Bury’s Library Review – Formal Consultation

Bury Council is now formally consulting on its proposals to close 10 or 11 of our 14 libraries.

Consultations run until 27 April.

There are two options are:
1) to retain the following library buildings: Bury (plus Archives), Ramsbottom, and Prestwich;
2) to retain Bury (plus Archives), Ramsbottom, Prestwich and Radcliffe.

You can read the proposals online at http://www.bury.gov.uk/libraryservicereview or read a hard copy at any library or at Bury Town Hall, Whittaker Street in Radcliffe, and 3 Knowsley Place in Bury.

How to have your say:
Online – go to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bury-libraries-consultation
By post – to Bury Library, Manchester Road, Bury BL9 0DG
By email – to library.suggestions@bury.gov.uk

Liberal Democrats across Bury are campaigning to save our libraries – you can sign our petition below.

petition_button

Reporting Back: Full Council and the GMSF Debate

Last Wednesday (1 February 2017) was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting of Bury Council, the one meeting where all 51 councillors meet to discuss the main issues facing the area.

This was a very busy meeting of the Council, with a full public gallery – mostly people concerned about the proposals in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework to build 12,500 new houses in Bury, including many on green belt land.

Because of the number of members of the pubic there, we proposed that on this occasion we move straight to the debates on motions, rather than the usual 90 minutes or so of questions to the Leader and joint authorities. This was agreed – most questions were therefore answered in writing which we’ll report on over the coming weeks.

Voter Pilots
We supported a motion (in an amended form) which noted the Government’s current proposed pilot schemes to ask for ID at polling stations. The Government is proposing to pilot this in some areas (not Bury). In general we support proposals to make sure voting is always fair and without fraud – as long as whatever is proposed does not exclude people from voting (ie making sure that many different forms of ID are acceptable, as not everyone has a passport or driving license).

NHS Funding
We were happy to support a motion raising significant concerns about the current crisis in the NHS, particularly around funding and the acute pressures on emergency care and hospital beds.

Greater Manchester Spatial Framework
The Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion asking Bury to withdraw from Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). This is the plan, currently being developed by the 10 Greater Manchester Councils, to build 227,000 new houses in Greater Manchester over the next 20 years.

We said:
– We recognised the need for more housing – but that this needs to be housing that people need, including young people getting their first homes and housing suitable for older people who might want to ‘downsize’
– We recognised the need for more jobs – but that these need to be high quality jobs.
– We DON’T think that the GMSF is a good deal for Bury. Across Greater Manchester the GMSF proposed to build houses on 8% of Green Belt land – in Bury it is 20% of Green Belt land (and in Prestwich and Whitefield nearly 50%).
– We DON’T think that the GMSF has made the right approach – we think local people should be in the driving seat about deciding the future ‘shape’ of our local communities, but the GMSF has started with asking land owners and developers about where they want to build.
– We are very concerned about issues like traffic congestion, air pollution and loss of green space that should be at the forefront of any new plans.

Our proposal was:
– That Bury should instead develop its own Bury Plan – recognising that we will still need to make difficult decisions, but that they will be decisions closer to Bury.
– The the plan should be a 15 year plan, not a 20 year plan, which means that 1/3 less land for housing needs to be identified at this stage.
– We support higher levels of development in our town centres, which are close to existing public transport and facilties.

Unfortunately our proposal was defeated, by 31 votes to 19 votes. Every single Labour councillor voted to remain in the GMSF.

There were some concessions made, which in some ways are a small victory, which was the Council agreed to remain in GMSF pending:
– The Government’s Housing White Paper
– The Greater Manchester Metro Mayor election result (some of the candidates are opposed to building on the green belt)
– The GMSF stage 1 consultation outcome.
In addition the Council is to proceed in developing its own Bury Plan alongside GMSF, with all-Party involvement.

We’re going to continue to fight these proposals. We do need more housing, but we must protect our green spaces too.

You can read our Group Leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone’s speech to the meeting here. The meeting is available to watch online – the GMSF debate starts at 1 hour 57 minutes….

 

 

 

 

Save our Libraries – Sign the Petition

Bury Council’s Cabinet at its meeting on  Wednesday 25 January 2017 agreed to consult on proposals to close up to 11 of our 14 libraries.

The Council has been consulting on library service for a number of months, though for everyone involved in the consultation (which never mentioned closures) these plans will come as a huge surprise.

The options to be sent to public consultation are:

    • Option 1 – Close 11 Libraries, keeping Bury (with Archives), Prestwich and Ramsbottom.
    • Option 2 – Close 10 Libraries, keeping Bury (with Archives), Prestwich, Ramsbottom and Radcliffe.

