My two allowed questions at tonight’s Oldham Council meeting -12 September – Green Belt (GMSF) and Trams

Q1 Leader Question – Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – decision for Oldham Borough should be taken by all Councillors

 Mr Mayor, my first question tonight relates to a future decision which will be one of the most momentous in its impact on many of our Borough’s residents over the next two plus decades.

Namely the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) – the adoption of a 20-year housing and industrial land use development plan for Greater Manchester.

The revised proposals have been some time coming, but I understand that they will now be available for so called public consultation in October.

I also understand that a decision has recently been made by the ten Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them.

There will be NO requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the ten Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors.

This is a complete reversal of democracy.

Members will recall that many of our residents were outraged when the initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled.

Liberal Democrat colleagues, I and members from the seats opposite, joined them in opposing the proposals when responding to the consultation or attending demonstrations in Tandle Hill Country Park and in Albert Square.

Mr Mayor, public sentiment is still the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our Green Belt and YES to local Councillors as the people’s representatives ultimately making the decision where new homes are built.

Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.  How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt.  Yet the ten Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people.

It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight, whether despite this backroom deal, he will still be doing the honourable thing by bringing the final plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.

Q2 Leader Question – Call for Conductors on Metrolink Trams

 Mr Mayor, my second question raises another issue that concerns a great many residents in our Borough, their safety when they use Metrolink.

Regrettably we have seen many disturbing instances of crime and anti-social behaviour on the Rochdale – Oldham line, several very violent over recent months and unfortunately the line has the highest number of incidents across the Network.

I welcome the recent actions of Metrolink staff, Police and our Council’s Youth Engagement Officers in tackling this blight, and the news that thirteen offenders have been arrested during the first two weeks of this operation is good news.

The operation may be called Infinity, but the resources are not and it will at some point come to an end.

Some time ago Oldham Liberal Democrats revealed shocking figures that one in eight Metrolink passengers are fare-dodgers, or to put it another way 12% of all journeys are not paid for.

There are 40 million tram journeys a year so fare-dodging is estimated to cost Metrolink about £9 million in lost revenue.

Oldham Liberal Democrats have also flatly opposed Labour plans (supported by the Conservatives) to put up fares for honest Metrolink passengers by an inflation-busting 19% by 2020 when one in eight passengers travel free.

Rather than hammering the honest passenger, transport bosses need to focus on tackling fare evasion.  12% non-payment is a disgrace.

Conductors on trams would help tackle this issue and should pay for its self, whilst making the honest traveling public feel safe.  It would also drive the fair dodgers and those causing anti-social behaviour off the trams.

Other tram services in the UK have on-board staff on every service, such as the Sheffield Super Tram and on the Wolverhampton – Birmingham line.

Not only does a conductor provide passengers with reassurance that there is always someone at hand should they need assistance in an emergency, but that person can also give passengers advice about services, stops and fares and help them to board and alight.

So for my second question tonight, Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader if he would be willing to join me in calling upon Metrolink operators to introduce conductors on a trial basis on the Rochdale – Oldham line?

We can improve safety, tackle fare evasion and increase revenue for Metrolink – a triple win – and I do not know why we are not doing it already.

Eastway, Shaw – proposed passenger shelter now gets thumbs up!

As people may be aware the battle for a bus shelter on Eastway has been ongoing for some time now.

The requested was refused due to the narrow width of the pavement in this area.

See: 

Request for bus shelters on Eastway, Shaw – refused

However I am now very pleased to report that following negotiations with ASDA for the use of some of their land (Big thanks to ASDA) the shelter can now be accommodated .  Also a passenger count has been undertaken and the number of passengers boarding has met TfGM minimum criteria for a shelter.

The next step in the process is that the proposals are presented to TfGM’s Bus Networks and TfGM Services Committee in October for approval.

Hopefully works can start soon after that.

Petrol filling station – for Asda Supermarket, Greenfield Lane, Shaw, – appeal again refusal

FULL DETAILS ARE IN THE LINK BELOW ALONG WITH HOW PEOPLE CAN SUBMIT THEIR VIEWS ON THIS MATTER AND WHERE AND WHEN THE APPEAL WILL BE HELD, WHICH IS A PUBLIC MEETING ANYBODY CAN ATTEND.

ASDA planning appeal details

Shaw and Crompton Liberal Democrat Councillors are disappointed that Asda have proceeded to appeal their plans for a petrol filling station.

This is despite the recommendation of Council Highways Officers that this development is unsafe, and the strong objections of local residents in relation to traffic congestion as well as the concerns of residents living directly opposite the proposed site who’s right to a peaceful life will undoubtedly be disrupted by a petrol station literally on the doorstep of the terraced houses.

Royal Bank of Scotland to shut in Shaw

Commenting Shaw Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Gloster stated.

The closure of the Roya‎l Bank of Scotland is yet another blow to Shaw Town Centre.  When RBS announced the closure of the Oldham Branch late last year, I wrote to the Chief Executive of RBS asking him to consider extending the opening times of the Shaw Branch which is currently operating on  a three day week,  especially in view of the imminent closure of Barclay’s Bank in Shaw.  They declined this request.

