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.

Reporting Back: Answers to Questions

Last month was the regular full meeting of Bury Council. As always your local team of Liberal Democrat councillors asked our full quota of questions on local issues. Here are some of the more interesting issues raised:

Longfield War Memorial
Councillor Steve Wright asked about the Prestwich war memorials, which are currently out of public view because of the closure of the Longfield Suite:
Q – Now that it has been confirmed that there are no plans to reopen the Longfield Suite in Prestwich, can the Leader confirm what the plans are for rehousing the war memorial located in the Suite?
A –

A full and final decision has not yet been made, and residents are still able to contribute to the consultation survey and put forward their views. The consultation will continue to run until 17 March 2021, via the One Community website: – https://www.onecommunitybury.co.uk/burycouncil- civicvenuesfeedback

Following public consultation, all consultation feedback will be thoroughly analysed and considered. A report will be scheduled at Cabinet in early Summer in order for a final decision to be reached.

If a decision is reached at Cabinet to permanently close the Longfield Suite, alternative options will be explored to relocate the war memorial.

Potholes
Councillor Michael Powell asked about reports of Potholes:
Q: Could the Leader inform members on the number of reports made of potholes, in each of the last five years?
A:

The number of potholes reported in each of the last five financial years is as follows:
2015/16 – 2942
2016/17 – 2798
2017/18 – 4587
2018/19 – 2170
2019/20 – 2400
2020/21 – 1397 to date (09/03/2021).

The number of reported potholes has deceased by over 50% since 2017/18, which clearly demonstrates that our investment in highway maintenance through the Highway Investment Strategy is improving our road network.

Compensation
Following on from this, Councillor Cristina Tegolo asked about compensation from road users:
Q: Could the Leader inform members on the amount paid out by the authority, and the amount spent on legal costs, for compensation claims as a result of poor road and pavement surfaces, for the last five financial years?

A:

Metrolink Ticketing Options
Councillor Steve Wright asked about different ticketing options to suit people who are being asked to work more flexibly than before:
Q: Could the authority’s spokesperson on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee inform members what steps TfGM is taking to facilitate more flexible working practices through ticketing options?
A:

TfGM currently control ticketing options for the Metrolink network only, with fares and ticketing on the bus and rail network controlled by their respective operators.
Operators and transport bodies including TfGM have been examining the case for more flexible ticketing options over the last few years, as changes to working patterns have become more evident. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated changes to working patterns, as employers and employees adapt to home working and alternative working patterns.

TfGM are working with bus and rail operators to support flexible ticketing initiatives where they can and in July last year launched Clipper, a carnet-style ticketing option for Metrolink. Customers benefit from a discount for travelling multiple days but can choose the days of travel across a number of weeks, providing greater flexibility for those who may have previously bought a traditional season ticket, but now travel less often.

Contactless payment on Metrolink also provides customers with the flexibility of only paying for the journeys they have already made, with fares calculated for them up to a daily cap.

Rail operator Northern also introduced a new flexible ticketing option in July 2020, providing ten unlimited travel days for the price of nine, to be used any time during a six-month period. The option was introduced after the first national lockdown, ahead of predicted changed to passenger travel patterns.

Waiting times for 101
Councillor Michael Powell asked about waiting times for people calling the Police non emergency number 101:
Q: Could the authority’s spokesperson on the Police and Crime Panel inform members on what the average wait time is for 101 calls to be answered in Greater Manchester, how does this compare to previous years and what proportion of calls hang up before being answered?
A:

The average waiting time for 101 calls over the last 12 months is 2 minutes and 53 seconds, which has seen a marginal improvement from the previous year.

The abandonment rates are slightly higher than the previous year at 27%. Whilst GMP are always striving for improvement when these results are considered in the context of Covid, it is a more understandable outcome.

Members will no doubt be aware that all public services have suffered from impacts to staffing through the Pandemic and the 101 service has been no different. With a need to prioritise calls to the 999 service there have been capacity issues over the last 12 months. However GMP report that the situation is now improving with recruitment of new staff a priority.