Please sign our petition to save our precious libraries.

Bury currently has 14 library buildings in total, 7 original “township” libraries and 7 smaller, part-time, “community libraries” which were added to the town between 1999 and 2014 to meet reasons of social inclusion and to support smaller communities.

Across Bury there are currently 54,632 registered users of Libraries:
Bury – 18,458
Prestwich – 10,897
Radcliffe – 7,449
Ramsbottom – 4,695
Tottington – 2,720
Unsworth, 3,612
Whitefield, 3,758
Other library or service, 3,043

screenshot-2017-01-20-10-54-31

The Libraries which would be closed under both options proposed for consultation would be:
Ainsworth Library, Brandlesholme Library, Castle Leisure Centre Library, Coronation Road Library. Dumers Lane Library, Moorside Library, Topping Fold Library, Tottington Library, Unsworth Library, Whitefield Library.

The current library service costs the council £2.4 million per year. Most people will be aware that local councils are being forced to make significant savings by Government, but ultimately all Councils have choices to make.

We have two specific concerns:
– leaving whole areas without libraries will ultimately only hurt the most vulnerable in our community, those who are least able to travel, and those who are most lonely.
– insufficient attempts have been made to find alternative ways of providing libraries – e.g. volunteer, community or charity run libraries, which would enable a wider service to be maintained whilst still saving money.

Please sign our petition to send a strong message to the Council that we need to save our local libraries.

petition_button

 

Bury and Prestwich Walk-In Centres to Close

Bury’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) met on Wednesday 18 January 2017 to consider the outcome of its own ‘consultation’ on the future of our two Walk-In Centres, in Bury and Prestwich.

The result of the public engagement undertaken included over 1,000 survey completed by residents and showed:
90% thought that the Walk-In Centres serve a purpose not otherwise provided in Bury.
83.5% disagree or strongly disagree with a decision to not renew the Walk-In Centres.

The CCG recognised that the largest number of objections and concerns were regarding the Prestwich Walk-In Centre, rather than the Moorgate Centre. Only one petition was received by the CCG objecting to the closures, which had been organised by the local Lib Dems in Prestwich.

screenshot-2017-01-20-09-15-22

Our view, given in a statement by Group Leader Councillor Tim Pickstone on Wednesday stated: “Everyone knows there is a crisis in NHS emergency care and that our local A&E departments cannot cope with existing volumes. Everyone who I speak to tells me how difficult it is to get GP appointment.”

“By going ahead with the closure of the Prestwich and Bury Walk-In Centres, Bury CCG are not only ignoring the clearly stated views of local people in their own consultation, but they’re also ignoring common sense. With this decision we’re not just losing two much loved and well used local services, we’re making our local A&Es worse.”

You can read the full report of the CCG here.

Lib Dem Group Response to GMSF

Bury Council’s Liberal Democrat Group has submitted its formal response, and objection, in the consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. More details of the response below.

Councillors in Bury will also have a chance to debate Bury leaving the GMSF at the Full Council meeting on 1 February 2017 with a motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat group (see Council agenda here).

The full response is below, with the key points being:

– We do not want to see any building on green belt land, certainly not before brownfield sites and existing planning permissions have been used first and empty houses have been brought back into use.

– We object specifically to the use of large sections of green belt land for thousands of houses.

– We believe that the share of green belt to be lost in Bury is unfair and inappropriate (20% lost in Bury compared to 8% across Greater Manchester. 48/49% of green belt lost in Prestwich and Whitefield/Unsworth).

– We do not believe that our Motorway network has the capacity to cope with significant new housing and specifically could not cope with the proposed massive ‘Northern Gateway’ employment site on the M62 next to Whitefield.

– We do not believe that our Highways Network has the capacity to cope with so many new homes in Bury – specifically the A56 is already full, and about to be made single land through Prestwich.

– We do not believe that the Metrolink system currently has the capacity for so many new homes in Bury – it is already full to capacity at many times in the day.

– We are concerned that we already have to live in an area with high air pollution from the M60, and the plans will make this worse.

Screenshot 2016-10-25 09.11.52

– As Holyrood Ward councillors we wanted to specifically to object to the proposals in the Northern Gateway to build 3,200 new houses around Simister and Bowlee. The plans would destroy the special character, and community of both villages, the site is poorly located for transport links and public transport and the green ‘break’ between Prestwich/Middleton/Whitefield and Heywood would be completely lost.

– Similarly we do not believe the Heywood Road, or the Mount Road/Sandgate Road/Polefield Road areas have the capacity to deal with any major new developments either in Simister or across the Sandgate Road bridge over the motorway.

