A standoff over tree-felling in south Manchester
'If they’re going to decide to chop down a tree I’ll stand in front of it and lie on it myself until I literally become a corpse'
Dear Millers — let’s start with an apology. In our weekend read about St Patrick’s Day, we interviewed a woman called Bernadette Hyland, who we said “grew up in Clayton, West Manchester.” That description prompted several tweets and emails from readers, and we soon initiated a thorough internal review into what went wrong. The review found that staff writer Jack Dulhanty, a Salford native, was six pints of Guinness deep when he wrote the piece late on Friday night and mixed up east and west. Jack has committed to a programme of cultural education in the East of the city, including being booked onto a full season of Jonathan Schofield’s local tours.
Tomorrow morning, we are publishing a piece looking into the “trailblazer” devolution deal signed between Greater Manchester and the government this week. We’ve been speaking to local officials, politicians and policy wonks to find out what the deal means and how it really changes how we are governed. If this all sounds like how you’d like to spend your Saturday morning, make time at 8am for that.
Today’s story is a little different. Not about policy or governance or multi-year funding streams but about the issue that animates neighbourhoods like no other: the felling of mature trees. Yesterday morning, a Mill member who lives in Rusholme emailed us early in the morning with the following message:
Some young people in [names street] are trying to prevent the destruction of 6 mature copper beeches and are tying themselves to the trees. The council may be partly supportive but it is private land. These are beautiful trees and very much part of our little street scene. It is happening NOW.
When Mollie got to the scene, the standoff was ongoing. Tree surgeons were waiting nearby. Protesters were tied to the trees. Neighbours and a councillor were circling around to see what would happen next. The landlord who had ordered the felling — who rents out his property to students — wasn’t around to be confronted. Then, a few hours later, one of the tree surgeons had had enough. With a young woman still tied to the tree, he fired up his chainsaw.
Mollie takes up the story below. As always, this edition is a members-only one, and regular Millers can read a few bits at the top to stay informed. If you’re not a member yet, please do join up now to read this story and all our members-only reporting, analysis and recommendations. You’ll also be able to come to our Mill Members Club events and comment under stories. It’s quite a community — do join up.
Your Mill briefing
Ten students were forcibly removed from a University of Manchester building on Wednesday, which they had been occupying for six weeks in protest of high rent and poor living conditions in university accommodation. The High Court granted the university a possession order on Monday, which was then served to the occupiers, but many stayed. Videos emerged of students being carried out by black-clad bailiffs in combat trousers and stab vests. “I’ve never felt more worried about the direction of the university,” one ejected rent striker told us. “This sort of violence [coming from the university] hasn’t been seen by any of us before. It really shows us how they never did care about the students.” A university spokesperson said: “We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.” Since then, students have occupied the university’s security offices.
Nigel Meadows, Manchester’s senior coroner, has been suspended as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, reports the MEN. In 2021, Meadows’ own area coroner, Zak Golombeck, and Fiona Ledden, Manchester’s city solicitor, called for him to be suspended on account of comments he has made in and out of inquest proceedings, and for other “bizarre” behaviour. And, in February Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, spoke in parliament about a Manchester coroner being subject to allegations of sexual harassment. “If the coroners’ service in Manchester was a school or hospital trust,” Stringer told the commons, “it would be in special measures.” Know more about this? Get in touch: email@example.com.
The second year of the #BeeWell survey into the mental health of young people in Greater Manchester has found that girls and LGBTQ+ young people report lower levels of wellbeing. These inequalities have carried over from the survey’s first year (we spoke to the survey’s lead about that here) with girls reporting lower levels of wellbeing than boys, and LGBTQ+ young people reporting significantly lower levels of wellbeing than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. This year’s survey also found that as they get older, young people get less sleep and feel less awake in the classroom. In an average class of 22 Year 9 students, nine (41.8%) feel they aren’t getting enough sleep.
A man from Stretford is writing to the Pope about an old graveyard in Salford. The Barton Upon Irwell Roman Catholic Graveyard, in Eccles, is unregistered land, and there hasn’t been a burial there since 1940. Because of its unregistered status, Salford City Council can’t bar public access. Craig Ellis, a 52-year-old historian, is concerned the graveyard has become a danger to local residents and a drug den, saying: “I've exhausted every avenue I can to try to get something done, and the only person I can think of who might be able to step in is Pope Francis, so I am writing to him.”
An operator has been selected for yet another food hall and market opening on the bank of the River Irwell. Sessions, which run similar venues in London and Brighton, will be in charge of the 30,000 sq ft venue built by Allied London. You may recall we wrote about Escape to Freight Island last week, a similar venue that has encountered trouble with this kind of widely adopted business model. That said, others have enjoyed great success, Mackie Mayor, a food hall in the Northern Quarter, was just named the nation’s best.
One great shot
5th of August 1989, at Joy — the North’s first outdoor rave. Organised by Anthony and Christopher Donnelly, also known as the Gio-Goi brothers, it took place at Stand Lees Farm in Ashworth Valley, Rochdale, and was attended by tens of thousands of people.
On the scene
Mollie Simpson witnesses a tree standoff in south Manchester
When I meet Sophie, a 25-year-old woman from Hulme, she is tethered to a tree by a thin blue rope with a scarf covering the bottom half of her face. She has dyed blonde hair and speaks softly but her presence here is a source of frustration for a group of tree surgeons, who are standing nearby, waiting to do their work.
This is a quiet residential street in Rusholme, and at issue are eleven trees in a private garden. The landlord, who lets his property to students, wants to extend the large Victorian building to create more student flats and some parking. But word has got out about the felling via concerned neighbours and a group of local protesters is in place by 9am.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Mill to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.