SLH Response: Heaton Mersey Common Footpaths Consultation

Sustainable Living in the Heatons (SLH) responded to the Stockport Council Consultations on the Heaton Mersey Common Footpaths. The consultation is now closed but you can read about it here. You can read our response below.


SLH is supportive of the overall scheme but the support must be considered alongside our detailed comments as there are elements that we do not support.

Consultation Question 1

We strongly agree with this proposal but wish the Council to amend the proposals as documented in detail in the text below

Consultation Question 2

We strongly agree with this proposal but wish the Council to amend the proposals as documented in detail in the text below


Sustainable Living in the Heatons (SLH) is supportive of the proposals to improve path access as described in the Proposal for Heaton Mersey Common but recommend that the details published need further clarification or amendment.

We have gone back to first principles.

Climate change is the greatest crisis the world has ever faced. It is pushing wildlife to the brink with 1 in 6 species facing extinction if we fail to act. It requires a radical and ambitious response from our elected leaders and Council. Reducing car usage is a key method to reduce our carbon emissions, and will also improve air quality. As a borough we are facing numerous additional crises associated with the dominance of the car including social isolation, obesity, pollution, road traffic accidents and deteriorating mental health, all of which are putting a significant strain on the public purse. Creating safe routes for people to walk, wheel and scoot to the shops, to school, to green space will have a positive impact on each and every one of these indicators.

We call upon Stockport Council and our elected representatives to make our roads safer for all by prioritising walking and cycling infrastructure on our road network.

We support carefully thought through proposals to enable connections to be made by foot, by cycle, by scoot to enable people to use our greenspace – as we have endeavoured to propose in this submission. We suggest more thought is still required in how to use the local road system to complement the footpath proposal. This is particularly so for Mersey Rd and Priestnall Road which cannot be considered safe routes with the current conflicts between the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers especially at peak school times.

Covid has changed behaviour with more people walking and cycling regularly in their local area, and we are seeing the impact of this increased usage through erosion of paths across Heaton Mersey Common. 

  1. We have considered the purpose of The Common as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) (Appendix A). The purpose of which is “to care for the natural features which make the site special”. We support the upgrades to the paths that will improve the pressure on the natural features. But the provision of lighting will impoverish the fauna. Lighting should only be used where essential and it should be designed to have minimal impact on local residents and the fauna and we request the Council adhere to The Bat Conservation Trust Guidance (Appendix B) and follow the recommendations of the Council’s ecologist to minimise impact on fauna.
  1. The Council have made considering the proposals particularly difficult by not publishing the Ecological Survey information it has relied upon in forming the proposal. We understand an ecological survey has been prepared but not released. Without seeing written proposals explaining how the advice from the ecological survey will be implemented it is difficult to comment on the potential impacts. We request you share the ecological survey with the public, and that there is a commitment to follow the advice.
  1. There is a potential conflict inherent in the proposal, namely that the footpaths are required to serve two purposes. The improvements are promoted as a “quiet route for pedestrians and cyclists between the Manchester Cycleway (Fallowfield Loop) and the Trans-Pennine Trail at Heaton Mersey”, but they run across a LNR that is used primarily for recreation and which should be actively enhanced for its wildlife features. Most users of Heaton Mersey Common will use the path for recreation. We request the Council minimise this potential conflict by turning the footpath adjacent to Priestnall School into a shared path with significant traffic calming measures along Mersey Road. Having two shared paths will reduce the burden on the single path through the LNR. This would be more consistent with the advice given by Brian Deegan in his Beeline training and would minimise conflict of use between through cyclists and walkers (except for the short section adjacent to Priestnall Allotments).
  1. We acknowledge there are some concerns regarding the potential speed of cyclists along the paths. We recognise that research demonstrates most cyclists slow down when there is a high level of pedestrians on a path. We request that signage and good communication is issued to ensure that the shared paths are used carefully including specifying dogs on short leads while on the shared paths. We recommend “Share with care” signs (Appendix C) are used at certain entrances to the Common.

In detail we suggest this alternative approach:

AGREE with the improvements to the two routes (A and B) as necessary to enhance recreational use and access to schools, shops and green space BUT we wish to see an alternative shared cycle and walking route (using the yellow path on the consultation plan) offered adjacent to Allotments and Priestnall School and via Mersey Road with significant traffic calming measures to minimise the pressure on the path through the wood.

AGREE with the proposed exit on to Burnage Lane but are concerned it is placing cyclists in a vulnerable position. We recommend Burnage Lane is treated to give cyclists safe space on the road to continue their journey.

DISAGREE with the proposed lighting scheme as it will have strong, negative impact on wildlife. We recommend lights are only introduced where essential which is only a short lighted section along the suggested path at the eastern edge of Heaton Mersey Common along the path adjacent to Priestnall School buildings and then Priestnall Allotments (compromise suggested to recognise its use as a through route). The lighting design should comply with Bat Trust design guidance, namely fauna still needs protection by ensuring the lights a) have no back-wash, and b) that any sideways spill must produce no more than 1 lux, 1m beyond the path edges (Appendix B) and on timers to ensure not lit overnight when the green space is not in use. Similar mitigation was used recently at Abney Hall.

AGREE with existing paths to be widened to 3m, however we believe a compromise is appropriate in the short lighted section along the suggested additional shared path (rather than footpath) at the eastern edge of the Common adjacent to Priestnall School buildings which should be signposted as through route. If it is essential to widen this short section of the path we request it is extended by one meter into Priestnall School grounds by the side of the sports hall. From our observations this area of the school and leisure centre adjacent to the path is infrequently used.

AGREE with bollards to prevent unauthorised access, typically placed centrally at the access points, fitted with shared (pedestrian and cycle) use signage where applicable. These bollards should ensure that the path is fully accessible to all: walkers, those pushing wide buggies and wheelchairs, and cyclists including disabled people and those on non-standard bikes.                                                                               

AGREE with replacement trees to be planted as part of the scheme and some trees are to be relocated. We request that the contractor has responsibility to ensure the trees are established and should the trees die within 5 years of the being relocated / planted then the contractor would have responsibility to replace. We request the Council’s ecologist is involved in the decision on the tree species and locations to ensure suitable for the tree / wildlife.

ADDITION: Once the path upgrades are completed we request the Council work with the contractor to plant native species (as recommended by the Council ecologist) along the path edges to help the flora and fauna recover from the works.

ADDITION: We request a gravel or similar path for pedestrians along the other side of the hedge next to the cycle path by Priestnall Allotments. In 2020 this route has been used a lot by walkers and is a clear desire line and is now worn and muddy.

ADDITION: That the Council publishes information to show how it has complied with the Equalities Act in relation to the accessibility of the Scheme.

Appendix A

Guidance vis the purpose of Local Nature Reserves

Heaton Mersey Common is a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), this means is a statutory designation made under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and amended by Schedule 11 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006)

LNRs are controlled by the local authority through ownership, lease or agreement with the owner. Their main aim must be to care for the natural features which make the site special. An LNR can be given protection against damaging operations. It also has protection against development on and around it. This protection is usually given via the Local Plan, (produced by the planning authority), and often supplemented by local by-laws. Unlike national designations, the level and type of protection afforded an LNR is decided locally and varies from site to site. (To find out more, including the process of designation, see the Natural England LNR website).

Appendix B     that leads to

Appendix C