Public Statement – ‘Our Active Neighbourhood’

Yesterday the Levenshulme Bee Network accepted with regret Manchester City Council’s decision to end its involvement with the flagship ‘Our Active Neighbourhood’ project after the council expressed its desire to change the direction of the project.

We do not know what that means for the future of the Active Neighbourhood or the project areas that sit within it, including school streets, play streets, cycle parking, parklets and of course the filtered neighbourhood. But we hope the project now has a sound foundation and we also hope it can balance the desires of people in the community and respond to the need for action to make safer, healthier streets for all.

The Levenshulme Bee Network was set up at the request of local Councillors and as a direct response to the opportunity of accessing funding, using the skills, knowledge and passion of local advocates. It was a unique way of collaborating with the council to give a direct voice to community concerns within the project management team. With the help of the wider community, the Levenshulme Bee Network team wrote the bid and put in hundreds of volunteer hours to successfully secure programme entry for £2.5m from the Mayor’s Challenge Fund. 

The bid was innovative. In that it gave an open brief to develop a scheme that would be right for the area. This was always designed to be a community-led project. Instead of presenting the community with a set of finished plans, we made sure there was a developing brief that meant the project could emerge and respond to what people wanted to see here. For some people this idea of not having a fixed budget, fixed plans or top down consultation has been a challenge.   

We’re really disappointed – especially for the people and groups who have volunteered, supported and engaged with the process – that the Levenshulme Bee Network will not be involved in the next stage of consultation and delivery.

More than the filters, the bid would have included new junctions, crossings and traffic calming. There was an open invite by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) – the funding distributors – to include more improvement measures as identified in the submission of the business case. 

There was a general positive idea at meetings that as a flagship scheme, additional street improvements were understood to be part of that overarching ambition and would emerge during the trial phase as requirements of a successful filtered neighbourhood. The ambitions of this project meant people were looking towards it as an exemplar and looking to the community for our research, our monitoring and our local response to the trials before taking the active neighbourhood plunge themselves.

Whilst developing the initial plans there were over 70 engagement events, workshops and meetings and thousands of people from across our neighbourhood engaged in the process; significantly more activation, engagement and consultation was done than would ever be legally required. But there is/was still more to do.

In April and as part of a response to Covid – 19, A TfGM led campaign called Safe Streets Save Lives, where measures included pavement extensions, one-way streets, removing through traffic on roads and adding cycle lanes became part of the project discussion. The Levenshulme/Burnage filtered neighbourhood project was identified along with other projects nationally to bring forward more quickly.

Combined with lockdown, the pace of schemes being brought forward to aid social distancing meant limited opportunities to inform more people about the engagement to date and the future trial. This, along with uncertainties about delivering non-essential post and face-to-face events  meant the initial vision map was published only online to gain valuable feedback on the proposed trial.

Once finalised (so that accurate information could be sent to each house) and after feedback, all households in the area would have received information about the project, the temporary nature of the trial would have meant that anything that didn’t work could easily have been taken out. An approach used and taken from places throughout the country, Trafford being one. London more regularly. (The trial approach and its use as a live consultation tool has proven difficult to communicate to people who wish to be formally consulted in advance of the trial.) 

Unfortunately lockdown brought an end to our public meetings meanwhile the council came under pressure to deliver quick infrastructure wins to help mobility.  

Just before lockdown project co-ordinator Pauline became a new mum, it meant that to develop the project through lockdown Pauline has worked around the clock, through most of her maternity leave (having already worked throughout her entire pregnancy). 

We understand how this rapid mobilisation of resources came as a surprise to many in the neighbourhood because of the gap in communication due to the pandemic.This was not helped by the manner that they heard the news, often via deliberately misleading or inaccurate statements first posted on Facebook.  

We feel that these misleading statements marked a turning point for the project and a negative spiral in the spirit of the aims it wished to achieve.

For the past 6 weeks we have come in for a lot of abuse, some of it personal, some of it libellous, often defamatory. Members of the Levenshulme Bee Network team have been subject to threatening behaviour, including one member having to be warned that people were knocking on doors asking for their home address and others demanding the removal of people from their posts.

The team has received demands around the clock, 7 days a week to be answered instantly. This has created great personal pressures, affecting mental health and relationships. 

We have always welcomed critical voices and at no point have chosen to exclude or remove voices. In fact, we think that pretty much all the demands that were being made could have been met within the project brief if people whose stated aims were to gather information had ever come to the team with that information.  We really do, they could all be part of the scope of the project and we tried to communicate that but we couldn’t quite shout that loud enough on social media and the pause meant we couldn’t communicate in writing yet either. Rock and a hard place.

