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Answers to Questions

Last week was the regular full meeting of Bury Council. As usual your local team of Liberal Democrat councillors asked the maximum number of questions allowed, here are some of the highlights:

Number 96 Bus (to Heywood Road and Simister)
Councillor Steve Wright asked a question following the very poor service seen in recent weeks and months on the above service (regularly running behind time and sometimes not even going to Simister).
Q. Could the Council’s spokesperson on the Greater Manchester Transport Committee comment on the very poor service in recent months on the 96 subsidised bus service to Simister? What can be done to improve on the reliability of this service, and in particular stop any ’turning back’ before Simister by the operator?
A. This has been an ongoing problem over recent months, the reasons behind the problems are as follows:

  • Residents/Pub goers are parking in the turning circle at the terminal point in Simister so services have not been able to turn there and have had to turn around at Parrenthorn School turning area
  • Timing issues have caused delays, especially in the Prestwich area, causing the service to continually run late.
  • Roadworks at present and recently on Heywood Road in Prestwich has further compounded the issues.
  • The route was changed in 2020 to service Prestwich and Simister but this has not worked out due to heavy traffic and one lane traffic (due to cycle lane in Prestwich village). The route was also extended last year and very little time added to help with punctuality.What has/is being put in place:
  • The temporary roadworks were due for completion on 3rd September.
  • Targeted traffic enforcement.
  • Service changes to make this a morereliable/punctual service.

Residents Parking Schemes
Councillor Michael Powell asked about the refusal of the Council to take forwards Residents Parking Scheme proposals. In two areas of Prestwich (Upper Wilton Street and Warwick Street) these have been triggered by residents, but the policy is not being implemented by the Council.
Q. Residents in the Warwick Street/Albion Mews and Upper Wilton Street areas of Prestwich have now been waiting for over a year for the Council to follow its own policy on the consideration of a residents only parking scheme, in both cases a policy triggered by resident requests. When will this process start in both areas?
A. Due to resourcing pressures in dealing with the ongoing pandemic, the Council will not be accepting any applications for new resident parking schemes until further notice. There are currently 12 resident parking schemes in effect across the borough containing over 6000 properties. We will review the position periodically, but there are no current plans to start on any new residents parking schemes.

Green Belt land lost in the the “Places for Everyone Plan”
Councillor Cristina Tegolo asked about the proportion of green belt land lost (or gained) in the Places for Everyone plan (the new name for GMSF).
Q. Could the Leader inform members of the net proportion of green belt land to be removed/added in each of the six townships of Bury, for the whole of Bury and for the whole of (the nine districts of) Greater Manchester under the Places for Everyone plan?
A. On a township basis, Places for Everyone is proposing net changes to the Green Belt as follows:

  • Ramsbottom, Tottington and North Manor would see a reduction of 0.8%;
  • Bury West would see an increase of 5.8%;
  • Bury East would see an increase of 1.6%;
  • Radcliffe would see a reduction of 10.6%;
  • Whitefield and Unsworth would see a reduction of around 28.6%; and
  • Prestwich would see a reduction of around 13.7%.

Extend Covenant to Afghan civilians who worked for Britain

Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey MP has called on the Military Covenant to be extended to cover Afghan citizens, who have put their lives at risk to work for British troops and organisations over the last 20 years.

The Armed Forces Covenant protects UK military veterans and their families. Writing in the ‘I’ newspaper, Ed Davey has called for the Covenant to be extended to include Afghan soldiers and interpreters who have been working with the British forces in Afghanistan.

I newspaper

He says: “The UK owes a huge debt of gratitude to all the Afghan citizens who heroically took a stand and worked alongside our brave men and women on the ground over the past 20 years.

Without their selflessness, we simply couldn’t have achieved what we did and undoubtedly more lives would’ve been lost. It is only right that their huge contribution is recognised and rewarded.

We must start by ensuring all Afghan interpreters, and their families, are able to come to the UK. Now is not the time for arbitrary caps on refugees – unless we offer sanctuary they will be hunted down by the Taliban, and we will see a humanitarian crisis unfold before our eyes.”

Ed Davey will table an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill when it comes before Parliament and it is likely to receive widespread support.