As it stands Shaw and Crompton will now have no main stream banking services whatsoever other than the Post Office.

It is a sad fact of life that town centre banking services are quickly becoming extinct due to the rise in popularity of Internet banking, convenient for some but highly inconvenient for ‎others, particularly businesses and people without access to  the Internet, most commonly the elderly and vulnerable..

Some people simply prefer not to use Internet banking so they are not at risk of increasingly clever Internet fraud.

As an RBS customer myself I am disappointed that after the Yorkshire Bank closed, they canvassed myself and other residents of Shaw and Crompton to open an account at their branch only for ‎them to shortly after reduce hours and now close.  The bank is always busy when open so there clearly is demand.

I think RBS have missed a golden opportunity here, all banks want customers, where better to build your client base when you are the only bank in town?

I will again write to RBS outlining my concerns and seek assurances that at a minimum, the RBS cash machine outside Tesco Express on Market Street ‎will be retained, and ascertain what plans they have for the machine currently located outside the Branch.

Green waste collections in Shaw & Crompton Friday 7 Sept – leave your bins/caddies out and they will be collected tomorrow – 8th Sept

I have been informed the Council have some small pockets of Garden/kitchen waste collections outstanding in the following areas:

  • The Rises
  • George Street Area

Residents are requested to leave the bins/caddies out and they will be collected first thing tomorrow morning ( Saturday).

Liberal Democrat Leader Seeks Council Action to Reduce Male Suicide

In advance of World Suicide Prevention Day, Monday September 10, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Council’s Chief Executive, Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE, urging the Council to advertise local and national services that help prevent those contemplating suicide from taking their own lives on its own website and in public buildings.

Councillor Sykes has previously raised his concerns about this issue, particularly on preventing instances of male suicide, at meetings of the full Council.  He said:  “Every suicide is shocking, but the scale of male suicide is especially shocking.  Every two hours a man in the UK takes his own life – it is the single biggest cause of death of men under 45.  One of the tragedies of this situation is that there are many agencies out there, both local and national, that can help prevent this happening – just recently in Oldham, a branch of the charity Andy’s Man’s Club opened in the Oldham Leisure Centre for just this purpose.  I have asked the Chief Executive to publicise these services in Council buildings and on our website, because this is a practical action that we can take that may well save someone’s life.”

The letter to Dr Wilkins reads:

Dear Dr Wilkins,

Monday September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

The statistics of male suicide are particularly shocking.  Every two hours a man in the UK takes his own life – 84 men every week.  It is the single biggest cause of death amongst men under 45 years of age.  Every single suicide impacts on 135 other people – and the relatives of anyone who commits suicide are themselves statistically more likely to take their own lives.

Male suicide is an occurrence that is not talked about enough – and we must talk about it more often.  Men frequently commit suicide because they are unable to express their feelings, anger and frustration.  Yet there are agencies out in our community that can offer a listening ear and support to these desperate individuals, including those at the point of ending their own lives.

Many are the helplines operated by local and national organisations, but recently a local branch of Andy’s Mans’ Club opened at the Oldham Leisure Centre and men can self-refer to this service which meets on Monday’s at 7pm.

In my view, as a local authority with a public health duty, we should be publicising these agencies as much as possible to those who need them.  Yet, regrettably, there is NO mention of or links to any of these agencies that I can find on the Council’s website.

I would therefore like to request that as a matter of urgency this information is made available on the Council’s website and on public notice-boards in our key public buildings as soon as possible.

This is one positive practical act that we can do that might help save someone’s life!

I shall look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

Leader of the Opposition.

Help for suicidal thoughts

These agencies are open to those who need help.

Andy’s Man Club meets at Oldham Leisure Centre on Mondays at 7pm.

The Club can be contacted via http://andysmanclub.co.uk/contact

You can also emailed me at info@andysmanclub.co.uk

Unless it says otherwise, they’re open 24 hours a day, every day.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123 – this is free to call
Email jo@samaritans.org

The Oldham and Rochdale Branch is located at 5, Caton Street, Rochdale OL16 1QJ. It is possible to go to the Branch for help, but phone first. Opening times for face to face visits are:

Monday 15.00-20.00
Tuesday 18.00-22.00
Wednesday Closed
Thursday 18.00-22.00
Friday 18.00-22.00
Saturday 09.00-12.00
Sunday Closed

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page

Papyrus – for children and young adults under 35 or anyone concerned about the well-being of a young person
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill

The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90

Backroom deal by Labour on 20-Year homes plan threatens Green Belt

Oldham Liberal Democrats have discovered that the Labour Council leaders of the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester have made ‘a backroom deal’ with Labour Mayor Andy Burnham that only they will need to sign off on plans to build new homes and factories across the city region as proposed as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).  Each of the 10 authorities need to agree to the plans but previously it was the councils (and all their councillors) that agreed such matters, this has now all changed.

Commenting the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, said:

“Local Councillors and local residents deserve a say in how many homes are built, and where and when.  The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, when it is finally approved, will be the plan to build homes across Greater Manchester for the next twenty years.   This is one of the most important decisions that will affect the lives of everyone living in Oldham Borough for the next two decades.  If we get it wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt and green spaces.  Yet the ten Labour Council leaders are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.”

