Time to End Child Hunger

We’re campaigning to increase access to free school meals and give children from low-income families access to food vouchers when schools are closed too. 

Liberal Democrats are campaigning to increase access to free school meals and give children from low-income families access to food vouchers when schools are closed too.

What are we calling for?
We want the Government to commit to three steps which will make a world of difference to struggling families and help end child hunger:

  1. Extend eligibility for free school meals to every pupil in primary and secondary school, whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
  2. Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday
  3. Food vouchers for every one of those pupils during any period of lockdown

Why is this needed?
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the issue of child hunger. But this is not a new problem, and it will not go away when we finally beat this virus. We need the Government to commit to practical and long-term measures, to stop any child going hungry, on any day of the year.

All too often, families with children simply do not have enough to eat

Each year as the school holidays approach, many parents dread the fact they will have to find an extra £30-40 per week to buy meals for their children which are usually provided at school. With further local and national lockdowns rumoured, parents now also have to worry about how their child will access a free school meal if their school has to close.

There have been widespread reports that foodbank usage has soared during the pandemic and that all too often, families with children simply do not have enough to eat. But even before the pandemic, many parents would skip meals so they could afford to feed their children during the school holidays.

Who gets free school meals currently?
In England, every child in reception, year 1 (age 5-6) and year 2 (age 6-7) is entitled to a free school meal. However from year 3 onwards (age 7-8), eligibility is based on whether the child’s parents or guardians are in receipt of certain benefits.

With regard to Universal Credit, a child may only be eligible for a free school meal if their household income is less than £7,400 a year after tax (and excluding any benefits). We believe that threshold has been set too low and means that many children who are living in poverty are missing out on a free school meal altogether.

The Children’s Society estimated that more than a million children living in poverty in England are missing out on a free school meal – and in over half of these cases it is because they are not eligible for them.

What is the Government doing about this?
Following a fantastic campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, the Government performed a u-turn and agreed to provide a ‘COVID Summer Food Fund’ – food vouchers during the school summer holiday, for children who are usually entitled to benefits related free school meals.

More than a million children living in poverty in England are missing out on a free school meal

While this was a welcome relief for many struggling families, it didn’t go nearly far enough. Many families who needed the vouchers missed out under the scheme, and the Government have made no commitment to extend this in future school holidays or if schools have to be closed during periods of lockdown.

What are the Liberal Democrats doing about this?
We are calling for a plan to tackle child hunger – both during the pandemic and afterwards.

We will be writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling for him to make funding available in the Spending Review this autumn, to extend Free School Meals to every child whose parents are in receipt of Universal Credit, and to provide vouchers to every child who usually gets a FSM during school holidays and lockdown.

We will be reaching out to charities and campaign groups to work with us on this and calling on MPs from other Party’s to support us too.

You can support our campaign and find out more here.

Answers to Questions: PPE, Walk-In Centre and Prestwich Regeneration

At the most recent full meeting of Bury Council, the Liberal Democrat team asked our maximum entitlement of questions as always. Here are some of the more interesting replies:

Councillor Michael Powell asked about PPE in schools:
Given new guidelines around the wearing of masks in Secondary schools, what is being done by the Council to ensure that schools have sufficient supples of PPE to provide for staff and students?

Answer: There is a reasonable expectation that pupils, being required to wear masks in shops and some other public spaces, will be in possession of masks that can then be used when in communal places in schools. It is however recognised that there will be instances where pupils do not have access to a mask and arrangements have been made through the Council’s Public Health Team, for all secondary schools o be provided with a supply of masks. 

Councillor Steve Wright asked about the Prestwich Walk-in Centre:
What level of use is currently being made of the site of the Prestwich Walk-In Centre and when will the Walk-In Centre reopen?

Answer:
The Prestwich Walk in Centre is currently the base for the Covid Management Service for the borough – an invaluable service during the pandemic in providing primary care services for COVID positive patients and making a contribution to reducing infection risk in other practices in the borough.

The COVID Management Service has been and continues to be a vital element of the Bury wide COVID strategy which includes the need to minimise open access points for patients in favour of a more managed triage and book service. The COVID management service has dealt with 2,504 referrals since the pandemic started. The service provides telephone triage and advice, face to face GP appointments and home visits where required.

