In his first day in office, leader of Trafford Council Cllr Andrew Western has withdrawn controversial plans to build a football training ground and new facilities on Turn Moss in Stretford, pledging to open a “community-led consultation” on the area instead.
Announcing the move via Twitter, Labour leader Western, who replaced Conservative Cllr Sean Anstee as council leader following this month’s local elections, said he had advised the council’s head of planning that Trafford “formally withdraws the planning application at Turn Moss”.
The move was met with jubilation by campaigners who have argued against the plans since they were first mooted by Anstee and Trafford’s Conservative leadership, alongside the scheme’s partner, Gary Neville’s UA92, last year.
Prior to the local elections, the Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Green parties all reiterated their opposition to the project. Local groups, including the Save Turn Moss campaign, argued the proposals were “clearly in contravention” of policies including the National Planning Policy Framework and green belt policy.
However, Anstee also took to social media to defend his role in the project. Posting on Twitter, Anstee said it had been “a privilege” to work with Gary Neville on the scheme and added: “It’s a shame some created a highly politicised angry environment to the complete detriment of today’s young people”.
Gary Neville also claimed on social media that campaigners had subjected the development’s supporters to “harassment and bullying”.
The planning application would have seen UA92 and the council build a training ground for Salford City FC, including four training pitches, an office, and a gym converted from an existing storage facility.
There were also proposals for a new floodlit pitch for public use alongside a café, children’s play area, and changing facilities.
The plans had proved controversial with the initial consultation being extended by around a month following a deluge of opposition. Campaigners have claimed the scheme was the most objected-to planning application in Trafford’s history, after it attracted around 1,800 letters of objection.
The works were estimated to cost the council around £2.5m, up from an initial estimate of £1.5m.
Friends of Turn Moss committee member Nixon Tod welcomed the statement from Western and said: “We believe it’s the correct decision to withdraw the flawed plans. The drainage strategy would have been a disaster for the grassroots teams, it’s a real victory for local people.
“There is funding out there to improve Turn Moss for everyone, better facilities for the footballers is a priority, it needs to stay green belt and free for all to use.”
In another social media post, Western also said he had written to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to “advised that Trafford’s Labour administration will never support housebuilding on Flixton’s green belt”, and requested that the area “be removed from the next phase of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework”.