– We do believe in further investment in public transport, particularly further extension of the Metrolink network, but would oppose the wholesale building of new motorways.

Read our full submission here, which includes 37 pages of comments received from members of the public.

One Week to have your say on Green Belt proposals

Just before Christmas Greater Manchester councils added a few weeks more to the consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – the new deadline is 16 January 2017.

We only have a few days left to get our voices hear before so much of our precious Green Belt land will be lost for ever.

Please: Sign the Petition – and remind your friends, family and neighbours.
And even send in your own personal response to the consultation – more information on how you can do this below.

The GMSF sets out how Greater Manchester Councils plan to provide the land to build an extra 227,000 houses over the next 25 years. (To put that in context the whole of the Borough of Bury currently has just over 75,000 houses…)

Across Greater Manchester, just 8.2% of Green Belt land is proposed to be destroyed. Bury fares very badly, and if these plans go ahead 20% of our precious green belt land would be lost. In Prestwich a shocking 46.7% of green belt land will be lost. In the Whitefield/Unsworth area 49.1% of green belt land will be lost.

The proposals include:
In the Whitefield/Unsworth/Prestwich areas:
A ‘Northen Gateway’proposal – for a new development ‘bigger than Trafford Park’ on both sides of the M62. This includes 3,300 houses to the south of the motorway (all the green belt land currently around Simister and Bowlee)
600 houses to the north of the M60 near Mode Hill Lane in Whitefield
A massive industrial employment development North of the M62.

Screenshot 2016-10-25 09.11.52

In the Bury/Radcliffe area and to the north of Bury:
3,400 new houses in land between Bury and Radcliffe around Elton Reservoir
1,250 new homes north and south of Walshaw Road between Bury and Tottington
As well as smaller developments at Gin Hall, Holcombe Brook and Seedfield

screenshot-2017-01-06-16-16-48

The Labour Party in Bury made a very clear commitment in it’s Local Government Manifesto:
“Bury Labour Group will defend the greenbelt and do all we can to stop development of this precious resource.” They are now letting people down by abandoning their previous promise, with the Council Leader signing up to the proposals.

The Lib Dems in Bury are totally opposed to this wholesale destruction of our Green Belt land. We DO need more homes, but we should use brownfield sites, empty houses and existing unbuilt planning permissions FIRST without destroying our precious countryside.

As well as signing the petition, it would be great if as many people as possible could send in their own personal objections. Details of how to do this are here.

The Save Bury’s Green Belt Campaign have done this excellent guide to how to object here.

 

 

Green Belt Consultation Extended, Walk-In Centre Decision Delayed

Two massive decisions affecting our local area are to see delays over the Christmas period.

Bury CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) have decided to defer a decision on the future of Prestwich and Bury Walk-In Centres to it’s January meeting (15th January 2017).  Hopefully this will give it time to consider the massive public opposition to the closure…..

Greater Manchester Strategic Framework Consultation Extended

In addition the deadline in the consultation on the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework (the plan to destroy 20% of Bury’s ‘green belt land’ (nearly 50% in Whitefield, Unsworth and Prestwich) has been extended to the new year.

The deadline for comments in the consultation is now A23.59 on 16 January 2017.

You can submit your comments online via the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework via email: GMSF@agma.gov.uk

If you have not already done so, please do sign the ‘Hands Off Bury’s Green Belt’ petition – the more signatures we get the better.

petition_button

Reporting Back: The ongoing consultation on Bury’s Library Service

At the most recent meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet, the main item of discussion was the ongoing consultation on the future of Bury’s Library Service.

Anyone who took part in the consultation (and 3537 people did) may recall that the Council was consulting on five ‘principles’ :

Principle 1 – To provide a Library Service across the borough which provides all residents and those working or studying in the borough with access to libraries and to electronic services sufficient in number, range and quality to support reading for pleasure, lifelong learning, the development of new skills and the effective use of information.
Principle 2 – To ensure that the needs of more vulnerable residents and groups protected by Equalities legislation are taken fully into account in the review process.
Principle 3 – To ensure that the resources committed to the Library Service are used as efficiently as possible by exploring options to reduce running and maintenance costs and to share premises with Council and other services.
Principle 4 – To explore options for investing in technology to improve access to the Library Service, for example by extending opening hours, increasing our digital offer and enhancing provision for those with sensory impairments.
Principle 5 – To welcome the contribution that members of the community can make to the Library Service as volunteers, supporting both traditional and digital services.
Principle 6 To meet local aspirations for a network of community spaces across the borough in which the Council and local communities can work together as partners in meeting local needs.