The Liberal Democrats also want to see the Armed Forces Covenant expanded to include Afghans, particularly those who acted as interpreters, to ensure they are not disadvantaged as they look to build a new life here in the UK.

Consultation starts on ‘Places for Everyone’ Plan

Formal consultation on the Greater Manchester ‘Places for Everywhere’ plan is now open for residents to have their say.

Every household in the borough of Bury will shortly receive a letter about the Places for Everyone proposals, with details of what it means for their local neighbourhood and how they can view and comment on the plans. The consultation period lasts until 3 October. 

Places for Everyone is very similar to the GMSF (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework) that received a huge number of objections over recent years. Now Stockport is not part of the plan, it has the new name of Places for Everyone. 

The plan proposes land for 165,000 more houses across Greater Manchester in the next 15 years. In Bury the plan would mean the loss of 1,700 hectares of precious green belt land (countryside). 

In what must win the award for false advertising, Greater Manchester’s councils have used the by-line ‘Protecting our Green Spaces’ on the consultation. They mustn’t be talking about Prestwich, Whitefield or Radcliffe, where some of the largest losses of green belt land are taking place.

At the recent Bury Council meeting, Liberal Democrat Councillors voted against these plans, but we were sadly outnumbered by the ruling Labour Group.

Now it is your chance to have your say. The plan is at its ‘publication stage’ and is the version of the plan that the nine participating local authorities intend to submit to the Government. People are being asked whether they think the plan has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements and meets the four ‘tests of soundness’ (as set out here: paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework).

The Places for Everyone plan, plus supporting documents and background evidence, is on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website at www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/placesforeveryone.

The plan is at its ‘publication stage’ and is the version of the plan that the nine participating local authorities intend to submit to the Government. People are being asked whether they think the plan has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements and meets the four ‘tests of soundness’ (as set out here: paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework).

Comments can be made via the online response form at www.gmconsult.org. Alternatively, you can download the response form available on the GMCA website and email it to placesforeveryone@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk

You can also submit your comments by:

Once the period for making representations ends on 3 October, it is intended to submit the Publication version of Places for Everyone to the Government alongside all supporting evidence and comments made. Please note that it will only be comments that are made on this version of the plan that will be submitted to the Government.

The Government will then appoint a Planning Inspector to undertake an Examination of the plan. Their job is to examine whether the submitted plan meets the ‘tests of soundness’ and all the relevant legislative requirements.

Council Approves Places for Everyone Plan

Sadly, Bury’s Councillors agreed by a narrow margin to proceed with the ‘Places for Everywhere’ planning proposals. Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the proposals, but 26 Labour councillors voted in favour which was enough to win this time.

Places for Everyone is very similar to the GMSF (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework) that received a huge number of objections over recent years. Now Stockport is not part of the plan, it has the new name of Places for Everyone.

The plan proposes land for 165,000 more houses across Greater Manchester in the next 15 years. (To put that in context the whole of Bury added together currently has 77,000 houses.)

In Bury the plan would mean the loss of 1,700 hectares of precious green belt land (countryside).

The four big ‘sites’ for Bury are: 
– Prestwich/Simister/Bowlee – space for 1,550 new houses on what is now ‘green belt’ (it is farmland) to the north of Heaton Park (between Simister and Middleton). Plans include a new primary school. It is important to note that these proposals are slightly away from the existing Simister village (a small improvement on previous plans), but right up to existing homes on the Bowlee and Rhodes side.
– a major area of employment/industrial development to the north of the M62 between Prestwich/Whitefield and Middleton/Heywood. Essentially this is a large area on the north side of the M62 from Simister island to the Heywood/Middleton junction on the M62. Half is in Bury, half in Rochdale. This will provide space for 1.2million square metres of industrial and warehousing build, and 1,000 houses on the Rochdale side. 
– 3,500 new houses near Radcliffe on existing green belt land (large area of countryside around around Elton Reservoir)
– 1,400 new houses near Walshaw on existing green belt land. 

(The plan as it affects the Prestwich area – part of the massive employment/industrial area to the north of the M62, and 1550 homes to the north of Heaton Park. All of this is currently Green Belt land (countryside).

