Mr Mayor, My first question to the Leader this evening concerns the recently launched public consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Not a very catchy title I am sure you will agree, but nonetheless a document that should command the attention of every member in this Chamber – and particularly any with an interest in the future of our Borough’s Green Belt.
The ten local authorities in Greater Manchester have drawn up plans to meet the projected future need for 227,000 new homes in the county, some 13,700 of them in this Borough.
This may seem an awful lot for Oldham, but Shaw & Crompton and Royton is really being targeted by the developers and may be even Oldham Council as we shall be expected to accommodate almost three thousand new homes plus vast tracks of land for industrial development.
These plans represent a massive land grab in our area and the devastation of our local Green Belt as new properties will be built at Cowlishaw, in the Beal Valley, Rushcroft, the Whitefield Farm area over to Newhey and around Gravelhole and Low Crompton.
Oldham Liberal Democrats firmly believe that our precious Green Belt should be protected.
Our Green Belt and open spaces are one of the things that makes us unique in Greater Manchester. Some of us are old enough to remember those posters ‘Oldham a town in the country’ – it was true 20 odd years ago and is even truer now.
New homes should first be built on former industrial Brownfield sites.
Existing planning permissions need to be actioned.
We should first look to build on derelict and unloved sites in our town centres and districts, convert every empty mill and factory into housing, force developers to build on sites already given planning permission, and bring Empty Homes back into use.
Only when all of these things have been done should we even consider developing vast tracks of our Green Belt.
We miles away from that stage yet.
And we also need to take account of the massive additional burden this will place on our local services and infrastructure. These new houses will mean a lot more cars on our busy roads, many more children needing local school places, more demand for medical centres, shops, and leisure facilities.
I recognise that everyone has the right to live in their own home and be adequately housed but the local burden seems to have been placed disproportionately on Shaw and Crompton and to be fair Royton.
So can the Leader please tell me tonight what this Council will be doing to fight to protect our precious Green Belt from wanton development and what representations will be made to press the demand that there will be sufficient advanced investment to meet the increased demand placed onto our facilities and infrastructure in Shaw and Crompton and elsewhere in our Borough?
Council 9 November 2016 – Leader’s Question – Student Travel to Stockport College
Mr Mayor, my second question relates to an issue that I have raised with the Leader and her predecessor on many occasions – the education of this Borough’s young people.
This time I want to address the proposed merger between Oldham College and Stockport College. The proposed marriage with Tameside College is seemingly now off, Oldham and Stockport Colleges are apparently now the only two dancers still on the floor.
The key question is how is this in the best interests of our young people and Oldham’s potential students? Just one of my worries is the inconvenience that such a merger will cause to local students without access to private transport.
Here are two examples.
Joe travelling from Denshaw to Stockport College faces a two hour journey there and a similar journey back. He starts college at 9am. He catches the 407 Stotts bus from the Junction Inn at 6.36 and is just fortunate to connect with the 6.59 83 service operated by First Manchester from Mumps.
This gets him on time to Piccadilly by 7.45 and he is able to connect with the 192 Stagecoach service 10 minutes later. This drops him off on Wellington Road near Stockport College for 8.40am.
As Joe needs to use three bus services – all run by different operators he needs to buy a System One Student Bus Saver ticket. This costs £13.10 a week or £45.50 for a month.
If cost were not an issue, Joe could roughly halve his journey time if he caught the Metrolink tram from Mumps to Piccadilly Station, via Victoria (£3.40 return, half-hour approx.) and then caught the train to Stockport (£5.30 return, 10mins followed by a 10min walk).
If he were aged 16 to 19 he could get a Scholars Permit to enable him to travel for half the single fare each way.
Emma travelling from Oozewood, Royton to Stockport College, also starting at 9am. Emma’s journey is about as long as Joes. She walks to Rochdale Road (10mins) and catches the 6.48am 24 First Manchester Bus to Manchester.
This gets her there on time at 7.44, which is unusual as the bus is generally delayed by peak traffic approaching the city centre. Emma joins Joe in catching the 192 bus and they sit together on the Stagecoach service, both alighting on Wellington Road.
Emma would also need to buy a System One Student Bus Saver ticket. Emma would probably not save any time going into Oldham to catch a tram as she would have to catch a 409 bus and then wait at a tram stop.
However she could join Joe in getting the train from Piccadilly to Stockport and back (£5.30 return, 10mins followed by a 10mins walk).
This is surely a far from ideal arrangement in a Borough where we aspire to drive up educational attainment and make the best choices available to all of our students.
Can the Leader tell me tonight, what is being done to ensure that the vocational courses that remain on offer in Oldham will remain attractive to local students and relevant to the needs of our local employers?
And what help and support will this Council seek to put in place for those students who are forced to travel to Stockport because of the merger and struggle to do so?