Options on the continuation of the covid management service are currently in development and will take place in the context of the epidemiology of the pandemic.

While we are in the pandemic we are seeking to limit face to face contacts for healthcare services in favour of digitalised opportunities through, for example, Ask my GP, and in current circumstances of COVID 19 it is not intended the WIC will reopen soon.

Councillor Michael Powell asked about the regeneration of Prestwich Village:
Can the Leader provide an update on the progress made in recent months on the plans to regenerate Prestwich village centre?
Answer:

Over the last 6 months the Council has made significant progress with regard to bringing forward the pre-development phase of the regeneration of Prestwich Village. Progress includes engagement with the development market. We have developed a set of key values and principles we see as important in delivering the Prestwich scheme.

Over the next 6 months the Council are seeking to source a long-term partner who shares our views on the potential of the site and wants to work with the community to deliver a new centre which is attractive to all residents.

We will also be designing a hub building that meets the requirements of the public sector bodies in Prestwich. The hub building will incorporate the NHS Trust’s functions combining two GP practices, the library, adult learning centre, indoor community room (to replace the Longfield Suite that could house indoor market, leisure uses), new cycling hub and a Job Centre.

It is anticipated at the November Cabinet a Paper will be presented outlining the way forward for the regeneration of Prestwich.

Reporting Back: Full Council

Three separate motions were put forward at the Summer meeting of Bury’s full Council. Councillor Michael Powell reports:

Liberal Democrat group motion- Supporting Private Renters and Selective Licencing
Our motion concerned securing a fair deal for private renters to ensure that they are protected from poor housing management and low standards from a minority of those operating in the sector. The motion suggested trialling the use of ‘selective licencing’ schemes, which require landlords in finite geographical areas to register with the Council enabling certain standards to be enforced. These schemes are already being used successfully in other Greater Manchester authorities, such as Manchester and Oldham. The motion was passed unanimously with support from all parties on the Council and the Liberal Democrat group will check in with the Council over the coming weeks to see what progress has been made on this motion.


Conservative motion- Creating a Bury Council Covid-19 Recovery Plan
The Conservative Council group put forward a motion calling for the creation of a detailed recovery plan as the borough begins to recover from the crisis. The plan included a focus on economic impact and ensuring financial resilience, health and social care recovery, ensuring Council services are delivered efficiently and supporting local businesses and residents. The Liberal Democrat group supported the motion as we recognised the importance of establishing a wide-reaching recovery plan to get the borough through the next stage as it rebuilds from the pandemic, although we also highlighted that such a plan needs to touch on other areas such as education and providing further support for vulnerable people. The motion was not passed as it did not achieve the support of Labour Councillors, who argued that there was not enough detail.

Labour motion- Calling for an independent enquiry into the handling of coronavirus
The motion from the Labour group called for the Council to support an independent enquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. The Liberal Democrat group supported this motion on the basis that there are a number of important questions related to the Government’s response which remain unanswered and need clarification. The motion was passed with the support of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Radcliffe First Councillors.

Reporting Back: Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Three separate reports were presented to the Summer meeting of the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Michael Powell Reports.

Bury Market Covid-19 Recovery Plan:
– The reopening of Bury Market for non-essential retail took place on 15th June, apart from businesses for which restrictions were extended to 4th July such as cafes, hairdressers, nail bars, beauty salons and barbers.
– The Market has remained partially open (approximately 12 stalls) throughout the lockdown to support food Traders providing a service to our vulnerable residents, including home deliveries. Social media support has also been provided.
– A plan has been published to guide the recovery of the market after the Covid-10 crisis. The main challenge in the long term is to attract footfall to ensure the markets viability whilst simultaneously ensuring the safety of visitors to the market.
– Amendments are proposed to the Markets Rules and Regulations, including a review of current opening and closing times.
– A Capital Programme is underway with £1.38 million going to be invested in making further improvements to the Market, phased over the next four years. The work could include the replacement of Market Hall glazing panels, addressing open Market roofing issues, Market Hall toilet refurbishment and an upgrade of Market’s parade area.

