My two allowed questions at tonight’s (13 Dec) Oldham Council meeting – Oldham’s Town Centre Challenge Candidate and Big Change

Council 13 December 2017 Leader’s Question 1

Oldham’s Town Centre Challenge Candidate

Mr Mayor for my first question tonight I would like to refer the Leader to an initiative launched in connection with the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham on the 17th of last month.

Mayor Burnham announced that he wanted to move away from the “developer-led, green belt approach of the past”.

This is an announcement that both I and my ward colleagues in Shaw and Crompton, as well as thousands of our constituents, will welcome, as in the original GMSF proposals Shaw and Crompton stood to be swamped by almost 3,000 new homes, other tracts of land were designated for industrial development, and our green belt and green spaces would be decimated.

After his election, the Oldham Liberal Democrats wrote to Andy Burnham to ask for the (and I quote) “opportunity to work with you to establish a revised plan that is acceptable to local ward members and our constituents, which mirrors our aspirations for housing and economic development in Greater Manchester.”

It has always been our view that there is no justification for the construction of a large number of properties (or indeed any properties) on Green Belt or Other Protected Open Land (OPOL) before new homes are first built on Brownfield sites, on sites where planning permission for housing development has already been granted and upon the many derelict and the unloved sites in our town centres and districts.

We also believe that every empty mill and factory should be converted and used for housing and that the large number of empty homes across Greater Manchester should be brought back into use.

Mayor Burnham has now invited all ten Leaders of the Greater Manchester authorities to nominate a town for inclusion in his Town Centre Challenge.

The Mayor is proposing to work with each council to bring together housing providers, public and private landowners, developers, community groups and other key stakeholders in a concerted effort to unlock the potential in these town centres, particularly to deliver “viable housing markets and sustainable communities.”

At his launch event, Mayor Burnham promised to use new planning powers and Mayoral grants “to build a new future for those towns through higher density mixed and affordable housing, with local retail and leisure facilities and supported by transport and digital connectivity.”

This sounds like potentially heady stuff, for we are not ‘Luddites’, Mr Mayor, we recognise we need to release more land for more homes for more people.

What we do not believe in is concreting over the green bits!

His plan appears to hold that promise – with an emphasis seemingly placed upon Brownfield development in towns, rather than the ‘death of the Green Belt by concrete’ approach we saw previously.

Mayor Burnham has asked Oldham to bring forward a town centre of its choice to be his development partner so Mr Mayor I would like to ask the Leader tonight whether Oldham will be nominating a town or district for the Town Centre Challenge?

If we will do make a nomination how elected members and the public can become involved in the selection?

Will we have a say on the selection and when do we have to make our nomination by?

Council 13 December 2017 Leader’s Question 2

Big Change

 Mr Mayor, I would now like to return to another very important issue that has again been raised in recent motions proposed by both sides in this chamber recently – the desperate plight of the homeless.

It is an issue that is particularly topical and poignant at this time of the year with the onset of winter.

Mr Mayor, I would like to make a practical suggestion that I feel could make big difference in this Borough.

I am referring to the Big Change scheme, a charitable programme that operates in Rochdale, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds where donors are asked to make donations to a central fund which is used to help all homeless people rather than putting money in a hat or cup on the street.

Evidence suggests that unfortunately some on-the-street donations to people who are begging helps fund drug and alcohol dependency, and can discourage them from accessing services that can help them turn their lives around.

The Big Change scheme recognises that people who are homeless often face practical barriers which need to be overcome for them to become active, independent members of their community and avoid sleeping rough.

It provides homeless people with practical items which support a long term change.  This might include paying for a deposit for a home, a training course to help improve job prospects and clothes for a job interview.

Or it could involve furnishing a new flat, including purchasing crockery, pots, pans and bed linen, as well as funding travel costs to their new home.

In the scheme run by our neighbours in Rochdale, the fund is administered by Just Giving and Forever Manchester, and applications for grants are considered by a panel which includes a former rough sleeper and representatives from charities working with the homeless.

I would therefore like to ask the Leader tonight if she will ask the Homelessness Forum to look into the practicalities of bringing Big Change to Oldham?

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