Latest on getting Dunwood Park Tennis Courts and MUGA operational again

Dunwood park Tennis courts

As many people will be aware these works have not been completed in the timescale planned.  I and other local councillors have been working behind the scenes to get this area usuable by our young people.

Undocumented services and drains under the area that had to be dealt with have led to the delay.

I am pleased to now report we have got a solution that gets them open for this weekend but will require a closure later in the year to correctly finish the works, details below.

The new Box culvert has now been installed and the old tennis courts surface removed and replaced with a new Binder /surface to specification for applications of multi – use Games areas (MUGAs)

The reinstatement to the boundary wall is continuing this week and will be completed by Friday 28/07/2017.

The painting and lining markings in accordance with ( LTA standard Courts) should not be completed until 6-8 weeks after the new surface has been laid, to allow the gases and fats from the bitumen to disperse and ensure good adhesion of the paint.

As an interim measure the courts will be marked out on Thursday 27th July 2017 (Weather permitting), these line will be sacrificial and re-painted after the school holidays and the 6-8 weeks have expired.

Liberal Democrat Leader disappointed Local Plan Consultation held over Summer Holidays

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment that Council officers have chosen to conduct a public consultation on the Oldham Local Plan during the school holidays.

The consultation started on 10 July and ends of 21 August.

Details of the local plan can be found at https://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200585/local_plan

Responses can be submitted online at http://oldham-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/oc/planning/spi or emailed to spi@oldham.gov.uk or returned by post to

Strategic Planning and Information, Economy, Skills and Neighbourhoods, Room 310, Level 3, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1UH.

Councillor Sykes said: “The Oldham Local Plan may sound a dry document, but it is in fact the document that will underpin the delivery of new homes and new businesses in our Borough for years to come, and more importantly it will be the key document that will determine what happens locally under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.”

“Many residents of this Borough, particularly in Shaw, Crompton, Royton and Chadderton, are up in arms about the implications of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and they have held rallies at Tandle Hill Country Park and outside Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square to let it be known that they are opposed to development on our precious Green Belt.”

“Given the strength of local feeling, it is unacceptable to conduct a public consultation on an issue of such importance in the school holidays.  Many residents will be taking families away with them on holiday.  Responding to this consultation by the 21 August may be far from their minds, but if they feel strongly that they want to save their green belt I would urge them to take time to do so.”

Councillor Sykes and his Liberal Democrat colleagues in Shaw and Crompton remain vehemently opposed to plans to build almost 3,000 new homes in the two wards on surrounding Green Belt and other green land:

“Local residents are rightly up in arms, fearing that not only will the current plan mean that their precious Green Belt will be lost forever under a carpet of concrete, but also that the existing medical, school and leisure infrastructure, which is already severely stretched, will be completely swamped with the extra demand.”

The Liberal Democrats have a clear aspiration for future housing development in Greater Manchester.  Councillor Sykes explained: “Development should be on brownfield sites first, particularly sites with outstanding planning permission, coupled with mill and factory conversions to housing and a drive to bring existing empty homes back into occupancy, whenever this is practicable.  This view will form the basis of our response to the consultation.”

My two allowed questions at tonight’s council meeting – The Grenfell Tower Fire and the Lack of School Places

Oldham Council 12 July 2017 – Leader’s Question 1 – The Grenfell Tower Fire

Mr Mayor, I am sure that every member in this Chamber will have been as horrified as I was to see the images of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and the impact that it had on both the building, the tower’s residents and its’ neighbours.

The latest estimate is that there will be at least eighty lives lost; many residents are still missing; and the survivors of the blaze remain traumatised; coping with injuries and missing loved ones; without any possessions and with no certainty about their future housing circumstances.

Mr Mayor, it would be remiss of me at this point not to condemn the woeful response of this Government to the needs of the fire’s victims and the shameful absence of Prime Minister; Theresa May in the aftermath of this enormous tragedy.  Strong and stable – I think not.

I have a stark message for the Prime Minister – it is your job to lead the nation in times like this and on this occasion you failed miserably.

It would also be true to say, in my opinion, that the local council for the area; Kensington and Chelsea; was an embarrassment to all involved in local government.

Both the Officer and Political Leadership of that council has failed their residents big time!

I am pleased to say this is in stark contrast to Oldham Council when we have had to face emergencies such as Maple Mill and the tragic gas blast in Shaw.

On a more positive note, it was however a tremendous relief to learn, following enquiries made by my Liberal Democrat colleague; Councillor Chris Gloster; that none of the tower blocks in this Borough have been clad with any inflammable material as Grenfell appears to have been.

At a time like this, I am sure the Leader will want to reassure members of this Chamber; and more importantly the residents of our Borough’s tower blocks; and their friends and relatives; that all of the components of any type of external cladding system used in this Borough are safe.