Bury and Radcliffe Town Regeneration Schemes:
– The Council have begun work on a new masterplan for Bury town centre to ensure Bury is fully prepared for the economic consequences that will arise from coronavirus and to establish a clear and deliverable plan to support economic recovery.
– The masterplan is very much in the early stages but will seek to address the town’s role as a retail and leisure destination, commercial development, improved town centre living, develop the tourism and cultural sectors and improve linkages between the town centre and surrounding assets and neighbourhoods.
– The Council recently unveiled a Strategic Regeneration Framework for Radcliffe aiming to shape the future of the town over the next 10 to 15 years. The public consultation on the SRF began on 22nd June and will run until 3rd August.
– The key elements recommended in the draft SRF include the creation of a central hub in the town centre, the creation of new leisure facilities, a focused retail strategy, improved public open spaces and a new Secondary school.

Resetting the education service in Bury:
– The report provided a further update on the progress being made by the Local Education Authority during the Covid-19 pandemic to reset the education service.
– Individual risk assessments have been carried out by all education settings across the borough to ensure social social distances and enable social bubbles to be created to avoid mixing different cohorts unnecessarily. 
– The aggregate total of pupils attending Bury schools on Tues 23 June 2020 is 3584; this marks a further growth in the returns.
– A medium term recovery work plan has been established for at least the next academic year, which will include providing support to children in three vulnerable groups- those who are transitioning from one education establishment to another, children with SEND and the newly vulnerable and those children who have fallen further behind in their learning than their peers.
–  A substantial programme of work will be required according to the Council’s education authority if they are to secure the lost learning for many of the borough’s vulnerable children. In this recovery the Council say they have some additional resource and support; from HMI, the RSC, from central government, and within local partnerships.

The papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny

Report back on High Rise building fire risks and financial impact of Covid-19.

Earlier this week was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Corporate Issues and Resource Scrutiny Committee. This brings together 15 councillors from across Greater Manchester. Bury is represented by Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstone, who also chairs the committee this year.

High Rise Building Fire Risk Residents Survey
Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force was established to ensure that the area was prepared to respond to a major incident and that all high rise building are safe from fire, and that residents feel safe.

As part of assessing how safe residents feel, a survey of residents was undertaken in the latter part of 2019.

65% of residents said they are concerned about having a fire in their home.
77% of residents who lived in a building where cladding was identified as a risks were concerned.
97% of respondents said that they would trust GMFRS to provide advice.

One of the most significant concerns was the financial impact on apartment owners. Some residents had experienced a 400% increase in service charges and others reported that they had been presented with significant bills (e.g. to remove cladding).

I asked about the financial impact on apartment owners, as I understand mortgage lenders are refusing to lend for properties where there are cladding issues, and in particular whether this was also affecting the ‘non high rise’ apartment blocks which are not covered by the current guidelines.

The full report on the residents survey is here.

Financial Impact of Covid-19 on Greater Manchester Local Authorities
The Combined Authority Finance Director gave members an update on the financial impact of Covid-19 on local government in the area.

The first part of the report concerned the impact on the individual Districts (e.g. Bury). All local councils have experienced extra costs, as a result of Covid-19, the bulk of which have been around social care costs, but also significant costs around highways, transport public health and housing.

Local councils have also had significant loss of income. Around 60% of this has been a loss of ‘commercial income’ – anything from rented property to fees and charges. Roughly 40% is lost taxation income – either lost business rates or lost council tax receipts.

There has been Government grant to help with some of this, but largely this hasn’t covered the lost income.

The second area of the report was on the financial impact on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. By far the most significant issues are with:

  • Retained Business Rate losses – Greater Manchester is part of a pilot scheme for local areas to ‘keep’ (some of the) increases in Business Rates that they generate. For Greater Manchester as a whole this has been successful, as new commercial buildings have opened in recent years. However this is very unlikely to be the case this year and perhaps in future years, so this will have an impact on what the CA can spend.
  • Metrolink – obviously use of Metrolink was severely impacted during Metrolink, and remains significantly lower than ‘normal’. The Government has given GM £25 million to help cover this, which covers the bulk of this loss. At the moment Government grant only goes to 3 August 2020, so there is a major issue about lost Metrolink income going forwards.

