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.

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.”

Pencil Brook Culvert Repairs – construction starts Sept 18 for 12 weeks – update

Update of News Letter issued in July 2018

Since the issue of the newsletter last month and the Drop-in session on the 25th July, we have carried out another CCTV inspection of the culvert running through the Valley Rise wooded area and into Lower Fields Rise.  This has revealed that since the last CCTV inspection in 2015, the culvert has significantly deteriorated in two sections within the wooded area.

We had hoped that the culvert could be repaired using a cured in place lining technique.  This involves inserting a resin impregnated sock it the pipe and curing it with ultraviolet light.  Unfortunately two sections of the pipe of over 100 metres in length are in such poor condition now that they cannot be repaired in this manner.  Indeed the condition of the pipe in the worst area is so bad that collapse could be imminent.  It will be necessary to dig down and replace sections of the pipe. The pipe is 6 metres deep and this is a difficult task which will require much heavier plant and equipment.  It will also be necessary to stockpile arisings to backfill the trench.

Earlier this year we visited site with Nik Anderson, the Oldham Council, Senior Arboricultural and Countryside Officer, who has responsibility for managing the woods.  We reviewed the tree removal and pruning works that would be necessary to complete our works.  At this stage we had assumed that some excavation to replace pipes would be necessary.  The extent of the pipe replacement will now be greater than originally envisaged and the plant and equipment needed for the work will be bigger and heavier.  We will revisit site with Nik Anderson to review the clearance work that is required, and the reinstatement and replanting that will be needed.

Due to the nature of the heavy plant required and the increased scope of work, for safety reasons it will necessary to close the wooded area to pedestrian access for the duration of our work.  We would expect that this would be for up to 12 weeks in duration.

We apologise for the inconvenience this work will cause and would assure you that we will reopen the woods as quickly as possible. It is vital that this works takes place quickly as the consequence could be collapse of the pipe which would result in serious local flooding. For your information photographs of the pipe condition from the CCTV survey have been included on the rear of this newsletter.

 Timescales
•           Commence construction works early September 2018
•           Complete construction works in woods November 2018

 

Cafe Mandels to close, hopefully new operator will be found soon

Last year Councillors were consulted about a reduction in opening hours to assist the business at Cafe Mandels, this was agreed.  Subsequently we have been asked for our views on a request from the tenant of Cafe Mandels to close down between the 31st August and Easter, a period of eight months.

All the Shaw and Crompton Councillors were of a view that this was unacceptable, however we understand that the tenant decided to terminate her lease prior to this decision being communicated to her.

Cafe Mandels is a well-used community facility in Dunwood Park and when the building was renovated and subsequently let out it was the intention that this community facility was not a seasonal one but available throughout the year.

‎Shaw and Crompton Councillors have supported this facility from its inception and will continue to do so.  We will now make sure that it is re tendered quickly and continue to support a new operator.

It is regrettable that the current tenant has decided to pull out of Cafe Mandels but her desire to close for eight months out of twelve is unacceptable to both councillors and users if the park alike.

Liberal Democrats vow to fight to save Oldham’s Greenbelt from house building threat

The Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council is gearing up for the next round in its fight to save Oldham’s Greenbelt from housing.

In just a few weeks’ time, Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will be publishing his latest proposals for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (the GMSF) which will identify where he wants housebuilding to take place across Greater Manchester over the next twenty years.

Last year, public opposition, backed by support from Liberal Democrat Councillors across Greater Manchester, forced the new Mayor to withdraw the original proposals to build homes on greenbelt across the county, including many thousands in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Chadderton and Royton.

The new proposals will be the subject of further public consultation.

Commenting Shaw Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, said: “Last time, the public and Liberal Democrat Councillors gave Labour a bloody nose for its cheek in attempting to concrete over our beautiful green fields and hillsides, creating an unwanted blot on the landscape.”

“The Liberal Democrats recognise that we shall need more homes, including affordable homes for first-time buyers and renters and homes for people living independently with disabilities, but our Greenbelt is irreplaceable so we will continue to oppose any plans to build there when there are unused brownfield sites that can be built on and empty mills which can be converted into residential accommodation.”

“And we also want to see big improvements to our roads, public transport and amenities to cope with the extra demands that more housing will bring.”

Councillor Sykes added: “In March of last year, the Oldham Liberal Democrats brought a motion to full Council demanding we withdraw from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and establish our own fifteen year Local Plan identifying our own housing needs and housing sites.  In a typical example of Labour hypocrisy, their Councillors shed crocodile tears over building on the Greenbelt but then opposed our proposals to withdraw from the GMSF plan and draw up our own priorities in consultation with local people by using their majority to amend the motion by removing reference to these demands.”

The Oldham Liberal Democrats wanted to see a Local Plan for the Oldham Borough where new housing development takes place first:

  • on brownfield or derelict sites
  • on sites with existing planning permission for housing
  • by converting long-term empty mills, shops and offices into homes
  • by bringing existing long-term empty homes back into use

The Liberal Democrats also want to see firm commitments made to invest in those areas where new housing is to be built to provide better roads, improvements in public transport, more school places, and increased capacity in local doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries and health centres.

Councillor Sykes said: “In Shaw and Crompton, we already have primary schools which are bursting at the seams and an overburdened and run down health centre; without more investment in our transport infrastructure and better, new public facilities we simply cannot cope with any more people.”

“The Liberal Democrats will be making its position crystal clear in response to the consultation – No building on our Greenbelt – and I would urge those residents who share our concerns to also respond with their comments before the deadline to the consultation. More information about the GMSF can be found at the website https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/GMSF and residents can also register to receive updates by email.  Let’s work together to save our precious Greenbelt.”