an unbiased appraisal.
We have approached a well respected legal firm to present a summary of the application along with the pros and cons. We will communicate their findings to MFFG members in time for you to make comments.
MAN are going to do a webinar and we have been informed they are looking at the evening of 27th September, 6pm until 7:30pm. They will have a panel of their consultants and likely members of the Land Trust on hand to answer questions and address rumour and information currently circulating in the community. To register for the event, please e-mail your full name, postcode and e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org Invites will then be issued by e-mail to those who have registered.
It is important that any objections carry weight with the Planning Department. Objecting on the basis of incorrect information will simply not be counted.
We therefore urge you to consider delaying your response until we are able to provide you with an informed appraisal of the application.
MFFG met with MAN and their professional team of consultants.
Key points from that meeting were:
SMBC Planning Department has advised that MAN should increase the density of housing in their application. As we previously explained, this is due to the undersupply of housing in Stockport (2.6 years against a requirement for 5 years’ worth) and the need for the Council to identify enough land for all these homes within SMBC itself has intensified following the Council’s withdrawal from GMSF.
The site is also classed as ‘sustainable’ as it’s close to rail and bus links and national and local planning policies support greater numbers of homes in these areas.
In order to save designated 'green belt land', ‘sustainable’ green spaces within the town are under more pressure. But this is not a brown-field site, it is open natural green space much loved by all who walk on it.
MAN originally proposed ‘up to 150 homes’ on the ‘big field’ site and SMBC advised that more were required. After undertaking additional survey works, mainly relating to highway issues, it was decided that up to 200 homes could be accommodated. The development will include affordable homes and amenity space in line with Council policy. The area of the proposed development on the big field, the ‘red line boundary’ remains the same.
The Land Trust have agreed to take on the ownership, management and maintenance of the remaining land in perpetuity and have a strong desire to work alongside the community to enhance our local nature reserve.
To ensure the long term upkeep of the land MAN have agreed a sum of over one million pounds that will be given to the Land Trust specifically for Mirrlees Fields.
MAN intends to submit an application for outline planning permission in the next couple of weeks.
MFFG will now look to professional consultants to provide us with a balanced view of the application once it is submitted. When we have this we will collate a list of pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.
The decision to accept or reject this deal does not lie with us. The elected councillors will make the final decision.
The last 12 months have been very difficult for most businesses, MAN are no exception, so regardless of the outcome of the application MAN have stated they WILL dispose all of the land at Mirrlees Fields. If the current proposal is rejected they will sell the whole site to the highest bidder, which will probably be a developer.
The current proposal faces us with a hard choice. If the planning application is approved, we lose more or less the whole of the big field to a housing development.
On the other hand, the remaining land (the majority of the total area of Mirrlees Fields) will have protected public access in perpetuity, guaranteed by The Land Trust, and a fund provided by MAN that will enable it to be preserved as a natural green space for people and nature to thrive.
The MAN Press Release can be viewed here
We need to have a fund so that we are prepared, if necessary, to pay for legal advice and to fund ecological surveys. Any donations received that are not required to cover the costs of legal advice will be used to fund community or environmental improvement initiatives on the fields arranged by MFFG.
Please go to the ‘Go-fund-me’ website https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-to-protect-the-fields/donate
If you are not already a member of MFFG and would like to be kept informed, please complete the sign-up form at the bottom of this page.
Can you help?
If you would like to support MFFG in the campaign to get the best outcome for the Fields, contact email@example.com
Mirrlees Fields is a large green space where you can walk in a peaceful, natural environment away from the noise of urban living.
There is a great diversity of wildlife including many species of birds, bats, ancient trees, an orchard, grassland and in the summer, wildflowers. Over fifty species of birds have been seen include buzzards and owls.
It is a beautiful space for families and children, walkers, runners and cyclists (on the bridleway) and is used by schools, scouts and cubs and other youth groups.
'The Fields provide a beautiful natural environment and an important habitat for some rare wildlife. They give us a chance to learn about our world and how to preserve it.' (local resident)
The Fields are easily accessible from Woodsmoor and Hazel Grove. There are three points of access:
These lead onto three rights of way which have been recently resurfaced and are suitable for disabled access, prams and wheelchairs.
The land is privately owned by MAN Diesel Turbo Ltd, but there is permissive access over the Fields.
