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?

Liberal Democrats welcome Revision of Green Belt Land Grab Plan

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, have written to the new Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham to welcome his rethink of the controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.  The newly-elected Mayor has appointed Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett to oversee a rewrite of the proposals.

Cllr Sykes said: “Much of the Green Belt land in Oldham that was proposed for housing development is located in the two wards represented solely by six Liberal Democrat Councillors, namely Shaw and Crompton.  Over three thousand new homes are proposed in these two wards.  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.  Cllr 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.”

In his letter, Cllr Sykes has made the new Mayor an offer: “I am pleased to say that the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council enjoyed a cordial and constructive relationship with your predecessor.  We look forward to establishing a similar relationship with yourself so that we might together work to make Greater Manchester, and its ten constituent local authorities, greater still.”

“We hope that you will offer us the opportunity to work with you and Mr Dennett 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.”

 Attached letter to Mayor Andy Burnham

22 May 2017

Mr. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, GMCA, Churchgate House, 56 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6EU

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Many congratulations on your recent election. I am pleased to say that the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council enjoyed a cordial and constructive relationship with your predecessor. We look forward to establishing a similar relationship with yourself so that we might together work to make Greater Manchester, and its ten constituent local authorities, greater still.

We welcome your recent commitment to revise the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and your appointment of Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett to oversee the rewrite.

We hope that you will offer us the opportunity to work with you and Mr. Dennett 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.

The original plans for Oldham proposed that 13,700 new homes be built and almost 700,000 square metres of land made available for new factories and warehouses in the borough. Approximately 3000 were to be located in sites in Shaw and Crompton, and other tracts of land were designated for industrial development.

To the six Liberal Democrat Councillors representing Shaw and Crompton, this plan represented a massive and inequitable land grab in our area with the loss of our much-loved Green Belt and OPOL (other protected open land).

Our constituents have rightly been up-in-arms about it, and have participated in demonstrations at Tandle Hill Park and in Albert Square to protect their Green Belt. As their elected representatives, we have supported their aspiration not to see any development of the Green Belt.

Labour colleagues representing Royton and Chadderton are also upset at plans to devastate Green Belt in their areas and I know they would also welcome the chance to participate in a dialogue with Mr Dennett and yourself.

It is the view of the Liberal Democrat Group that there is no justification for the construction of a large number of properties (or indeed any properties) on Green Belt or OPOL land 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 used for housing and that the large number of empty homes across Greater Manchester should be brought back into use.

We also wish to see the apportionment of housing and commercial development across every ward within every borough rather than the disproportionate imposition of development on a few wards such as ours.

It is our belief that Shaw and Crompton lacks the necessary infrastructure to meet the needs of the residents of more than 3,000 new homes. Our primary schools are full and overcrowded; we have a secondary school that is falling apart; a dilapidated Health Centre that is near cardiac arrest; no swimming facilities or dry leisure provision; precious few youth facilities and no municipal tip.

New homes with growing families need primary and secondary school places; more GPs and dentists; leisure and shopping facilities; and new highways and more buses and trams to get them there.

Mr. Mayor, I hope that in light of these facts that you will wish to engage the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group in the re-write and, with this hope in mind, I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely

Howard Sykes

Lib Dem Opposition Leadership Team for 2017/18 announced – Oldham Council

Following a Group meeting on 15 May, the Oldham Borough Liberal Democrat Group has announced their appointment, unanimously and un-opposed, of Councillor Howard Sykes MBE as their Leader and Councillor John McCann as their Deputy Leader.

Councillor Sykes has also announced the appointment of his Shadow Cabinet Team for 2017/18.

Councillor Howard Sykes said: “I am delighted and honoured that John and I have once again received the unanimous support of our party colleagues. The Liberal Democrats remain the only effective opposition holding Labour to account on Oldham Council.”

“Under my Leadership, and with the support of my Shadow Cabinet Team, we will continue as a group to speak up and work hard for the residents of this Borough, particularly those who are marginalised or disenchanted with Labour, who want to hear an independent, common sense voice speaking out for them for better and more accountable public services.”

“As the Liberal Democrat Opposition, we shall oppose further central government cuts on Council finances and help fight our corner in negotiations with the new Greater Manchester Mayor and devolved authority so that Oldham gets its fair deal.”

“In June, we shall face a difficult General Election. The Liberal Democrats are a growing party of over 100,000 members with a dynamic leader in Tim Farron and a radical policy agenda for a stronger economy and a fairer society, including more financial support for local government. We also want to see the right deal in place on Europe that preserves cross-Channel trade on fair terms and leaves us on friendly relations with our continental neighbours.”

“I am confident that everyone in the party will be fighting hard to return as many of our Liberal Democrat colleagues as possible. I wish all of our Liberal Democrat candidates well in the forthcoming battle, especially those fighting the three Parliamentary seats in our Borough.”

Notes: details of positions are below.

The Lib Dem Group:

Leader – Cllr Howard Sykes;
Deputy Leader – Cllr John McCann;
Group Chair – Cllr Chris Gloster;
Group Vice-Chair – Cllr Rod Blyth;
Political Secretary – Cllr Garth Harkness;
Treasurer – Cllr Derek Heffernan;
Group Secretary – Cllr Diane Williamson

Shadow Cabinet (Shadow Executive Members):

Howard Sykes Economy and Enterprise (Opposition Leader);

Julia Turner Education and Early Years;

Garth Harkness Employment and Skills;

Rod Blyth Social Care and Safeguarding;

Chris Gloster Health and Well-being;

Diane Williamson Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives;

Dave Murphy Environmental Services;

John McCann Finance and HR.

GM Fire and Rescue: Cllr Derek Heffernan

Transport for Greater Manchester: Cllr Howard Sykes

Audit Committee: Spokesperson – Cllr Garth Harkness

Overview and Scrutiny Board: Spokesperson – Cllr Diane Williamson

Performance and Value for Money Committee: Spokesperson – Cllr Rod Blyth

Planning Committee: Spokesperson – Cllr Rod Blyth

Licensing Committee: Spokesperson – Cllr Chris Gloster

Standards Committee: Spokesperson – Cllr Diane Williamson

Health and Well-being Board: Spokesperson – Cllr Rod Blyth

Petitions and Traffic Regulation orders: Spokesperson – Cllr Chris Gloster

District Executive: Shaw and Crompton – Chair Cllr Diane Williamson;

Saddleworth and Lees – Spokesperson Cllr Garth Harkness.

Closure of footpath Dunwood Park – from 15 May for 2 weeks

The temporary closure of footpath 55 Crompton which runs through part of Dunwood Park is required due to works to construct a culvert; this is the path that runs between the tennis courts and the Metrolink.

The path on the opposite side of the tennis court is also affected.  Works are scheduled to commence on the 15 May 2017 and proceed for 2 weeks.

Follow the link for details and diversion route: Closure of footpath at Dunwood park plan