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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

World Food Day 16 October 2016

We’re supporting World Food Day, this Sunday 16 October 2016, coordinated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

At present, almost 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people. About 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, about one person every four seconds, most of whom are children.

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Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too
Last year 193 countries pledged to end hunger in the next 15 years. The global goal for achieving Zero Hunger is 2030.

One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit hardest by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in weather-related disasters.

At the same time, the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions.

Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

This is why the global message for World Food Day 2016 is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”

More information and what we can do

This brochure has more information about the campaign.
This page has information that can be downloaded about tackling world hunger, including activity books for children.

Everyone has a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change. Countries need to invest in sustainably increase food production, but there are also a number of actions that we can take to help. Find out more ideas here.

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Lib Dems secure all-party support for Green Belt

Liberal Democrats in Bury have secured all-party support for a motion at Bury’s Full Council outlining the support of councillors to the principle of ‘Green Belt’.

Green Belt, introduced in various areas of Britain from 1955, as a planning policy to protect countryside around the countries largest urban areas.
· To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
· To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
· To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
· To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
· To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

For Bury this is very significant – 60% of Bury MBC has been designated as Green Belt land.

However we are concerned that this Green Belt land is under threat from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework being developed by the ten Greater Manchester Councils to identify land for homes and jobs to 2035 – ultimately to provide land for another 225,000 homes in Greater Manchester over the next 25 years.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said:
“Green Belt as an important Planning Policy which should be retained around our major urban areas going forwards.”
“In Bury we are very lucky, of not only having six great towns and many smaller communities, but also very lucky to have great green spaces between our built up areas. We do need more houses, but we believe that we should be looking first to the use of brownfield land for housing and jobs as a first priority.”

The motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat councillors received the support of Conservative and Labour councillors and is now the Council’s policy. Although the motion states the support of councillors to the principle of green belt, there is much more campaigning to be done on the issue when the proposals from Greater Manchester Council are published in the Autumn.

Reporting Back: Bury Council heading for £6.5 million overspend

Last week was the regular meeting of Bury Council’ Cabinet. A key point on the agenda was Bury Council’s financial outlook, which at present shows the Council heading for a £6.4 million overspend in the current financial year.

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This summary actually hides an even more worrying picture, with overspend in various areas totalling over £10.5 million but addressed partially met by savings or other income elsewhere.

The Council has drawn up an ‘Action Plan’ to partially address the issue (recruitment freeze, no new spending, etc etc), but this only amounts to around £1.5 million. The remainder of the overspend would need to be covered by spending the vast majority of the Council’s ‘free reserves’ (roughly £5 million, leaving the council with under £1 million left in ‘free reserves’ at the end of the year.

The point we raised at the meeting was whether the Council was ‘too optimistic’ when it set the budget back in February. Much of the overspend relates to:
– changes in the way services are delivered (e.g. changes are either taking too long to happen, or they are not delivering the savings that were expexted)
– income not as much as expected (for example income from parking, from leisure centres, from comercial rents are all down on budget)
– demand driven areas, such as adult care, or children in care, where costs are expected to be over budget.

The impact of this projected overspend could well be very significant. What it means for the Council is that for next year (2017-18) the starting position is that an extra £6.4 million of cuts will need to be found (it was going to be £11 million, now add £6.4 million to that). We are very worried on the impact this will have on services for residents.

A full copy of the report is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increase in Missed Bins across Bury

Figures obtained by Bury’s Lib Dem councillors have revealed a noticeable increase in the number of reported ‘missed bins’ in the last few years.

The figures identify the number of bins reported as not collected by bin type. This includes instances where it is not the Councils fault such as access problems due to parked cars, snow and floods etc, contaminated bins, bins not out and bins too heavy.

Missed Bins 2013/2014
Grey 2230
Brown 1847
Green 1146 B
lue 799

Missed Bins 2014/2015
Grey 1829
Brown 1262
Green 503
Blue 552

Missed Bins 2015/2016
Grey 2227
Brown 1583
Green 816
Blue 869

Lib Dem Group Leader Councillor Tim Pickstone said:
“Missed bins is one of most frequently reported problems to us as local councillors. The Council does provide additional bags in the event of a missed bin, but people are understandably concerned about their bin being missed when the collections are only every three weeks.”

“There has been a noticeable increase in 2015-16 and we’re hoping that the Council take whatever urgent action needs to be taken get this number down.”

(Photo Bury Times)

Grammar Schools block rather than aid social mobility, says Tim Farron

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced proposals to bring back more Grammar Schools. Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron explains why he feels that Grammar Schools block rather than aid social mobility:

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There are currently only 164 grammar schools left in England but none in Wales or Scotland
I get why grammar schools seem an easy solution. Too many parents are understandably concerned about the standard of education their children are receiving. With school budgets squeezed to breaking point, class sizes growing, teachers feeling overworked and an increasingly narrow curriculum, it is little wonder some parents look for alternatives.