The support of this project is clearly there, there is a wonderful network of people that we have come to know. Levenshulme and Burnage are both great places to live and really intertwined. We have been overwhelmed by the offers of support and people wanting to help deliver the project: People willing to give up their time to assist and we are sorry to them that we haven’t been able to deliver on those promises.  

We would really like to thank all those people who are and have been involved so far. You have been amazing, from the school assistants helping to set up meetings with parents and teachers, to the street auditors and clutter survey volunteers, to the open/play street residents who made Summer 2019 really memorable and the many more who came and offered their advice, knowledge and honest passion for the active neighbourhood vision. 

Hopefully the council can continue to shape ways which people can get involved and use that energy we have helped to activate.  The biggest thing is that it is our community, and we can organise whatever way we want.  If we want to create walking buses, or organise events we can – it should never stop us working together to make our area better. We believe in trying things and doing things to make change possible… and it is possible!   

Levenshulme Bee Network was set up to create a project, to coordinate between the community and the project management team and help deliver the project.  Without that role there is no longer the Levenshulme Bee Network. 

We are incredibly proud of what has been achieved, to identify a project and to secure project entry took an immense effort and huge amount of volunteer time. 

We hope that Manchester City Council will honour their original commitment to the project areas and create an active neighbourhood which can put Levenshulme and Burnage on the active travel map.   

Good luck and we’ll see you around (on bike, foot, car or whatever mode of travel you prefer) 

We’d also like to thank the following people and groups for their involvement and active participation to date, this list is not extensive:

Levenshulme Clean Air Group

Manchester University Urban Observatory

Safer Streets For Levenshulme Group

Alma Park Parents – Park and Stride/Walking Bus Group

Madina Mosque 

Sustrans

TfGM

WalkRide GM

Bespoke Transport Consulting

St Andrew’s Parents – Walking Bus Group

Levenshulme High School – Eco/Geography School Group

Local Residents Associations

Interference Art

MCR Active

MCC Neighbourhood Officers

Levenshulme Inspire

Open Street Trial Participants at:

Osborne Road

Pascal Street

Central Ave

Roseneath Ave

Carril Grove

Scarisbrick Avenue

Inspired Task Force/Community Conversations

Levenshulme Arcadia

South Manchester Muslim Community Association/Myriad Foundation

One Manchester

Great Places 

Levenshulme Runners

Alma Park Primary School

St Andrew’s Primary School

St Mary’s Primary School

Chapel Street Primary School

Acacias Primary School

Playing Out Group

Levenshulme Market

Levenshulme Community Association

Levenshulme Traders Association

Commonplace

Lady Pedal

Noor Mosque representatives

And an extended thank you to those considered themselves advocates of the scheme. Your work and support on this is really appreciated by the LBN partnership. that

Comments (21)

Jim Horan

Angry and sad to hear this and sad for all the people involved. So much work and effort gone into this and let down by the do- nothing MCC.

2 months ago
    Anna Smith

    So so gutted and disappointed for the incredible Bee Network team with endless efforts injected throughout the project to engage as many people as possible. And of course, a great loss to the Levenshulme and Burnage communities with their currently inadequate infrastructure to enable safe, active travel. I really hope the extensive research and knowledge will be used somehow. Come on Manchester City Council, you’re better than this (we thought).

    2 months ago
Becky

I am so disappointed to see that it has come to this. What a great opportunity we had for investment in our community and for an improved environment. MCC haven’t a great record of moving such projects forward, but here’s hoping! Thank you to all involved for getting it this far ❤️

2 months ago
Adam Zdravkovic

Terrible news. Great statement summarising how effectively you’ve engaged and delivered the project thus far. Thank you so much.

Shame that MCC and groups of locals don’t have the same vision and really sad about the personal attacks.

Can’t see MCC delivering this quickly/properly because they are a sorry state of failure regarding cycling and walking, but hey, I’ll eat my hat if they do.

Thank you to the entire team. Maybe we should all move out towards a local authority with more vision and confidence to change things!?

2 months ago
Sam

Thank you so much for trying to make Levenshulme a safer, healthier and cleaner place to live.

2 months ago
sonwel

I am sure few would deny the commitment of members of the LBN to bring this scheme to fruition aor do not appreciate their efforts in obtaining funding to improving walking and cycling routes within the local area. However, those of us who, in general, support the scheme, but have raised concerns regarding the failure in planning around the treatment of through-routes, failure to address existing air quality management issues and failure to address existing traffic management issues, will not regret the decision on the part of MCC to pull LBN as arbitrators of the scheme. The defensive nature of your post merely demonstrates the lack of willingness to acknowledge the shortcomings in scheme design or accept that better consideration could have been given to issues raised by those living on residential streets that would have been negatively impacted by the filters that you were proposing to introduce.

