The deadline for consultation in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has recently closed. Here is the response from Bury’s Liberal Democrat Group:
Thank you for being given the opportunity to comment on the revised proposals of the Greater Manchester Plan for Jobs and Homes (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework).
Please find below the formal response of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.
We would like to make two general comments, which relate to the proposals as they affect Bury as a whole. As Councillors who represent Holyrood Ward which includes the villages of Simister and (part of) Bowlee, we would also like to make specific comments as they affect the Northern Gateway housing proposals south of the M60/M62.
Jobs, housing and land in Bury
We agree that there needs to be additional housing in Bury, and indeed across the whole of Greater Manchester. We also agree that there needs to be high quality jobs for people in Greater Manchester.
We strongly believe that this growth needs to be managed to best meet the needs of our local communities. Specifically:
- We need the homes that people need, specifically a strong provision of housing units that suit younger people and also older people who wish to ‘downsize’ but remain close to family and friends.
- We need the homes that people can afford. We currently have a crisis that an increasing number of people are being excluded from buying their own home and are trapped living with parents, or trapped in high rental accommodation. We need to provide a good mixture of housing that means people can find the homes they need and can afford.
- Growth must not come at the expense of quality of life. Greater Manchester’s green belt has ‘done what it was intended to do’ very successfully over the 50/60 years by ensuring that there are ‘green gaps’ between our towns and communities. We believe these green gaps are worth preserving to provide gaps between our towns, space for leisure and also something to alleviate the high levels of air pollution we suffer from.
On housing numbers we believe the Government is wrong to force councils to use 2014 figures, when more recent figures given a lower amount. Even the 2018 figures will be available soon and may well provide a more realistic forecast of growth given the current economic uncertainty following the EU referendum in 2016.
Our approach would be have zero loss of green belt land. The Mayor of Greater Manchester promised zero net loss of Green Belt in the run up to his election and he should stand by that promise.
We would do this through:
- Making maximum use of brown field sites across all ten districts.
- Reviewing density on all existing sites to ensure maximum housing provision on sites to be used.
- Working with more with our neighbours (particularly in Bury’s case Rossendale)
- By being more ambitious in our plans to revitalise Town Centres to provide higher density living.
We believe that in doing this we can make a strong case to the Planning Inspectorate to have an increase in housing, which may well be below the 2014 figures, but which can be met with no loss of green belt land.
With regard to employment land. We feel that the current Northern Gateway site is an overdevelopment. It is an area with very poor public transport access and on a motorway which is already at capacity. We would prefer to focus employment in existing town and city centres with good public transport links. We believe Bury’s towns could make a strong case for better employment opportunities, particularly around higher quality provision of offices or for small and start up businesses.
Transport Capacity in the Bury-Manchester corridor and M60 North
We are concerned about the lack of capacity, and the lack of proposed increased capacity, on the main transport corridor between Bury and Manchester.
We are councillors who represent a ward in Prestwich and Whitefield, both of which currently suffer from significant congestion in transport at the present time. This is both on the roads, with the A56 through Prestwich recently scoring as the most congested road in the North West of England (and eight most congested nationally).
The Metrolink line is a brilliant asset for Bury, but at present the tram is full to beyond capacity at the southern end of the line, with the existing housing.
There is no capacity improvements forseen on the A56 in the transport plan published alongside the GMSF. Indeed in the revised Bee Network proposals the A56 is highlighted as a core route for safe cycling all the way to Manchester. We very much welcome safer cycling but this would seriously reduce vehicular capacity on this route.
The only capacity improvement proposed for the Manchester to Bury Metrolink is the additional 2ndtrams that have already been ordered which may well help with the current capacity issues but will not cope with more houses.
As a minimum we need to provide additional Metrolink capacity on the Bury Manchester line. At the moment a tram (Airport) terminates at Victoria. Another (Trafford Centre) is proposed to terminate at Crumpsall in 2021. At least one of these needs to be extended to Bury (or at least Whitefield) to deal with the congestion which exists between Crumpsall and Whitefieid.
The M60 as it passes between Prestwich and Whitefield is a highly congested stretch of motorway. We have recently endured many years of roadworks to create a smart motorway but there remains very significant capacity problems with standing traffic at many times of the day. Not only is this bad for travel times but it also will contribute to poor air pollution and reduce life expectancy.
The GMSF in its current proposals will add to this congestion with the creation of the Northern Gateway employment site on a massive scale. This will be significant increase in goods and car journeys on the M60 north/M62 which there is just not the capacity to do so. There are vague indicates for an additional motorway junction near to Birch services, but this will make congestion worse as junctions add to congestion not alleviate it.
The northern gateway site is sited poorly for public transport and this lack of public transport is not addressed in the transport plan (except the vague plan of new bus routes). Most young people cannot drive so employment should be provided alongside good public transport links.
The only proposal to address capacity is a vague plan to improve the flow of traffic at Simister Island. As the councillors who represent Simister we have grave concerns about the impact on the village of any new construction which will seriously impact on the village, but also on the two schools (St Margaret’s primary and Parrenthorn High) which are both close ot the junction the southern side.
We strongly believe that these transport, congestion and air pollution issues must be addressed properly in the GMSF. We cannot have a proposal for jobs and houses that is adding to congestion, adding to air pollution and as a result reducing life expectancy.
Housing Proposals in Simister and Bowlee
As councillors for Holyrood Ward we have the honour of representing residents in the village of Simister and also the western halves of Bowlee and Rhodes which are part of Bury MBC.
Simister is a unique part of Prestwich and indeed Bury. It is a proud village community, unique in being the closest village to Manchester city centre. The village has strong links with the surrounding countryside, most of which is dairy farms but also sees significant equestrian use with horse riding a daily feature in the village. The village is of a linear nature based along Simister Lane which is an extremely narrow road which already struggles to cope with existing traffic. Simister is the home to Holyrood Ward’s largest employer, the Brookvale centres for people with learning difficulties, which provides residents with a pleasant village environment. Simister has an important nature site, the Simister Wetland, which is of scientific importance and the home to many living creatures some of whom have protected status.
Be very clear that the proposals, as they now stand, would destroy this village. Even though the proposals seem to indicate that there would be a gap of a 100m or so between the existing village and new houses, this will still destroy the character of the village. It is utterly ridiculous to think that a village can survive its character if it is completely surrounded by 2,700 new houses.
On the Bowlee and Rhodes side the proposals seem to indicate that all the traffic from the 2,700 new houses will enter and exit onto Heywood Old Road. This road already suffers from sever congestion with standing traffic going right up towards Heywood in the mornings. There is just no capacity to have any roads emptying out onto Heywood Old Road and this scheme has been poorly thought out.
The green belt land which surrounds Simister and Bowlee is an important piece of Green Belt which must be protected.
It currently provides a green barrier between the urban areas of Prestwich and Middleton and between Whitefield and Middleton/Heywood. If the proposals of the GMSF go ahead there will be continuous development between Prestwich, Whitefield, Middeton and Heywood which would seriously impact on the quality of life for people who live there. A ‘green strip’ needs to be retained between these communities.
As previously stated, air pollution is a significant concern in the M60 and M62 areas. These motorways are extremely congested, and will be even more congested if the Northern Gateway employment site is developed. Development of 2,600 hosues around Simister and Bowlee will mean building right up to the M60 and M62. We should not be building houses in places which will give people a reduced life expectancy.
Councillor Mary D’Albert, Holyrood Ward
Councillor Tim Pickstone, Holyrood Ward (Group Leader)
Councillor Steve Wright, Holyrood Ward (Deputy Group Leader)