Mirrlees Fields Friends Group was formed to protect and improve this natural habitat and widen public use. Recent innovations include a permanent orienteering course (https://gmoa.org.uk/borough_stockport/mirrlees-fields-orienteering) and a digital nature trail Eco Explorer (http://ecoexplorer.education).
Traces of the Fields' history can be found in old field boundaries, marl pits, butts and reins and ancient ditches (see History)
You may walk your dog on the Fields but please remember to clear up your dog's mess. Mirrlees Fields welcomes responsible dog-owners.
Welcome to Mirrlees Fields
Charlie Gallagher reported that a pair of
tawny owls have
been heard late evening and at night on the fields. Now that the stream is
clean, pied and grey wagtails can be seen along the banks, and a pair of
have been seen downstream from the railway bridge. Altogether, over
fifty species of birds have been seen on the Fields.
Pipistrelle and Natterer bats will become more common as spring approaches in
the evenings and night times. Among mammals, water voles inhabit the streams,
and rabbits, foxes and badgers have all been sighted on the fields. We also have
smooth newts, and common frogs and toads. ‘Greenspace’ the forum for Stockport’s
green areas and parks is encouraging people to report sightings of water
voles. If you see any water voles on Mirrlees, contact Cheshire Wildlife Trust
at Bickley Hall Farm, Bickley, Cheshire, SY14 8EF or tell Christine Hession
There is a wide variety of trees on the Fields. The list includes oaks, some of them at least 200 years old, and silver birch, hazel, lime, alder, poplars (grey, Italian and black), willows (pussy, osier, crack and white), yew, larch, Norway spruce, beech, holly, ash, rowan, whitebeam, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn, and elder. Look out for a guided tree walk in the Spring.
Next time you walk across the fields, count how many of these 24 species you can spot!
One of the biggest complaints we have from our members (and the land owners) is with regards to dog walkers who leave their dog’s faeces behind. Given the use of the fields by many local people, including young families, this practice is not only unpleasant but also dangerous; potentially leading to blindness in children should bugs from dog mess get in their eyes. An unfavourable new craze at the moment appears to be bagging up dog mess, and then leaving it hanging from the fence, trees, or just thrown on the ground. Who does this? Why do they do it? We would like to call on anyone who uses the fields to be extra vigilant and help us to identify/report any one seen leaving dog mess behind. It is a criminal offence not to clean up after your dog, even on private land. With this in mind MFFG is working with Stockport MBC and the local Dog Wardens to try and tackle this problem – and your details (times, descriptions of animals/owners etc) will help. We do appreciate, and are very thankful for, the majority of dog walkers who are very responsible with their animal's waste, and who ensure that their animal's behaviour is not threatening to any other users of the fields (canine or otherwise!). Together, we believe we can help stamp out the unacceptable behaviour of the minority – to make the fields and footpaths a much safer and cleaner place to be — for everyone.
The version of this map from about 1978 shows the fields as many of us remember them. Click the button to switch to the same map from 1993.
It's frightening to see how much has already been lost.
The MFFG submitted an application for Mirrlees Fields to be recognised as a 'Local Green Space' in Stockport's new development plan. As part of the application we included a report on the survey we carried out. We had 403 responses which was a brilliant response. Here's a link to the Survey Report.
As part of the application, Sue Bailey also produced an interesting document on the historical significance of the Fields, which you can download from this link.
You can also see more details of what we've been up to on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mirrleesfieldsfriendsgroup/.
Please help to support our work in the following ways:
None of our work would have been possible without the great generosity of our supporters and this will continue to be the case - the more that we receive in donations, the more that we can do to make our fields a great place for everybody. You can donate on-line via our GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-to-protect-the-fields/donate
New to Mirrlees Fields Friends Group?
Join now and have your say on the future of the Fields.
Already a member?
Help us keep our membership list up to date. Make sure we've got your details.
How to contact us:
We find when we talk to people on the Fields that many of those who use the Fields are not aware of the Friends Group or the issues about the ownership of the land. We cannot take for granted that we always be able to walk on the fields - UNLESS we can bring the Fields into some form of public ownership such as a Community Trust.
Please take the opportunity to talk to people you meet on the Fields about the Friends Group and why we exist. Encourage them to come to our website and to become members.
The size of our membership list is one of our biggest strengths when negotiating with MAN Diesel. They cannot dismiss us as a minority group when we have the support of so many local residents who want to see the Fields saved for now and future generations.