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Revealed: the best place in Manchester to be a tree
Why are most of our protected trees in the south of the city? Plus: Gary Neville on foreign investment, and our weekly to do list
Dear Millers — we hope you had a lovely weekend. Welcome to a jam-packed Monday briefing that will inform and delight you in equal measure. Probably mostly inform actually, but there are moments of delight. There may even be moments of anger and upset as you learn about the extreme south Manchester bias in this city’s tree protection regime. More on that from our data reporter Daniel Timms in a second.
We have a members’ event coming up on Thursday evening at the lovely Anthony Burgess Centre. Our senior editor Sophie Atkinson will be in conversation with David Scott, author of Mancunians, a brilliant new book about the city and how it’s changed. It’s £5 to attend, plus you’ll hear from the critically acclaimed photographer Anne Worthington, who has kindly agreed to take us through some of her best photographs, including iconic shots of East Manchester at the turn of the century. Book your tickets now.
Speaking of Daniel Timms, over the weekend we published his brilliant analysis of what is causing Oldham to fall behind the rest of Greater Manchester economically. “One very good thing about this piece is that it gently questions the prevailing wisdom in economic geography: that what’s best for towns like Oldham is actually to grow nearby cities like Manchester,” tweets the economist Andrew Sissons, who posted an interesting thread on that topic.
FYI: You really ought to be listening to our podcast, where we discuss the issues affecting Greater Manchester, the stories coming out of The Mill, and even lift the lid on how we do journalism! In our latest episode, Darryl and Mollie pick through the local election results and ask what Arooj Shah’s return as Oldham’s council leader means for the town’s fractured politics. Plus, we journey to neighbouring Liverpool for the Eurovision Song Contest and digest new rules for Manchester’s landlords.
Listen on the Spotify player below or click here to listen wherever you get your podcasts.
And finally: a quick open newsroom request for our readers:
Jack is writing about workers in the Manchester’s hospitality industry struggling with late payment or wage theft. If this is something you or someone you know has experienced, please email firstname.lastname@example.org today or tomorrow.
Mollie is looking into cases of sex-trafficking in Greater Manchester hotels, please email email@example.com with any useful info.
What’s going on upstairs at the museum?
From today’s sponsor: Almost half a million visitors have streamed through the doors of the revamped Manchester Museum since its grand reopening a few months ago. But if you go upstairs from the rare frogs and the ancient mummies and dinosaurs, something equally remarkable is happening. The museum has opened up its Top Floor to create a co-working hub for people who want to make a difference in Manchester, including environmental groups, local artists and a specialist school for neurodivergent young people. It’s part of Manchester Museum’s big new mission to go from being fascinating for visitors to being useful for the city — creating a resource for the people of Manchester to learn, share ideas and build community. Find out more and plan your visit.
By sponsoring our Monday Briefings you can reach our passionate and influential audience of 34,448 Millers while also providing vital support for our journalism. Visit our partnerships page or email firstname.lastname@example.org now.
This week’s weather
This week’s forecast comes from our local weatherman Martin Miles, who says we’ll have to put up with cooler air for another few days before it starts to feel more like late spring. Aside from a few showers, there will be plenty of sunshine to enjoy this week too.
Tuesday 🌦 Breezy with occasional sunshine and afternoon showers. Max 14C.
Wednesday 🌤️ Dry with sunny spells and light winds. Warmer. Max 16C.
Thursday 🌤️ Warmer still with sunny spells and light winds. Max 19C.
Friday 🌦 Mostly dry with sunny spells. Max 19C.
Weekend ⛅️ Mainly dry and settled with seasonally pleasant temperatures.
The big story: What’s behind Manchester's great tree divide?
Top line: There are just under 3,000 protected trees in Manchester, but they are overwhelmingly based in the south of the city. In fact, north Manchester only has 41 trees with preservation orders — meaning that around 98% of our protected trees are in the south. What’s going on?
Some context first: Tree preservation orders (TPOs) are placed on individual trees by councils to ensure that nothing happens to them without their say-so. TPOs “are used to protect trees of a high amenity value or which have a significant impact on the environment,” the council says. If you want to cut down, lop, top, uproot or otherwise wilfully damage one of these trees, you’ll need written permission from the town hall.
The penalty: If you take matters into your own hands and wreak arboreal carnage, you could face a fine of up to £20,000 per tree.
How does it work? The process can begin either with the council deciding to protect the tree, or a member of the public putting forward a candidate. If the council deems that it is “expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands”, the TPO goes ahead. Trees that can be seen by a lot of people, and that may be threatened by future development, are especially likely to be granted an order.
Which trees get the most protection? If you’re a tree in Manchester looking for a peaceful life, free from lopping and topping, then it’s best to be a lime tree, aka a linden — not a tree with actual limes on it, but one that can be easily recognised by its heart-shaped leaves. Over 500 protected trees in Manchester are limes, almost one in five of the total. The other big hitters are sycamore (457), horse chestnut (264), beech (203) and holly (also 203). Together these account for over half of Manchester’s protected trees.
You’re also strongly advised to take root in Didsbury. The ward of Didsbury West is truly a safe haven — a whopping 745 (or one quarter) of protected Mancunian trees are found here. You’ll have less luck north of the city centre, where only 41 TPOs have been issued to date.
At this stage, someone out there is itching to post in the comments that this simply reflects there being more trees in south Manchester. Only that’s not the case. Compare the overall forestry cover in different wards, and there’s only a very weak correlation, with lots of exceptions. Didsbury West is mid-table for total tree cover, while Charlestown (in Blackley) in the north ranks third best, yet it only has one protected tree (and yes, it’s a lime tree). Burnage, in the south, has very low overall tree cover, but it’s home to over 200 TPOs.