2 months ago
Kate

I am so saddened for the LBN team, you have put in so much hard work and effort. The levels of abuse you have received from some elements of our community have been shocking and those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It is extremely disappointing that the council have not supported you fully against this behaviour, no-one should be harassed in their own home. Their silence on this has been noticed. What a shame

2 months ago
Fred Baker

I am extremely disappointed to hear this. I thought the proposal and all the effort that you had put into it were fabtastic. I hope it is not all in vain.

2 months ago
bryan cosgrove

Once again we see what MCC senior officers and members really mean when they use the word “ambition”. So sorry it came to this. I don’t really understand how the very people who blew up about this on Facebook somehow missed the 12+ Months of posts – also on Facebook – about the project, and the invites to consultation events and webinars. A kid was knocked off his bike on my street last night by a driver using it as a speedy cut through. Hey ho

2 months ago
Harry Badoo

Glad this hasn’t gone ahead it would of cause nothing but chaos. Especially around the rush hour’s. Also a lot of misery to residents, Who’s road’s would of become gridlock due to road’s being closed off or made one way and other such nonsense.

2 months ago
Owen Coooer

Really upset and annoyed to hear that a reactionary element have managed to scupper some fantastic plans and ideas. Thank you for all your time and energy. Best run consultation process I’ve ever been involved in.

2 months ago
Owen Cooper

Name is Owen Cooper not Owen Coooer. Apologies

2 months ago
Alison

I am so sorry – was so looking forward to this going ahead. This year just keeps getting worse….

2 months ago
Rebecca G

I’ve been following this project and contributing as much as I could since it was started. I’m so sorry that it’s come to this sad ending. Thank you to all of the hardworking volunteers who tried really hard to get this off the ground. I’m so sorry a small minority of people created a lot of negativity and things got personal – you guys should never have had to go through that. I suppose some people don’t like change, and maybe this plays into a bigger discussion around poverty and inequality in our country – much bigger issues than the remit of the Bee Network could cope with. I hope all you volunteers are looking after yourselves now and taking time to recuperate. You held yourselves to great standards and should be proud of all the work you did and the respect and kindness you showed everyone, even in the face of some cruel and personal comments. Don’t let this get you down. I appreciate everything you tried to do for our community.

2 months ago
D

Very sad news. Thanks for trying! Very much appreciated.

2 months ago
Jeremy Hoad

This statement is misleading and seems to be a deliberate attempt to stir up further division in our community. The project is continuing. The funding remains in place. We should work together to get a better scheme that is more suitable to the area and that more effectively reflects the priorities and concerns of local residents and businesses. Our community will make this project the best it can be together for wider benefit. This is a positive step forward.

2 months ago
LD

such a shame for all involved – so much hard work went into this scheme and so many opportunities for members of the community to have their say. Personal abuse and more worrying tactics are very off-putting to others who want to get involved in improving the community.

2 months ago
cj

Despite the many shortcomings of the consultations and communications (or lack of) what seems to matter, more than anything else, is that the scheme promotes healthier,cleaner environments for all of us.

As usual, the council will promote projects which it perceives as vote winners; rather than sticking to what is ethically correct. Yes, Jeremy and others, businesses are important but not top priority if the side effects of those businesses is toxic air and an environment which is unsafe for citizens who wish to travel without the aid of motors.

Do people want to be poisoned? Do people want environmental collapse? Or, instead, do people want to continue driving short distances to the local shops and the swimming pool when they could generally get there by other means.

Please suggest alternatives to clean up the high levels of carbon, NO, NO2, O3 and various types of particulate matter which lead to high blood pressure, heart issues, lung and brain damage and dementia.

2 months ago
Keep it real

Face it, Levenshulme is a sh*thole and always will be.

2 months ago
Timna

Levy has cut off its nose to spite its face for sure here. So rarely does public participation happen on the scale you managed. You made a difference, inspired so much hope and community. Amazing. Thank you for giving a damn. If only everyone could x

2 months ago
Richard

Sorry to hear this news. What is it that Manchester City Council have against citizen driven activity in Levenshulme? Previously the proposal for a local planning body was canned by the Council, now this. Perhaps it’s time to replace local Councillors with more community and environmentally minded people. Make sure you vote for change at the next election!

2 months ago

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