Liberal Democrat Councillors voted AGAINST the plan
We DO want more homes and more jobs, but NOT at the expense of destroying our countryside.
New building should be on existing brownfield sites and in town centres only.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Michael Powell said:
“Places for Everyone is simply the wrong plan. The proposals will see 1,700 hectares of Bury’s precious green belt taken away and built on. Our green spaces are vitally important in so many ways, as we have particularly seen recently during the lockdown periods. We still don’t need to do this. There is enough brownfield land, or sites that can be developed by bringing life back into our town centres to provide for housing need. We do need more homes – especially the affordable homes that people need. We do need more jobs – but we need these to be the high quality jobs that people deserve. We also need our countryside, and the good health and life the this provides”.

You can watch Michael’s speech opposing the plans here:
https://fb.watch/73NCvbd_mY/

What happens now
Although this vote was very disappointing, the fight to save our green belt can still go on.

A further consultation on these final plans will commence across Greater Manchester (minus Stockport), apparently from early August. We will give you more information on how you can have your say as soon as we have the details.

Places for Everyone – new GM plan for housing

Greater Manchester’s new plans for housing development is back, with a new name of ‘Places for Everyone’. 

People may remember that the previous plans, called GMSF (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework) were abandoned last year when Stockport pulled out of the plans. Now the remanning nine Councils (including Bury) are pushing ahead with a joint plan, now called ‘Places for Everyone’. 

On the face of it the PfE plan is very similar to the 2020 GMSF plan, especially the detail for our area. The plan proposes land for 165,000 more houses across Greater Manchester in the next 15 years. (To put that in context the whole of Bury added together currently has 77,000 houses.)

The four big impacts for Bury are: 
Prestwich/Simister/Bowlee – space for 1,550 new houses on what is now ‘green belt’ (it is farmland) to the north of Heaton Park (between Simister and Middleton). Plans include a new primary school.
– a major area of employment/industrial development to the north of the M62 between Prestwich/Whitefield and Middleton/Heywood. Essentially this is a large area on the north side of the M62 from Simister island to the Heywood/Middleton junction on the M62. Half is in Bury, half in Rochdale. This will provide space for 1.2million square metres of industrial and warehousing build, and 1,000 houses on the Rochdale side.
– 3,500 new houses near Radcliffe on existing green belt land (large area of countryside around around Elton Reservoir)
1,400 new houses near Walshaw on existing green belt land.

The attempt to mitigate the large loss of green belt land across Greater Manchester, this plan does create some new bits of green belt. Interestingly, in Bury, these are 14 small areas of ‘new’ green belt, most of which are in Ramsbottom and none in the south of the borough (Prestwich or Whitefield).

Why will the Liberal Democrats be voting against Places for Everyone?
Our view hasn’t changed. At every stage of the GMSF, and now under it’s new name of Places for Everyone, this is the wrong plan at the wrong time and we will do whatever we can to stop it.

It is still the wrong plan
Places for Everyone remains the wrong plan because it builds on our precious green belt land. Despite massive public opposition, Greater Manchester’s Labour-run Councils seem determined to build on green belt land. 

Bury’s Liberal Democrat Councillors recognise that we will need more homes in the Borough, and we want to build the high quality, affordable and energy efficient homes that people need, but not at the expense of losing our precious green spaces. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, residents have been using our great outdoors for exercise and for good mental health. The last 18 months have told us that we need our open spaces more than ever.

Our precious Green Belt land must be protected with development restricted to existing sites, brownfield land (which there is no shortage of in Greater Manchester), and by breathing life back into our struggling town centres.

It is also the wrong plan because of the failure around infrastructure. Nobody has effectively answered questions about infrastructure and capacity for the Bury area. 5,000 new houses in Radcliffe and Walshaw is an awful lot more cars on the road, and a lot more people the Metrolink than now. Although there are plans for new tram lines and new roads in some parts of Greater Manchester, none of these improve either the Bury-Manchester tram line, or the A56 in Bury/Radclfife/Whitefield or Prestwich, so it is unclear how 5,000 houses worth of commuters are going to fit on the road or tram without causing even more congestion and even more air pollution.