Councillor Sykes believes he knows why the agreement has been reached:

“When Labour’s initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled, they were bitterly opposed by local Liberal Democrat Councillors in these areas and by many thousands of local residents.”

“Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, Liberal Democrat Councillors and residents’ groups have led the charge against these proposals.  Such was the strength of local feeling that there was a demonstration in Tandle Hill Country Park and residents from our Borough joined others from across Greater Manchester to protest in Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall.”

“Public sentiment is the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our green belt and YES to local Councillors and people playing their part in deciding where the new homes are built.  This agreement represents a backroom deal to make it easier for Labour to push through their plans and prevent opponents from being able to block unsuitable developments or safeguard the green belt.”

Councillor Sykes will be demanding answers: “I will be asking the Leader of Oldham Council to explain this decision and to find out whether he has any plans at all to allow local councillors to have a say on the proposed sites for development and I will let you know how he responds.  It is simply not right that such an important decision can be agreed by leaders and the Mayor rather than the 10 councils themselves.”

Liberal Democrats call for Council Action to Tackle HGV Gridlock

At the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 September) Liberal Democrat Councillors Derek Heffernan and Garth Harkness will propose and second a Motion asking for action to tackle the traffic chaos caused by HGVs using inappropriate roads in the Borough’s smaller villages and rural areas.

Both Councillors witnessed this earlier this year when on April 26 in their own ward of Saddleworth North a large articulated lorry blocked the junction of Grains Road and King Street in Delph for four hours.

Commenting, Councillor Heffernan said: “Garth and I saw then the chaos that a HGV driver can cause in a village when trying to navigate a tight road junction in a small village. These situations usually occur when drivers ignore displayed weight or width restrictions or use satnavs designed for cars instead of those specifically designed for HGVs and large vehicles. We want the Government to change the law so that these vehicles have to be equipped with the appropriate commercial version. They may cost a little more, but they will help reduce the price paid in inconvenience by local residents, such as our constituents in Delph, and other road users.”

The two Councillors also want the Council to support a call by the Local Government Association that Government give local authorities new powers to enforce traffic restrictions against HGVs.

Councillor Heffernan added: “The Police are often too overstretched to enforce these regulations. If the Government enacted Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, this would grant Councils the necessary powers to carry out enforcement action.”

Finally, the motion calls on the Council to co-operate with the two Parish Councils, with local residents’ associations and the Police to introduce Lorry Watch schemes in areas of the borough where HGV holdups may happen.

Councillor Heffernan concluded: “Lorry Watch scheme rely on local residents to record vehicles flouting weight and width restrictions and report them. Like Home Watch, this is about empowering local residents to take positive action to help keep their villages and rural areas HGV free. If we all do our bit, we can keep the traffic flowing.”

Council 12 Sept 2018 – Notice of Opposition Business

Motion 1 – Keeping Our Villages and Rural Areas HGV Free

Council notes that:

  • HGVs and large vehicles can bring small villages and rural areas to a standstill when these vehicles are too large to navigate smaller roads.
  • This has happened most recently on April 26 in Delph when a large articulated lorry blocked the junction of Grains Road and King Street bringing chaos to the village for four hours.
  • These situations often occur because drivers of these vehicles chose to ignore displayed weight or width restrictions or fail to use a satnav system specifically designed for lorries.
  • The Police do not always have the resources to enforce these restrictions, yet Councils outside London and Wales are currently prevented from doing so because the Government has failed to bring Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 into force for Councils in the rest of England.
  • Lorry satnavs are like normal car satnavs, but they include bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for trucks. In addition, they allow the driver to enter the lorry’s dimensions – height, width, weight and load – so they are only guided along suitable roads. Their cost is slightly more than that of a standard car sat-nav.

Council further notes that, in several parts of England, Lorry Watch schemes have been established. These are run by local residents who record instances of vehicles flouting weight and width restrictions, and report them to a Parish Council Coordinator, the Police or their Council Trading Standards Department.

This Council:

  • Supports the position of the cross-party Local Government Association that the Government should bring Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 into force for all relevant English councils with immediate effect and legislate so all HGVs and large vehicles are required to install suitable satnavs designed for lorries and large vehicles.
  • Believes that establishing Lorry Watch Schemes in various parts of the Borough is worthy of consideration.

Council resolves to:

  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Transport requesting the Government bring Part 6 of the 2004 Traffic Management Act into force and legislate to make the use of suitable satnavs for HGVs and other large vehicles mandatory.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to seek the support of our three local MPs and the Mayor of Greater Manchester for this position.
  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board to examine the merits and practicalities of establishing a Lorry Watch scheme in various parts of the Borough, in conjunction with the District Executives, the Parish Councils, residents’ associations, and the Police.

Grass cutting

A number of residents have been in touch about grass cutting or the lack of it.

The Council suspended the majority of grass cutting due to the drought conditions but now we have hit wet and warm the grass is once again romping away. (Normal for September) The approximate cutting regime for most grass is based around a three weekly cycle.

Hopefully areas not touched for a month or so will be dealt with first and most this week.