Meeting report: Vital and Viable Chorlton Alliance/ Collaboration Meeting June 11th 2019, Bowling Green Hotel

(NB not a formal part of the Vital and Viable Chorlton project with MMU)

Present: Carolyn Kagan (Convener), Linsey Parkinson, Eve Holt, Shaun Fensham, Steve Goslyn, Chris Peacock, Nicola Hamilton, Alan Williams, Paul Hannon

Representing Chorlton Voice; Open Up; Chorlton Traders;  Unicorn Grocery; Chorlton Community Land Trust; Chorlton Coop Cluster; Chorlton and Whalley Range Dementia Action Group; Age Friendly Whalley Range and Chorlton; Friends of Hough End Hall; Barlow Moor Community Association; Whalley Range Forum; and councillor from  Chorlton  Ward..

Apologies: Edge Theatre;Chorlton Good Neighbours; Chorlton Connected; Councillors Chorlton park Ward; Brookfield House development; Chorlton etc and Chorlton Park etc Health and Social Care development; St Clement’s Church

Agenda agreed at start of meeting:

  1. To revisit the idea of and commitment to a collaborative alliance across groups in Chorlton
  2. To revise aims and objectives of the group
  3. To consider potential membership of the group
  4. To consider the establishment of a Neighbourhood Forum (within Locality Act 2011 definition)
  5. Next steps
  1. To revisit the idea of and commitment to a collaborative alliance across groups in Chorlton

Background to the initiative, which originated following the Vital and Viable Chorlton workshop run by the Institute for Place management at MMU, was summarised. 

Paul, from Whalley Range Forum gave a short account of how the Forum works. It started in 1995. It gives the opportunity for all community and voluntary group,sas well as services, in the area to come together and share information. Over time it has grown into an important force for the area, listened to by the Council. In addition to bi-monthly meetings, there is a website, mailing list and grant funded projects – a part time worker keeps all this going. Is thought to be very successful, although it is revcognised that there  are probably some groups still not involved. Membership at meetings, approx. 12, but many more on mailing list. Example was given of an invitation extended to a non-member group to pass information to the Forum, which was then able to disseminate this to members via the mailing list. 

General discussion followed and points raised included:

  • Some of the functions undertaken by the WR Forum are already fulfilled by, eg Chorlton Voice (such as responding to planning applications; holding monies for projects without bank accounts). 
  • More community involvement in Neighbourhood Coordination meetings would be a good thing.
  • With no co-ordination, different groups chase the same funding
  • BMCA holds development days with Councillors attending
  • Paid worker (part time) is central to WR Forum’s current success
  • Chorlton is a larger area – perhaps there are just too many groups for a collaborative Forum? Or maybe will just be more difficult.

It was agreed that the collaboration was worth pursuing.

Priority themes for the collaboration could be overlapping projects; the implementation of action plan due from the Vital and Viable Chorlton project.

  1. To revise aims and objectives of the group

Aims and objectives were reviewed. The possibility of separating values (cooperation, empowerment, inclusion) from objectives was raised.

It was suggested that in places greater specificity would be useful.

Rather than being a ‘voice’, the collaboration could be a channel for information to and from the community.

It was agreed to forward any changes in wording suggested to Carolyn, who will revise and circulate more widely. (NB by end of June please!)

  1. To consider potential membership of the group

After some discussion it was agreed membership should be open to representatives from all or any groups in Chorlton. The idea would be each rep would  bring information from, and ,disseminate information back, to their groups.

Projects that cut across groups (such as Chorlton Fair Trade), not sitting with any one group, could also have a presence. Indeed, a collaborative group would be a good place from which to launch such projects.

The idea that each group would introduce itself on joining the collaboration (their aims and objectives, main issues/problems faced etc) was raised, but no decision was reached, although it was thought a good idea.

It was noted again that the origins of the collaboration lay in the Vital and Viable Chorlton workshop in February (report due imminently from MMU) – it is unclear whether we can use Vital and Viable in our title. To be reviewed.

Frequency of meetings was discussed. BMCA meets quarterlyand also has meetings with the local shops; WR Forum meets bi-monthly. It was agreed that next meeting should be September and frequency of meetings considered again at that meeting.

The issue of where information about groups in Chorlton is held was raised. It was noted that Chorlton Voice was compiling a list, updating the directory of organisations that used to appear in Open Up. It was noted that councillors and neighbourhood officers also held lists. Agreed to continue compiling contact details of groups in Chorlton, across both wards. Eve to ask Neighbourhood officers if their lists can be shared. Carolyn will check where the listing by Chorlton Voice is up to.

  1. To consider the establishment of a Neighbourhood Forum (under the Localism Act, 2011)

Chris, from the newly formed Community Land Trust gave an overview of the powers of the Neighbourhood Forum and neighbourhood planning,  under the Localism Act, 2011. 


The main points covered were:

A lot is happening in Chorlton but the community has had few opportunities to influence the shape of developments. (The recent sale of the Coop funeral Care site happened with no community involvement – Shaun form the Chorlton Coop Cluster raised a question a the recent Coop AGM and may have got the sale halted; Chorlton Community Land Trust has submitted an application to get the site designated an asset of community value, and if successful this will give a 6 month moratorium before the site can be sold.)

Having a Neighbourhood Forum would then lead to the development of a Neighbourhood Plan – the process transfers power to the community, which can then, for example,  allocate sites for particular uses, identify types of housing required to meet housing need. Agreement to the Plan (or not) is achieved via a local referendum.

Cooperation of Councillors and the LA Planning Deptis needed.

Steps in the process:

1 Define the area of the neighbourhood (not as easy as it sounds)

2 Establish a Neighbourhood forum

3 develop a neighbourhood Plan, based on rigorous evidence (may take up to 2 years)

4 may continue to construct a Neighbourhood development Order (instructions to developers)

Chris willing to lead on this.

Eve noted she has had conversations with Exec Member for Housing and is hopeful the Council will be supportive.

Neighbourhood fora have been tried in Northenden, Withington (?), Castlefield, Marple

Some caution raised re the purpose of the legislation which was initiated by the Coalition Government – to undermine local authorities and pass obligations to un paid community members. Resource strong communities (such as Chorlton) could be pitted against the LA which is pooling resources to underserved areas. This could be seen as a ‘Nimby-ism Charter’.

Or it could be seen as an opportunity to achieve things by coming together (could become a ‘raising bee’ – more often known as raising a barn, where people come together to construct a  neighbour’s barn in USA. Any kind of bee (pun!) is  a social gathering where people combine work, competition, amusement, etc, such as a spelling bee; or even the great British sewing bee!)

All plans must be consistent with National planning framework and Manchester’s local plan (which does not seem to be imminent!)

It was noted that some developers try to begin developments before a plan in completed. There are lots of examples of planners refusing permission because a Neighbourhood Plan is in the process of development.

In Chorlton, Councillors have begun a process to get people’s views on the future of Chorlton with a view to revising the Chorlton Plan (2009/10). This could feed in to a Neighbourhood Plan.

A Neighbourhood Forum must be constituted (formally or informally) – if any liabilities are likely to arise it should be in a form with limited liability. 

Agreed to pursue  a Neighbourhood Forum. Chris to do a one-page outline and begin looking at how the neighbourhood could be defined (NB MCC re-defined both Northenden and Castlefield’s proposed neighbourhood areas). Chris and Carolyn to look at other urban Neighbourhood forums (fora?) and try to find out how they are constituted, to bring to next Collaboration meeting,

Next meeting: September 16th. At Barlow Moor Community Association, 23, Merseybank Avenue, M21 7NT.