I asked about the long term impact of the loss of ticket income. Most of the money for the new lines was from borrowing, and the ticket income is paying for that borrowing. I also asked about potential Government funding for new lines, and whether there were any ‘ready to go’ applications being considered.

The financial impact paper is here.

Reporting Back: Planning Committee June 2020

On the 23rd June was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

Bury Planning Control Committee met remotely and the meeting was live streamed. 

In response to the emergency Government instructions on Covid-19. Due to the Government’s social-distancing guidelines no site visit took place.

At the Planning Control Committee meeting none of the submitted applications were refused but I commented on the following applications:

38 Deyne Avenue, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 1EJ.
Application Ref: 65261/Full 

We discussed an application for a two-storey terraced house in Prestwich, near the Metrolink. The application site relates to the side garden and garage of the end-of-terrace house. The plot is located at the most north eastern end of Deyne Avenue with the front of these houses accessed by a pedestrian walkway only, the road itself is stopping 35m away. There is an unmade cobbled access at the rear (Back Deyne Avenue), which is a single car width and is used by residents to access their garages, back yards and bins stores.

I raised concerns about access and facilities for the Fire Service. I was reassured that there is access for a pump appliance to within 45 m of the property as recommended by Building Regulation requirement B5.

I was also concerned about construction vehicles blocking the access road at the rear of the property, the Officer assured me that the Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) will have to be submitted in advance of any work taking place.

45 Bury Old Road, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 0EY. 
Application Ref: 65456/Full 
We discussed an application for a semi-detached residential plot on the corner of Bury Old Road and Kings Road. This semi-detached house had recently received planning permission for an extension. However, the house had been demolished and the new application was seeking permission to construct a new building along the lines of the approved scheme.

I understood that to resolve this matter quickly and to put the next-door neighbours out of their misery this application needed to be granted and the property needed to be rebuilt in line with the previous approval as soon as possible. 

However, I expressed straightforwardly maximum outrage on how the applicant, who had just talked in support of the application, had justified the fact that the property had been unlawfully demolished as a “misunderstanding” and that this was just a “hiccup”.

I supported this application but I clearly said that I found shocking that someone could describe this matter as a simple misunderstanding and I added that I was sorry for the family living next door, I also doubted that for them this issue had been a small hiccup.

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

COVID-19 Local Update

Please find below an update on local services, and also the latest set of local statistics on COVID-19.

If you, or a friend or neighbour, is in need of support don’t hesitate to get I touch with the local team. You can contact your local community Hub directly via 0161 253 5353, they have a team of volunteers ready to help with essential tasks such as shopping or collecting prescriptions.

Recommendations to Schools from Bury Council
A number of schools are now open for some children and more are opening soon. The Council’s Cabinet has agreed the following recommendation to schools:

“Subject to COVID secure health and safety provisions being met, that the target dates for Schools to return, are as follows:

  • no later than 22 June for groups of Reception, Y1 & Y6 and
  • w/c 15 June for Year 10
  • Other year groups will return no later than the new academic year, in line with national guidance

Beware Bogus Track and Trace Callers
Trading standards officers are warning residents not to be fooled by scammers claiming to be from the NHS ‘test and trace’ service.

These bogus callers tell the person that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and therefore need to self-isolate for seven days. 

The caller then tells them they need to take a test in the next 72 hours, and asks them to send their address and a payment of £500 so they can be sent a test kit and results, and warn that they will be fined if they don’t comply.

Any legitimate call from the NHS test and trace service will not ask for any payment. The correct way to arrange/order a test is via www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119 if you have no internet access.

Lesley Jones, Bury’s director of public health, said: “The NHS will contact you if someone else who has tested positive for the virus has been in close contact with you. You’ll be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. You’ll be given advice on how to do this, what symptoms you should look out for and what to do if you develop the illness. You won’t be asked to pass on the details of anyone you’ve been in contact with either. This is because, unless you have tested positive or developed symptoms, there is no need to notify anyone you’ve been in touch with at this stage.”