But the answer is not to pick out a few “gifted” children at age 11 while ignoring the needs of many millions more. Instead, we should seek to give every child the excellent education they deserve.

Yes, there are inspiring stories about children from deprived backgrounds thriving in selective schools but overall the picture Conservatives paint of grammar schools as engines of social mobility is not borne out by the facts. Saying, “I went to grammar school and did well” is dodging the issue of what happens to those who don’t get a place and, crucially, how we make sure all children, not just the lucky few, are given the opportunity to “do well”.

What is a grammar school? Why does May want to bring them back?
A child from a poor family trying to get into grammar school faces a challenge similar to a football team playing uphill. By 11 only 75 per cent of the poorest children reach the Government’s expected level compared with 97 per cent of the wealthiest children.

Conservative MP Graham Brady says successful local education authorities tend to contain grammar schools. But selective areas also tend to be richer, which boosts exam results. They also cream off bright children from nearby areas.

It is now so competitive to get into grammar schools in west Kent it has been reported that a third of pupils attended a private prep school first, where children benefit from smaller classes and other advantages. Even where grammar pupils have been to state primaries, those from poorer backgrounds miss out on private coaching for the entrance exams, which is enjoyed by wealthier friends.

Comprehensive schools admit all pupils regardless of their academic ability
Overall, grammars block rather than aid social mobility. I would not try to solve problems in our schools by building entirely new grammars. Where there is money to create more schools – and they are much needed – these should be open to all children, including those from poorer backgrounds.

I want middle-class children to succeed but I want working-class children to have the same chance because it is fundamentally fair and because it makes no economic sense to marginalise huge swathes of the population purely due to the chance of birth.

And then there is the impact on the wellbeing of children themselves. What about those judged not to have shone sufficiently to make it to grammar, courtesy of tests taken aged 11? However unfairly, such children can be made to feel they have failed, with stark consequences for the rest of their lives. Confidence hit, friendships broken and siblings bused vast distances to different schools.

Eleven is very early to decide futures. Studying was not my main interest at that age. I grew up in a terraced house on a busy road in Preston, Lancashire, raised by a single mother. She worked at a check-out but went back to night-school to better herself and eventually became a lecturer. Her success inspired me and showed me how education can be a route to a better life for all.

I went to a comprehensive and I want my children to succeed at their comprehensives. Rather than harking back to grammars and focusing only on those already thriving educationally let’s increase opportunities across society.

While in Government Liberal Democrats introduced free early learning, free school dinners and the pupil premium, giving schools extra cash for children from poor backgrounds. We also introduced an apprenticeship scheme.

These are the measures we should put more money behind – because, unlike more grammar schools, this increases opportunity for all.

This article appeared originally in the Daily Express.

Renters Rights Bill – Tell us Your Story

The Liberal Democrats in Parliament are pushing forward a ‘Renters Right Bill’. supported by tennants lobby groups such as Generation Rent and the Make Renting Fair Campaign.

We’re proposing to:
– Ban letting fees for renters
– Give renters access to an open register of rogue landlords
– Bring in compulsory electrical safety checks in rented homes
– Prevent rogue landlords from obtaining an HMO licence

Renters are hit with high costs every time they move. It is time to bring an end to rip-off letting fees which are already banned in Scotland and which allow letting agents to unfairly charge both the landlord and the tenant.

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But we need as much evidence as we can get to help make the case for the bill – and that’s where you come in!

Tell us how much you’ve paid in fees and share your story with us, so together we can make a difference.

Local Lib Dem Barbeque – this Sunday

The local Lib Dems are hoding their annual summer BBQ this Sunday (21 August 2106), kindly hosted this year by Cllr Mary, and Vic D’Albert. 2.00pm onwards. 

The guest speaker is Baroness Pinnock of Cleckheaton, Lib Dem Lords Spokesperson on Children and Families. Friends, supporters, members all welcome to this informal and friendly event.

 

The BBQ is £10 per person (£4 children) which includes all food. Tickets available here.

Parliamentary Candidates Chosen for a ‘Snap’ General Election

The Liberal Democrats in Bury have chosen candidates in case Prime Minister Teresa May call’s an early general election.

Lib Dem Group Leader in Bury Cllr Tim Pickstone said:
“Under normal circumstances the next General Election will be in 2020, but given the very significant changes following the EU Referendum, and the chaos in some other political parties, there is always a chance that the PM will seek a fresh mandate.

Other parties like Labour and Ukip are distracted with their own leadership elections and providing no real opposition to the Government.  We are determined to be ready should an early General Election happen.”

In Bury North, former Councillor Richard Baum has been chosen as our candidate. Richard, who works for the NHS,  was a Councillor representing St Mary’s Ward from 2007 to 2011 and contested Bury North in 2015

In Bury South, our candidate will be Andrew Page, a photographer working across the North West who has previously worked in the NHS for 16 years and has been particularly involved in campaigning on health issues.

Candidates will remain in place until next spring. If the General Election is taking place as normal in 2020 then we will be selecting candidates again nearer the time.