When the consultation started, we raised concerns that the questions were too open, almost impossible to disagree with. Perhaps not surprisingly the vast majority of people did agree: (These percentages are for Strongly Agree/Agree)
Principle 1 – 98%,  Principle 2 – 94%, Principle 3 – 73%,  Principle 4 89%,  Principle 5 70%,  Principle 6 81%.

A separate study, undertaken by an independent company, sought views from the wider public, but with similar support for the six principles.

1163 chose to provide further information in the space provided for additional comments. These additional comments were not published in the report presented to Cabinet, but were revealed (with the names removed) to the Bury Times newspaper following a Freedom of Information request. We’ve seen these comments which include a significant number of people with concerns. The three that sprung out most to us were:

  • people concerned that using more volunteers would mean staff losing jobs
  • people concerned about the reduced library space at Bury Central Library
  • people concerned about the consultation questions themselves.

The Report presented to cabinet What come next is ‘Phase 2’ of the consultation. The Council noted that the “first part of the consultation has secured a positive response and a baseline agreement from library users and residents around the 6 principles. We will now use these principles alongside the commissioned reports from Mott MacDonald as a basis on which to build a review of the library service”.
We are now proposing to move to the next phase of public consultation. There is a write up of the discussion in the BT here.

One workshop “with a group of stakeholder representatives” will take place at each library to discuss the priorities they have for a library service in the future. Each library will publicise these events to ensure community groups, regular library users and partners are involved and representative of service users. A report will be developed outlining a number of potential models / options for library provision in the future, presented for Cabinet discussion on 18 January 2017.

The dates of the workshops are:
Thursday 17th Ramsbottom 6.30-8pm
Thursday 24th Prestwich 6.30-8pm
Monday 28th Tottington 2.15-3.45
Thursday December 1st Whitefield 11.30– 1pm
Thursday December 1st Brandlesholme 2.15-3.45

Your views on this process would be much appreciated.

Government breaks Key Election Promise on our NHS

‘Liberal Democrat councillors in Bury have accused the Government of ‘Half truths and less than half the cash’ after it emerged that the Government is giving the NHS less than half of the £10 billion it pledged before last year’s General Election.

Parliament’s own Health Committee has written to the Conservative chancellor to say claiming the Government is giving £10billion gives the “false impression that the NHS is awash with cash”.

The group said that, far from the £10 billion promised the actual figure was closer to £4 billion.

The cross party Health Committee says a substantial part of the extra funding for the NHS comes from cuts to other areas, such as public health.

nhs-promise-broken

Local Campaigner Councillor Tim Pickstone said: The NHS is vital and it must be funded properly. Local residents will be really angry that the Government are trying to pull the wool over their eyes again. It is time local Conservatives apologised ñ this is one trick too many.

With winter on its way our NHS is heading for a crisis and local residents must demand that the Government stops with the cutbacks and instead concentrates on fixing the serious problems before it ís too late.

The intervention comes as a poll found almost half of NHS authorities are planning to cut hospital beds while a third have proposals to close or downgrade accident and emergency departments.

Green Belt Proposals – More Information

On Friday (28 October 2016) the ten Greater Manchester Council Leaders will meet to agree the draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. Broadly the document sets out how the Councils propose to use land over the next 25 years to allow the city region to develop.

Screenshot 2016-10-25 08.55.07

As a starting point they assume Greater Manchester will have more people in it – 294,800 more people,  and want to provide space for an extra 227,000 new homes and space for an extra 199,700 jobs.

227,000 homes is a LOT of new homes, to give you an idea there are currently 75,868 homes in the whole of Bury.

The ten Council Leaders are the ten leaders of Greater Manchester Councils, that’s nine Labour politicians and one Conservative. Bury’s vote will be cast by Cllr Rishi Shori, the Labour Leader of Bury Council.

After the vote, residents will be consulted up to Christmas, with the consultation ending on 23 December 2016.

You can have your say in the formal consultation here.
Online at http://gmsf-consult.objective.co.uk or
By email to GMSF@agma.gov.uk
By post: Greater Manchester Integrated Support Team, P O Box 532, Town Hall, Manchester,
M60 2LA

You can download the whole report here (warning it is VERY large!)

Brownfield and Green Belt
The draft Spatial Framework DOES say that we should build as much as possible on existing ‘brownfield’ sites (e.g. former industrial sites), which is good, but it goes on to say that there should be a significant amount of ‘green belt’ land given up for development.

Green Belt is a planning policy developed since the second world war to ensure that green spaces are protected around our major cities. The idea is to stop cities expanding without control, that we all have access to the countryside, and that there are ‘green spaces’ retained between different towns.