There continues to be a drive towards online facilities such as

Livechat facility, an online tool which is answered in about 16 seconds. This option continues to be used more and more by the public, which is positive.

Greater Manchester Police are also promoting their call-back service at peak times, where call-handlers will return calls for those assessed as low-risk to avoid people queuing – about half of the calls received and resolved at Switchboard relate to requests for updates on previously reported crimes.

The Police & Crime Panel will continue to scrutinise the work of the Call centre and I will provide further updates to Council in the future.

Full answers to all questions can be found here and here. Any questions please ask!

All Change for Buses

In recent weeks there have been two significant announcements which will have a major impact on bus services in the future.

Firstly, at a Greater Manchester level, it was announced that the decision that is recommended to the Mayor is for a ‘franchised’ bus system in Greater Manchester. This decision, to be made formally by the Mayor at a later date, is being taken after about two years of consultation on the subject, alongside a campaign by some bus operators to oppose the proposals.

Essentially Greater Manchester would be the first area outside of Greater London to have a franchised bus network. What this means is:

  • Bus routes and prices would be brought under the control of Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
  • Private bus companies would be invited to run these routes under a franchise agreement.
  • The arrangements could lead to improvements in the service – e.g. more electric buses, integrated ticketing across bus/tram/train etc.
  • The new arrangements would happen in three phases, starting in 2023 with most services which operate in Bury part of the second tranche starting in 2024.
  • This will cost a lot of money to introduce, about £134 million – with about £50 million coming from local council tax payers including what looks like an increased Mayor’s precept in future years.

As with all of these major proposals a lot of work will need to be put into the detail. At present Greater Manchester has a mixture of commercial services that bus companies run at a profit (e.g. the 135 up Bury Old Road/A56), and then subsidised buses (e.g. the buses to North Manchester or up to Simister). It will be interesting to see what the proposals for a franchised model will be.

The second announcement was from Government, with its National Bus Strategy, which outlines how the Government expects transport authorities throughout England to improve bus services. Interestingly the Government is very clear that it expects most areas to use a ‘partnership’ model with bus companies, rather than the ‘franchise’ model which is looks set to be used in Greater Manchester.

The Government will only give money to local transport authorities if they meet its new criteria. They say that they expect to see more bus lanes and similar measures on major bus routes.

More information on the Greater Manchester proposals here.

More information on the Government’s National Bus Strategy here.

Reporting Back: Budget Council

Bury Council met on Wednesday 24 February 2021 to set the Council Budget for the coming year, including the rates of Council Tax. Here is a summary of what happened:

Headlines
The proposals from the majority Labour Group of councillors were adopted. This includes:
5% increase in Council Tax (actually 4.94%) from 1 April 2021. For a Band D property the Council Tax will be £2001 per year (this ranges from Band A £1334 to Band H £4002)
1.5% increase in Council House rents
– To balance the books, the Council is proposing to make around £20 million of cuts/savings over the next two years (mostly to adult social care), but also to spend £26 million of its reserves (taking the reserves level down to a very low level (just £11 million after two years)).
– The budget assumes that the Longfield Suite and the Elizabethan Suite will close (but there was a change of mind in Ramsbottom and the Civic Suite there will stay open).
Street lights will be dimmed between midnight and 6am.
£17 million will be spent next year on Radcliffe Regeneration. Regeneration in other towns is moving more slowly, so the investment in Prestwich next year is just £75,000.

Some good news in the proposals was that the Council will ‘more towards’ Social Care staff being paid a living wage (but that won’t be achieved immediately). Lunches for children entitled to Free School Meals will be provided over this summer holiday.

What did the Liberal Democrats do?
Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the above budget. There are some good things, and obviously the Council is having to do its best in difficult circumstances, but we couldn’t not support many of the proposals.