Angela Lomax, Bury’s head of trading standards, added: “You should never respond to unsolicited phone calls asking for your bank or card details. Such requests should be a red flag – if you’re asked to hand over this information to a caller it’s a scammer trying to rip you off!

“Genuine callers won’t ask for any personal details or payment information – these are phishing scams looking to take advantage of people’s worries.”

Anyone who suspects they have been scammed is urged to report it by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or by visiting https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/consumer-service/

Online Fitness Classes
Free online video classes are being delivered by Bury’s Live Well and Leisure services to everyone who wants to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The classes are delivered live via Facebook (see https://www.facebook.com/BuryLeisure/) to a timetable posted in advance, but are also available afterwards for people to revisit and share if they can’t make the live session.

Instructors are all fully qualified and come from Bury’s gym, studio classes, Live Well and BEATS teams among others.

The sessions are designed to boost general health through exercise, continue the rehabilitation of those with injuries or long-term conditions, and just to give everyone a chance to share a fun activity with friends they are mussing during lockdown.

Remember to read the information on the timetable about ensuring you have enough space and are medically fit enough to do the exercises.

COVID-19 Local Statistics
Bury Council and the local NHS have published this set of local statistics about COVID-19 in our area. This is new information every week.

This shows trends of people who have sadly died over recent months, with analysis for place of death (e.g. hospital, care home or at home), occupation and ethnicity. There is also a breakdown of COVID dealths as a proportion of all deaths by local area (see below map).

The full set of statistics is here.

COVID-19 Local Update

Please find below an update on local services, and also the latest set of local statistics on COVID-19.

If you, or a friend or neighbour, is in need of support don’t hesitate to get I touch with the local team. You can contact your local community Hub directly via 0161 253 5353, they have a team of volunteers ready to help with essential tasks such as shopping or collecting prescriptions.

Important information from NHS Bury and Bury Council:
“Health leaders in Bury have urged residents to follow the official Covid-19 safety guidelines, warning that we are nowhere near ‘out of the woods’ yet.

They are extremely concerned about reports suggesting that the infection rate – the R rate – is coming down fast and the battle is being won.

And while the lockdown is being gradually lifted, it is vital that everyone maintains social distancing, washes their hands and obeys the rules about who and how many people they can meet, and co-operates with the Test and Trace service as lockdown is eased to avoid transmission rising again.

Lesley Jones, Bury’s director of public health, said: “Calculating the R rate is very complex, involving data from many sources. National experts at Public Health England and several academic units produce regional estimates for R. For smaller areas the numbers of cases is lower and this means that estimates are likely to be unreliable and possibly misleading.

“Cases of coronavirus infection in Bury, and deaths in all settings, are largely flatlining and, at best, showing a marginal drop. This is consistent with regional estimates that suggest the R rate in the North West is close to 1.

“We are at a critical stage in managing the pandemic. While everyone is keen to unlock, we are also mindful of how likely we are close to an ‘R’ rate of 1, and the danger of a fresh surge in the virus. Reports of large gatherings in public spaces and a sentiment of ‘lockdown is over’ are concerning.”

Even More Items allowed at the Tip!
Wood, rubble and scrap metal are now accepted at local tips (from Saturday 30 May). General waste (including small bulky items) and garden waste can also be taken to the Cemetery Road location as more sites and containers are gradually re-opened across Greater Manchester.

Social distancing measures will remain in place, and visitors must attend on the days set aside depending on whether their car registration plate is an odd or even number.

More information here.

Play Areas
Please note that children’s play areas remain closed (because of the need to maintain social distancing). There have been some reports of people ignoring this advice, the the play areas have all recently been ‘taped closed’ again. Please let us know if there remain issues with this.

COVID-19 Local Statistics
Bury Council and the local NHS have published this set of local statistics about COVID-19 in our area.

This shows trends of people who have died over recent months, with analysis for place of death (e.g. hospital, care home or at home), occupation and ethnicity. There is also a breakdown of COVID dealths as a proportion of all deaths by local area (see below map).

The full set of statistics is here.