That comment you were going to post probably is the story in the city centre, though, which has very few trees, only eight of which are protected.
Why does this matter? People feel strongly about their local trees. In Sheffield, and more recently Plymouth, street trees have become the dominant local political issue, and with good reason: trees clean local air, improve mental health, store carbon, provide refuges for wildlife, reduce the risk of flooding, and create welcome shade in warm weather. There are lots of reasons to want them in our city.
Millers will know how passionate things can get when much-loved trees are taken down — see our recent members-only story “A standoff over tree-felling in south Manchester” which featured the quote: “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.” (She didn’t become a corpse, but on this occasion the trees did).
If a tree isn’t protected, it’s a lot easier to remove it if it’s getting in the way of development; there’s no requirement to seek permission first. And, once a tree has gone, growing a new one to maturity takes decades. And environmentally speaking, it’s the mature ones we really need.
Bottom line: We don’t know why south Manchester has more protected trees than the north, though it may well reflect activist locals pushing to have their trees signed up. It’s also probably been subject to more development pressure — though this may be starting to change. With the Northern Gateway scheme opening up the area north of the city centre, and the north of the city generally becoming a focus for developers, now might be the time to start securing the future of locally important trees.
Your Mill briefing
On Friday, Manchester’s world-renowned cancer treatment centre was downgraded by the Care Quality Commission, which dropped The Christie one place from “outstanding” to “good”. The demotion comes after whistleblowers raised concerns about bullying, as well as claiming that the leadership had tried to manipulate the inspection by intimidating those who wanted to speak out about poor governance. If you’d like to speak to us about The Christie, please email email@example.com.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is now thought to be the frontrunner in the race to buy Manchester United. His offer could be as high as £6 billion, and would reportedly leave current owners the Glazer family with a 20% stake, a clause that irks many fans who want the American family out of Manchester entirely.
Showtime! A 10-year old from Rochdale and her dog have qualified for next year’s prestigious Crufts Dog Show. Darcie Fleming and her whippet Domino recently came fourth at the National Dog Show in Stafford.
Home of the week
This grand five-bedroom Victorian home in Chortlon, with oak flooring, stained-glass windows and an antique toilet seat, is on the market for £845,000. It almost certainly has several protected trees in its vicinity.
Our favourite reads
‘Manchester has achieved its success in spite of the government’ — The Financial Times
The FT sat down for lunch with Gary Neville at his Stock Exchange Hotel and had a sometimes-spicy conversation about football, Manchester and foreign money. So has he raised human rights issues with Qatar, the paper’s northern editor Jen Williams asks Neville? “I don’t have a relationship with Qatar,” he insists, “I worked for a Qatari broadcaster.” On the money that has flowed into Manchester City (and east Manchester generally) from the Gulf, Neville says: “There is no doubt that what Abu Dhabi have done over that side of the city has been powerful and wouldn’t have been achieved by any other money locally or nationally.”
Saving Salford Red Devils — Tribune
Paul King, director of the Salford Red Devils, writes an emotional story about transitioning the Super League rugby club from investor ownership to a community-owned model, keeping the club afloat on a loan secured against his own house, and being on the cusp of winning the league. “Perhaps I am stupid. Perhaps we won’t make the cash this time,” he writes. “Perhaps I’ve bet my house on a lost cause, and this is just the last hurrah. Time will tell. But if we make it once more, as we have done so many times in the past, the club will finally be where it belongs—in the hands of the working-class people of our city, who built it brick by brick.”
Can nationalisation by stealth save Britain’s railways? — The New Statesman
Jonn Elledge writes about Britain’s least reliable rail operator, Transpennine Express, which will lose its contract at the end of this month after failing to get performance levels up to a reasonable standard. Elledge argues that the service’s collapse after years of under-investment typifies how “after thirteen years of Tory government, everything is starting to break”, and that substantial investment in rail infrastructure across the North is urgently needed.
Our to do list
🎭 No Pay No Way follows a woman’s trip to the local supermarket, where she finds the prices of everyday items have doubled. Who says art doesn’t reflect reality? “This ferocious and feisty political comedy is an urgent exploration of our global economic reality,” says the Royal Exchange, where No Pay No Way will be showing from May 12 to June 10. Book here.
🤔 Philosophy Café is returning to Manchester Art Gallery. It’s a conversational session led by volunteers who want to help you ponder life’s big questions. This week: how fear influences our decisions. Starts 10:15am. More info.
🎻 Rochdale Light Orchestra are playing at St Michael’s Parish Church, Bamford, at 8pm. Described as an “evening of melodies for Springtime in a Coronation year”, it’s free to attend and you can find out more here.
🌏 Apparently sourdough is the most sustainable bread in the world, so this Material Source Studio seminar on sustainable design comes with a collection of sourdough bakes for you to sample, alongside a discussion around how “sustainable design has evolved with places, health and wellbeing at the core of the design process”. It’s a 5:30pm start. Book here.
💃 There’s a free LGBTQ+ Salsa class at Studio25 in the Northern Quarter. You’ll have the chance to “learn to dance the way you want to. Everyone gets a chance to lead, everyone gets a chance to follow”. It starts at 8:30pm. Book here.
✍️ And of course, the hottest ticket in Manchester’s spring calendar — our Mill Members Club, phew — will be at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. Senior editor Sophie Atkinson will be interviewing David Scott about his new book Mancunians and photographer Anne Worthington will be walking us through some of her most iconic images of early 2000s Manchester. Starts 6:30pm. Tickets here.