Also that the evacuation procedures for tower blocks in Oldham have been thoroughly reviewed in recent days to ensure that they are up-to-date and follow best practice.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader for this reassurance tonight and also for a brief summary of what the current advice to tenants and occupants of such tower blocks is in the event of a fire?

Also what is happening to other public buildings in the Borough that could possibly be clad with similar materials as used in Grenfell such as leisure facilities, education buildings and health service accommodation to name just three?

Council 12 July 2017 – Leader’s Question 2 – School Places

For my second question to the Leader tonight, Mr Mayor, I want to return to an issue that I have raised many times in this Chamber before – namely the education of our Borough’s children.

I was disappointed, and, in all honesty, sad, to read recently that once more Oldham was bottom of the class when it came to the number of our children who miss out on attending a secondary school of their choice.

And I am not just talking here about pupils (and their parents) not getting their first choice of school – I am talking here about them not getting their second or third choices either!

In this Borough almost 9 percent – to be exact 8.9 per cent – did not secure a place to start at ANY of their preferred schools in September, which is nearly 1 in 10 pupils or approximately 300 of them!

So now we have another mark of failure against our education system as according to the Department for Education, Oldham was the sixth worst performer in the country and the worst in the North West for school choices.

Compare this to the national figure – 3.6 percent – we are three times higher!  Three times as many denied the secondary place that they seek.

The Borough is also second worst in the region for the percentage of pupils being offered a place at their first preference school, 74.8 per cent compared to 83.5 per cent nationally.

Compare this to Rochdale where nearly 94 percent of pupils got their first preference school and only 1.5 percent of pupils in Rochdale did not get a place at one of their three preferred schools.

In Oldham our primary sector is not much better; 6 percent pupils or 181 children; failed to get a place in their first, second or third choice schools.

It is scandalous – we can do better, much better and we must do better, for the sake of our children and their educational future.

Because if we do not offer children a place at a secondary school that they want to go to we are hardly providing them with an inspiring start to help spur them on to do their level best in their final years of compulsory schooling.

I look forward to the Council meeting when I can ask the Leader a positive question about education in our Borough – but I am sorry to say that with the current level of performance that I cannot see this as being at any point soon.

Let’s hope that the new Saddleworth School, the new Royton and Crompton School and the expanded Crompton House School and Oasis Academy will be able to meet the educational expectations of all of our young people; but these are long-term and not immediate gains, and some of them are still far from certain.

So my second question to the Leader tonight is; what is being done now to ensure that every child in our Borough receives a secondary school place of their choice in the future?

Micro-plastics Pollution not a Micro Problem

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment that Council officers have yet to formally respond to his call to reduce the pollution caused by the micro-plastics in road paint.

Last month, Councillor Sykes wrote to Helen Lockwood, the Council’s Executive Director Economy, Skills & Neighbourhoods drawing her attention to research late last year by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The Centre reported that Britain’s rivers and lakes are being polluted with micro-plastics from the paint used to lay out road markings.  Researchers looked at four sites in the Thames Valley.  In the most polluted site they found a significant proportion of pollution believed to have derived from plastic paint washed from road surfaces.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said: “I am aware that Councils are required to use British Standard road marking paint to adhere to strict road safety specifications, but I would like to be assured that we are doing what we can to reduce this pollution as it appears to have real potential to impact on aquatic life and habitats in this Borough.

“I know that the Local Government Association is considering this matter and we should be supporting their efforts to persuade Government and manufacturers to reduce the use of micro-plastics in such paint and develop safe alternatives so that our environment is not damaged in the interests of road safety.”

Poo Watch Letter sent to the Oldham Chronicle

Dear Sir,

Graham Wilcock (Letters June 13 – Lay Off Dog Walkers) is ‘barking up the wrong tree’ in thinking I have something personal against the responsible dog walkers who use High Crompton Park.

My issue is not with responsible dog walkers, and not specially with any dog walkers in High Crompton Park, rather it is with the IR-responsible dog walkers who fail to clear up after their dogs wherever this may be in the Borough.

I made no specific reference to High Crompton Park, in fact the reference was made by a Council senior officer.  So why he berates me for it I have no idea.

I should have thought that Mr. Wilcock with his stated concern for maintaining the reputation of responsible dog walkers would welcome my suggestion that the Council employ modern technology so that responsible dog walkers and other citizens can help it police dog fouling by reporting instances promptly and accurately.

It works in Worcester so why not here?

In that way, we can all enjoy cleaner parks without the threat posed to public health and the blight to public spaces caused by dog fouling.

If Mr. Wilcock wants to read exactly what I said it is on my website: https://howardsykes.mycouncillor.org.uk/ and it is crystal clear I do not mention High Crompton Park.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

Liberal Democrat Councillor