Reporting Back: Health Scrutiny

On 14 May was Bury’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. The overview and scrutiny role involves reviewing and scrutinising any matters relating to the planning provision and operation of health services in the area of the Council, scrutinising organisations external to the Council and holding the Leader / Cabinet Members to account. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

Bury Health and Overview and Scrutiny Committee met remotely and questions were invited from members of the public in advance of the meeting.

Geoff Little, Chief Executive Bury Council provided an update on the work that the Health & Care system in Bury have undertaken in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julie Gonda, Director of Adult Social Care, provided an update on Bury Local Care Organisation. Dr Jeff Schryer, Bury CCG Chair, provided a verbal update on the response to COVID-19.

Introduction:

In Bury we have now registered in total over 100 deaths, with 39 deaths in care homes. The data needs a lot more analysis but the peak was around the Easter weekend. Geoff Little confirmed that, as yet, the Council doesn’t have a detailed analysis of the data, for example we don’t have analysis on BAME. Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that there has been a tailor off of the deaths in the last weeks but from the data across the world we know that we can’t afford to become complacent. We also don’t know when a vaccine will be ready and how long will take to vaccinate everyone in the country. 

Julie Gonda told us that we have a tremendous number of volunteers in Bury and that the Council’s success story has been the creation of 5 community hubs. You can find out more about the community hubs here

Bury’s Response and Objectives:

Bury has been ahead of the national response. Social Care and Care Homes were on the frontline, but bulletins and updates were provided regularly to care homes, GP practices were linked to care homes and also mental health support was offered for care staff. 

PPE was a huge issue in the early dates but Bury Council had a coordinated approach and managed to coordinate this well together with the testing. Julie Gonda confirmed that the Council is now testing workforce in care homes (local Care Organisation) and this exercise will continue and will be carried out in phasing to make sure that the workforce and patients are safe.

Geoff Little told us that, as the response continues, the Council’s efforts are now focussed on the sustain and recovery phases. These two phases will merge and overlap depending on circumstances.

Sustain Phase: A more flattened out peak of activity will require a sustaining of

services phase before a full recovery phase. The phase will also require flexibility of

services to react to peaks and troughs of COVID activity.

Recovery Phase: Longer term recovery will face its own challenges and may also

involve a pre-recovery or emerging phase as the system moves out of the COVID-19

lifecycle. Key challenge in this phase will to be understand what the ‘new normal’ will look like

Julie Gonda told us that in Bury we have learnt lessons and we want to embed the excellent model that has been put forward and carry on the positive and good aspects in the future. Social care services and private care services have worked together and this coordination has been very positive. Geoff Little added that the creation of 5 community hubs and the coordination of over 200 volunteers is a good model for a recovery program. The Council wishes to continue to deliver to the most vulnerable food, medicines and human contact to fight isolation. 

The Council must not lose sight of its original system intentions and ambition contained within the draft Bury 2030 Strategy. However, this emergency can be used as a way of enhancing the positive

changes to the system, building upon the co-ordinated system approach and becoming a more effective and efficient partnership.

Geoff Little confirmed that the Council has started planning now to move forward in the recovery phase. 

  1. Testing contact tracing for at least 12 months (this is mass testing together with contact tracing) this is a national exercise and in Greater Manchester and particular in Bury we are exploring ways to improve contact tracing.
  2. Recognising that there is a risk for another peak during this time of recovery
  3. There is also the risk of the after effect, mental health and people who were unable to grieve in the proper way, effect of isolation on elderly and adolescents
  4. There could be further waves that could increase demand during the winter period

Geoff Little confirmed that the Council is fully aware that we will have to deal with several issues such as inequalities and Increase in poverty (depravation) issues. He said that COID-19 has created “more dependency” and that, for example, at the moment all rough sleepers in “A Bed Every Night” facility have been moved into their own secure and safe accommodation with support and health provision but, he told us “this is not feasible in a long term”. He said that the financial system is very much in the flux and the Council is in the dark for the future.

The issue of PPE will be a problem also in the future when the public will demand for PPE. The Council has purchased PPE for people in care and for people who carry on care roles. The stock is at Castle Leisure Centre, which is also used as a food distribution centre.