Bury is especially rich in green belt land, over 60% of Bury is green belt. Our view is that this is one of the reasons that this area is such a great place to live, with all of us having easy access to green spaces. Green belt has meant that there has not been continuous expansion from the city centre. There is countryside between Bury and Radcliffe, between Prestwich and Middleton, etc.

The draft Spatial Framework takes the view that it is better to have a smaller number of large builds on the green belt, rather than a lot of smaller builds. Their argument is that this means the infrastructure can be built to support these developments. We are not so sure – it may be that smaller build sites would cause less damage.

Our view is that we DO need new homes. Everybody should have a decent place to live, but at present the the housing market is making home ownership difficult or impossible for many. However, we believe that every effort should be to build on existing brownfield sites FIRST. The Government has recently given local councils money to develop ‘Brownfield Land Registers’ to make sure the maximum use is being made of this land. We must also make use of existing planning permissions that have been given and are being ‘sat on’ by developers (often called ‘land banking’).

We also think that there should be more effort made to bring back empty homes into use. 12 of the top 20 local authorities with the highest number of empty homes are in the North West, which is a crying shame.

Building outside of city and town centres on green belt land is not only bad for the countryside, but it is also bad for the environment. Building on greenfield sites inevitably means that public transport services will be worse there than in town centres, and jobs and services will be further away. This means more cars on the road, more parking problems, more air pollution.

This map shows the green belt land to be lost if the Spatial Framework goes ahead (the areas in orange are green belt to be lost, the yellow is an ‘area of search’ in Bolton).  Although it is difficult to tell from the map in detail, it looks as though Bury fares the worst and will bear the brunt of the loss of green belt.

Screenshot 2016-10-25 09.05.37

The biggest areas to be lost would be in Prestwich around Simister and Bowlee; in Whitefield and Pilsworth around the M66, around Elton Reservoir between Radcliffe and Bury, around Walshaw road some smaller, but still significant, sites north of Bury.

Northern Gateway
Fundamental to the strategy and a big impact on Bury is the development of the ‘Northern Gateway’.

This is a large area of land, larger than Trafford Park in size, stretching from Prestwich and Unsworth eastwards towards Rochdale on both sides of the M62.

This is identified as a major site for employment and housing:

“The Northern Gateway provides a nationally significant growth area extending along the M62 motorway around its intersections with the M66 at Junction 18 and the A627 (M) motorways and at Junction 21 in the north-east of Greater Manchester. It offers an extensive range of high quality development opportunities in a strategically important location on the main route connecting Greater Manchester to Liverpool to the west, Leeds and Hull to the east and Lancashire to the north. The area also benefits from easy access to the City Centre, the main town centres of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham and the wider north Manchester area in general.

Screenshot 2016-10-25 09.11.52

South of the M62 and M60 (between Prestwich and Simister, all around Simister, all around Bowlee and around the north of Middleton) would be for what is described as an ‘urban expansion’ with 3,400 homes. North of the Motorway would be more employment and industrial, though with a big housing development to the east of Whitefield.

We are totally opposed to this overdevelopment. This is the largest single loss of green belt proposed anywhere in Greater Manchester and would be a destruction of our countryside. There would be continuous built up urban development between Prestwich and Middleton, Whitefield and Middleton, Unsworth and Heywood etc. In fact you would be able to walk from Manchester city centre to the other side of Heywood without once entering countryside. Existing village communities like Simister and Bowlee would be lost forever.

One of the biggest problems we foresee here is transport. The area is, of course, well served by motorways, but as anyone who has ever been in a car can tell you, these motorways are FULL. Traffic is at a standstill every rush hour on the M60 and coming down the M62 into Manchester (and that was before the roadworks started). The report does identify that significant improvements will need to be made to Simister Island, to Junction 19 (M62) and Junction 3 (M66), but even with improvements we cannot see how more cars and lorries could be fit on the motorway.

Bury Labour’s U-Turn
The Labour Party in Bury has consistently promised that it will protect the green belt in Bury saying: “Bury Labour Group will defend the greenbelt and do all we can to stop development of this precious resource”. Read it for yourself in their manifesto for the 2014 local elections.

HANDS OFF Bury’s Green Belt
We are campaigning for the Spatial Framework to be changed so that it DOESN’T destroy the Green Belt. 

  • use brownfield sites FIRST
  • use existing planning permissions
  • bring empty houses back into use
  • focus development in existing city and town centres where public transport is better and less reliance on car journeys

If you agree with us, please sign our petition to send a clear message to Bury Council that the Green Belt must be saved. Get involved in the campaign on our Facebook Page – Hands Off Bury’s Green Belt.