It is till the wrong time
Just like the GMSF, Places for Everyone’s housing need numbers are still based on 2014 data and projections.  Anyone can see that projections made in 2014 should be confined to history. We are now in a huge economic downturn as a result of Covid-19 pandemic and we face the very uncertain future around trade and jobs after Brexit. Places for Everyone is out of date before it even written never mind published.

Places for Everyone is also already based on an outdated process.  The Government’s White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ sets out the new way that local plans will be drawn up and new ways that housing numbers will be calculated. Almost as soon as the plan is completed we’ll probably have to start again under the new process.

The new development sites in Bury are in red above. The full plan can be viewed here.

Longfield Suite to Close forever

Bury Council’s Cabinet met this week and agreed to close the Longfield Suite forever.

The eight Labour councillors who make up Bury Council’s Cabinet have voted to close Prestwich’s community facility, but keep open the other two facilities in Bury and Ramsbottom. There is a vague promise that community facilities will be a feature of a redeveloped village centre, whenever that happens.

The Longfield Suite was opened by the former Prestwich Borough Council in 1971, and is the largest of Bury’s civic venues with a capacity of 560. The other two civic venues in Bury (Ramsbottom Civic Hall and the Elizabethan Suite at the Town Hall) will be kept open.

A public consultation found that most people wanted to keep the civic venues open, however the Council sites that lose money and essential maintenance work needs to be undertaken. The sprung dance floor at the Longfield will, apparently, be retained for future use in a building (but no ideas when or where).

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Michael Powell said: “This is really disappointing. Everyone understands that the Longfield has been closed during Covid, but now we need community spaces more than ever. There is nothing similar that people can use in Prestwich or nearby.

We all agree that the village centre needs redevelopment, but we would have kept the Longfield Suite open while we’re waiting for that to happen (and we’ve been waiting 20 years!).

Once again Labour councillors have ignored public opinion and let Prestwich down while keeping facilities open in other parts of Bury”.

GMSF, sorry ‘Places for Everyone’, back in July…..

Nine Greater Manchester Councils, including Bury, have been asked to schedule meetings in late July to agree the new version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

All councillors in Bury have been written to giving a new date for a Cabinet meeting to agree the plan for consultation (21 July 2021), and a Full Council meeting on 28 July 2021 to finally agree the plans for submission to Government.

The previous plans had to be abandoned last year, when Liberal Democrat councillors on Stockport Council were sucessful in defeating the proposals there. Now the other nine councils are proceeding without Stockport and the plan has a new name ‘Places for Everyone’.

We don’t know what the plan will say yet, publication is expected in July. As residents will know all of Labour’s previous plans have included building on large swathes of green belt and, including a large number of new houses in Prestwich over near Simister and Bowlee.

We will let you know as soon as we see the plans. The view of the Liberal Democrat councillors across Greater Manchester hasn’t changed, we are opposed to all building on green belt land. We do need new, especially more affordable houses, but these should be built on the significant amount of existing ‘brownfield land’, and by revitalising our town centres. If the last 15 months have tonight us anything, we need our green spaces more than ever.

Reporting Back: Bury Council Cabinet

Councillor Michael Powell reports back from the Cabinet meeting of Bury Council on 26 May 2021:

East Lancashire Paper Mill site- Plans were approved to bring forward building on the former site of the East Lancashire Paper Mill in Radcliffe. A collaboration agreement will be entered into by the Council with Homes England to begin development of the site for housing.

Acquisition of the Longfield Shopping Centre- The Council are continuing with it’s proposed process of purchasing the Longfield Centre in Prestwich Village and that a property centre manager will be appointed to oversee the purchase. The Council has also confirmed that it is looking at enter a joint venture agreement with developer Muse for the regeneration project and that they expect it to take six months to finalise these arrangements. The paper outlining these plans in more detail can be read here.


‘Levelling Up’ Bids confirmed- Two bids will be submitted by the Council to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, one for Radcliffe and another for promoting for development of Bury Town Centre through the establishment of a Bury ‘flexi-hall’.