We made alternative proposals, which were sadly voted down, to:
Bring Forwards the Prestwich Regeneration, accelerating this process but £3 million a year.
Put Recovery First – by investing in young people’s jobs and training with a massive increase in apprentices, helping out with children’s mental health in schools and with outdoor leisure and footpaths.
No Idling Zones outside Schools – provide money to enforce no-idling zones outside all schools to tackle air pollution that particularly affects children.
Common Sense Ideas – fixing the CCTV that doesn’t work in Prestwich Town Centre, more money across Bury to tackle rat runs, speeding traffic and potholes.
Sadly these proposals were voted down by Labour Councillors and will not be happening this year.

You can listen to Liberal Democrat Councillors Michael Powell and Cristina Tegolo talking about this proposals here (3 hours 2 minutes in!)

Let us know if you want more information. The full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Combined Authority Budgets

Earlier this week was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny, to look at the budgets for the various Greater Manchester combined/joint authorities for 2021-22. Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstone reports:

The various bodies which make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (the Mayor, the Combined Authorities, and then the joint services like transport, fire, police and waste) all have separate budgets, but are now agreed at the same time though the Combined Authority.

Mayoral General Budget and Precept Proposals
There is no change proposed to the Mayoral General Precept for 2021/22 at £90.95 (Band D) comprising of £66.20 for functions previously covered by the Fire and Rescue Authority precept and £24.75 for other Mayoral General functions. This is unchanged from 2020/21;

There are no changes proposed to the crew and fire engine numbers for Greater Manchester Fire (previous proposals are now not being implemented.

Greater Manchester Transport Budgets
The funding for core GM transport services remains unchanged for 2021/22, this is a levy charged to all ten local councils paid out of our regular Council Tax.

There is a very high level of uncertainty about some aspects of transport budgets in the coming year. In particular this is around Metrolink, where there are currently very low passenger numbers (and therefore low ticket income) and significantly lower usage of buses. The Government has been providing grants to cover the losses on Metrolink and other costs, but there is no certainty if this funding will continue or whether it will be high enough. A decision has not yet been made on bus reform. If the Mayor decides to proceed with a Regulated bus network then there will be significant expenditure to make this happen and revisions will need to be made to the budget.

Our Pass – the free bus pass for 16-18 year old will continue into 2022 to enable it to be properly evaluated under more ‘normal’ circumstance.

Supported Bus Services will continue to be under significant pressure during 2021/22 due to a combination of inflationary pressures, lower income and the risk of further commercial services stopping. Paper E sets out the proposed waste budget for 2021/22 for the nine GM Districts Councils who are part of the GM waste contract. The report highlights the 2020/21 position being breakeven, taking account of a refund of levy of £20m to Districts approved by GMCA in July and September 2020.For 2021/22 the report recommends:

Greater Manchester Waste
The Waste Authority has made a refund of £20million to the nine districts that make up the authority (everyone except Wigan).

The waste budget for 2021/22 make a charge to the nine councils of£162.4m, which represents an average 2.9% decrease over 2020/21. This saving is a result of a cheaper contract with the private sector contractor who deals with the disposal of rubbish.

Greater Manchester Police
The Greater Manchester Police, Crime and Fire Panel approved an increase of £10 per year for a Band D property. This equates to the equivalent of 325 new police officers.

Capital Budgets
The Combined Authority has a very large capital programme (around £1/2 billion) the largest part of which comes from Government grants. The capital programme pays for:

  •  The Greater Manchester Transport Fund (‘GMTF’);
  • Metrolink extensions;
  • Metrolink Trafford Line extension;
  • Other Metrolink Schemes;
  • Transport Interchanges;
  •  Bus Priority;
  • Other capital projects and programmes including Transforming Cities, Active Travel, Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) Early Measures Investment Funding (EMIF) , Clean BusInitiatives, OLEV-EV-Taxi, , Smart Ticketing and Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG 2);
  • Transport Major Schemes;
  • Minor Works (including schemes funded by Integrated Transport Capital Block andGrowth Deal);
  • Capital Highways Maintenance, Traffic Signals and Full Fibre;
  • nvestments including Growing Places, Regional Growth Fund and Housing Investment Fund; and
  • Economic Development and Regeneration Schemes.

Hope this is useful. The papers for the meeting which contains all the detail are here. Please get in touch if you have any questions.