In the future the Council wants to 

  • Improve Mental Health offer in community hubs and 
  • Capitalise on lessons learnt in social care 
  • Shield vulnerable people
  • Offer support to symptomatic people
  • Focus recovering on housing/environment/productivity

Garden City Medical Centre
Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi, a 59-year-old GP at the Garden City Medical Centre, recently lost his life to coronavirus, Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that Dr Al-Dubbaisi solely handed the Garden City Medical Centre and he was very popular among the community. The CCG has offered support for his staff and patients. His family will manage the practice for 28 days and then there will be two possible decisions:

  1. Keep the practice and go through a procurement program or 
  2. Disperse the list 

Dr Jeff Schryer highlighted that is important for the CCG to talk to patients and staff and to look at financial viability before making a decision and that both outcomes will take some time.

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On the 18th February was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 64875.

At the Planning Control Committee meeting none of the submitted applications were refused but I raised concerns and voted against two out of three applications:

Land off Ainsworth Hall Road, Ainsworth, Bolton BL2 5RY, Application Ref: 64875/Full 
We discussed an application for a two-storey detached 4-bed house including an integral 1-bed ‘granny annex’ and detached garage in a site within Ainsworth Village and in the conservation area, washed over by the Green Belt. The plot is undeveloped and with a mix of protected trees and shrubs. The plot is within a residential area and is situated between detached two storey red brick houses to the north and south. There is an existing access from Ainsworth Hall Road serving the two residential properties at The Old Vicarage situated to the rear of the site.

Prior to the meeting the Planning Control Committee visited the site and I thought that the proposal was far too big for the site and intrusive to the adjoining property.

I suggested an alternative motion for a redesign to make the proposal more compact. Unfortunately, my motion was not successful and the application was passed with no amendments.

Margaret Haes Riding Centre, Moor Road, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL8 4NX, 64955/Full 
The riding school specialises in offering lessons and activities for those with special needs as well as the able-bodied, and of all agesThe application originally sited, without planning Permission, a green metal container on a concrete apron within the riding centre which is located on the edge of Holcombe Village and is within the Green Belt, Special Landscape Area and West Pennine Moors and the Holcombe Conservation Area. 

Following enforcement processes, an application was submitted retrospectively. Following negotiations with the LPA, the scheme was amended to re-locate the build and made changes to the external appearance. It is now proposed to re-site the container and it is also proposed to re-clad the entire exterior of the building with timber boarding and form a mono pitch grey felt shingle.

We analysed the merits. I considered that the proposed amendment would be appropriate and didn’t have any objections.

Land at Junction of Arthur Lane/Bury Old Road, Ainsworth, Bury, 64967/Full
The application site comprises a plot of land on the east side of Arthur Lane, close to the junction with Bury Old Road. The site, to the west is within open land in the Green Belt. The site is also within West Pennine Moors and a Special Landscape Area but lies outside the conservation area.

The proposed development involves the conversion and extensions either side of the central prefabricated building and demolition of the other buildings to the side and rear. The proposed extensions on either side of the converted ‘prefab’ would comprise single storey mono-pitched, timber clad structures. Each would extend out to the side by 3.4m and run back 12.2m to form a U-shaped building with an enclosed garden on the north side. Access would be taken from the existing access on Arthur Lane and visibility splays would require a short section of hedging to be cut back either side of the access point. There would be parking for two cars provided on hardstanding immediately to the south of the building.

As the site is within the Green Belt, I analysed the proposals against the NPPF and I referred to Paragraph 79, which  states that planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:

a) for an essential agricultural worker

b) secures a heritage asset

c) the re-use of redundant or disused buildings and enhance its setting.

d) sub-division of existing dwellings

e) a design of exceptional quality

I analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

  • The proposed development is not for an agricultural worker
  • The proposed development doesn’t secure a heritage asset
  • This is not a “re-use” as with this term we describe that a building is capable of conversion without the need for extension, significant alteration or full reconstruction of redundant or disused buildings 
  • The proposed development is not a sub-division of existing dwellings
  • The proposed development is not a design of exceptional quality

I voted against but the application was passed with no amendments.

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.