Banking Services Procurement Process- The decision was approved for Bury Council to become the Lead Authority for the procurement of a banking services framework on behalf of Greater Manchester.

Public Consultation on the draft climate strategy and climate action plan- The Council has produced a draft Climate Action Strategy and Climate Action Plan for Bury to set out what needs to be done to achieve it’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2038 and it carried out a consultation with residents and other stakeholders on the draft documents. The draft climate strategy breaks down the project into 11 key action areas, including the Green Economy, Environmental Justice and Carbon Offsetting. The full Climate Strategy can be viewed here.

Draft Housing Strategy- The Council commissioned Campbell Tickell to develop a housing strategy for the Borough, which meets the needs of different sections of the population at different stages of their lives. The draft Strategy was subject to extensive stakeholder and public consultation for twelve weeks commencing 30 November 2020 to the 22 February 2021. The paper on the Housing Strategy can be viewed here, along with the findings and responses from the public consultation.

Update on Covid-19 in Bury and the Local Response- A report was presented updating the borough’s position related to Covid-19 and the response locally. The report noted that at the time of writing, England and Bury’s case rate have been falling since mid-March 2021 and Bury until recently had the lowest rate in Greater Manchester and a similar rate to the England average. However, it highlighted growing concerns about rising numbers of cases in the UK particularly in the North West and Bolton specifically of the B617.2 (Indian/Delta) variant. The report also noted that over 100,000 adults in Bury have received their first vaccination and around two thirds of those have already received their second vaccination. Additionally it stated that overall uptake rates in Bury remains amongst the highest in Greater Manchester across all cohorts. The full update can be read here.

Paper from the meeting are here. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Reporting Back: Annual Council and Mayor Making

This Wednesday was Bury’s Annual Council meeting and Mayor Making ceremony. These are the important annual meetings which determine the leadership of the Council for the ‘municipal year’.

The Annual Council meeting was this year held in the sports hall of Castle Leisure Centre, to allow for social distancing between councillors.

Labour, as the majority group, remain in charge of the Council.

Leadership of the Liberal Democrat group remains unchanged, with Councillor Michael Powell as Group Leader and Councillor Cristina Tegolo as Deputy Group Leader.

Councillor Steve Wright has been appointed Chair of the new Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.

A State of the Borough debate takes place at Annual Council. You can watch the whole meeting online here. Councillor Powell’s statement on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group in State of the Borough Debate is 57 minutes in. The papers for the meeting are here.

Following Annual Council the Mayor Making ceremony took place with reduced numbers at Bury Town Hall.

Holyrood Ward councillor Tim Pickstone was re-appointed as Mayor, the first person to be appointed for a second successive year since 1951.

Bury Samaritans remain as the Mayor’s charity for 2021-21, alongside Greater Manchester HIV Charity George House Trust. The Mayor’s Chaplain remains Reverend Jez Hackett from Prestwich and Heaton Park Metrhodist Churches.

You can watch the Mayor Making ceremony online here.

It’s time to Restore Community Policing.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people. 

Everyone has the right to feel safe where they live, and everyone who has been the victim of a crime deserves justice.

But for too long, the Government has been ignoring victims, failing the police and letting our communities down.

And that’s why, last year, 1.8 million cases were closed without a suspect even being identified.

In Greater Manchester the police force failed to record an estimated 80,100 crimes reported to it between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, amounting to about 220 crimes a day, according to a report from the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

Even before the Covid pandemic, too many people felt unsafe in their own homes or walking down their own streets. In fact half of all people never even see police patrols in their local area.

Government Ministers like to talk tough on crime, but they have failed to do what works to actually keep people safe. Their unnecessary police cuts have contributed to a rise in serious violence.

Police need the officers, resources and time to focus on preventing and solving crimes.

Instead, the Tories want to waste police time chasing centralised Whitehall targets and carrying out pointless, suspicionless Stop and Search.

That’s why today, the Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted andknown personally to local people.

We will do what works to build communities where people are safe and feel safe too.

In Greater Manchester, policing is the responsibility of the Greater Manchester Mayor. Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Lepori, is asking for residents views on this important issue. Take part in Simon’s survey here.