Bury’s Spatial Framework Debate – Statement

On Wednesday (1 February 2017) a proposal that Bury Council pull out of the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework (GMSF) was rejected. Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors voted to pull out, but Labour councillors voted to stay in.

Speaking after the debate, Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Bury Councillor Tim Pickstone said:

“We recognise the need for more homes and more jobs, but for us GMSF is just a bad deal for Bury. In the deal we’re losing 20% of our green belt, Prestwich and Whitefield/Unsworth are losing almost 50%.

“Bury already suffers from congestion on our roads, motorways and public transport, and we have real air quality problems as a result”.

“We’re calling on Bury to develop it’s own local Bury Plan, looking forwards 15 years, not the 20 years proposed by GMSF.”

“We’ve been beaten this time, but the fight will continue until we get the deal that is right for Bury.”

You can watch the debate, which was recorded live here (Councillor Pickstone’s speech starts at 1hr 56min):

The full text of Bury Liberal Democrat leader Tim Pickstone’s speech is pasted below:

Mr Mayor

I have the pleasure of moving this motion tonight on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group on the withdrawal of Bury from the
Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Members of the Council will no doubt be very aware, of the highly controversial proposals set out in the GMSF that, if they were to come to happen, would significantly change the face of this Borough for ever.

We don’t believe that what is proposed is, in any way, right for this Borough, and believe we should send a very clear message tonight, draw a clear line under this madness at the earliest opportunity. And proceed with a local plan for Bury as very eloquently described by the Leader earlier.

Mr Mayor, you and members will also be aware that it is only 140 days, since every single councilor in this chamber voted in favour of a motion expressing our continuing support for the principle of green belt land and all the reasons that make green belt land good idea.

Mr Mayor. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is a bad deal for Bury.
It is a terrible deal for Bury. We do need to do something, but this is not the right thing for Bury.

Under the proposals Mr Mayor Bury is proposed to lose so much of our irreplaceable green belt. Precious green belt land in the north and centre of the borough – land around Elton Reservoir, around Walshaw, Holcombe Brook, Baldingstone and others would be lost.

In the South of the borough whole swathes of Prestwich, Whitefield and Unsworth would be lost underneath a massive urban expansion of the meaning continuions development between Manchester, Prestwich, Unsworth, Whitefield, Heywood and Middleton known as the northern gateway. Cllrs D’Albert Wright and I have the honour of representing one and a half distinct villages Simister and Bowlee would be subsumed under extension of the continuous urban everyment.

In fact Mr Mayor Bury is set to lose 20% of its prescious green belt land. Perhaps we all need to take our share of the burden I hear you say – but oh no – the average green belt loss for GM as a whole is just 8%.

And it gets worse – you propose that Prestwich will lose 47% of its green belt land. You propose that Whitefield and Unsworth will lost 48% of its green belt.
How can this be fair? How can this possibly be a good deal for Bury?

Let me quote from a local resident:
“By making such a large amount of greenbelt available to developers this will mean that many brown field sites will be left undeveloped as house builders seek to utilise the much more profitable green sites to build much larger, much more expensive properties. The consequence would be that the much needed affordable homes that are required …… are not built. the aspiration to affordably rent or buy a property would remain out of reach for far too many.”
Mr I Lewis of Prestwich

“It is clear that many communities feel strongly that the plan as currently drafted is unfair and disproportionate. As a result, it could diminish quality of life in some communities and restrict people’s access to good air and green space. I believe that the current plan needs to be subject to a radical re-write that results in a substantial reduction in loss of green belt.”
Mr A Burnham, of Leigh

Mr Mayor I very rarely agree with a word Mr Burnham says, particularly his recently stated views on immigration and crime. And I certainly don’t agree with both these gentlemen the who have both just gone through the lobbies to vote with Theresea May, and UKIP to vote for a cruel hard Brexit.

But they are right on this. This is an bad deal for Bury, and the Liberal Democrat group at least will not sit idly by while these proposals happen.

Secondly Mr Mayor I want to talk about why the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework process is so wrong. And this is where I do disagree with these two gentlemen.

Firstly let us set some things straight:
– we do, undoutably, need more housing in Greater Manchester. Let nobody suggest that we believe differently. But crucially we need better housing – we need housing that young people can afford to move into, we need housing that older people can be proud to live in in later life and we need to improve the very poor state of housing in too many areas.
– We do, undoutably, need more jobs in Greater Mancheter. Let nobody suggest that we believe differently. But crucially we need better jobs, we are part of a great world city and should aspire to be nothing less.

But there are some ways where the approach that GMSF has got it all wrong.
Firstly, the liberal belief is that local communities need to in the driving seat of determining the future shape of their communities. What housing do we need, where should it be built, what services need improving, what green space needs protecting. Mr Mayor this is our first principle.

GMSF has catagoricaly not done this. It has started not at the bottom, but at the top. In fact, even worse, it started with the ‘call for sites’, asking landowners and developers to provide a wish list of land they want to build on. And, surprise surpise Mr Mayor, Peel Holdings, want to build all around Eltron Reservoir. Surprise, Surprise the aristrocracy – which is what Wilton Estates is – want to build all around Simister and Bowlee.

We are also concerned that GMSF is proposing growth that is not sustainable. We live on an island, certainly last time I asked, it is an island that is not growing, but its population is growing. We need to find a way of living in generations to come that is in tandem with that green and pleasant land that we are lucky to have been given.

What that does not mean, as far as we are concerned, is ‘more of everything’ – vast industrial estates, new motorways, bigger junctions, more, more, more everything but green spaces. This is completely unsustainable.

A classic example of this is the Northern Gateway. A development larger in size that Trafford park straddling Bury and Rochdale. Just to show again what a bad deal this is for Bury the vast majority of the employment land is in Rochdale – so its not even us that get the business rate increase . My fear is that what we will see is his will become a lot of those low rise distribution warehouses which as far as I am concerned now blight Atherton and Westhoughton

Mr Mayor I know you will have attempted to drive down the M60 in the morning or evening rush our. It is full, it is more than full. It was full before the smart motorway works and it will be full after the smart motorway works will be over. How anyone thinks that a massive industrial employment site will make this any better I do not know. Less of a Northern Gateway than a Northern Gridlock.

GMSF alludes to transport improvemnets to the North West quadrant of the M60, and in the Governments’ own parallel work on this there are suggestions of a new motorway from Middleton/Heywood on the M62 over to the Orrell Interchange on the M6. I cannot be the only person who has noticed that there are a few things in the way, one called Whitefield and one called Radcliffe. Mr Mayor more motorways are not the answer to a sustainable future.

Mr Mayor I don’t know if you remember what you were doing at 6am on 1 November 2016. I don’t either, but what I do know is that at that time our air pollution monitoring station on Radcliffe Road was reporting the WORST air pollution in Britain, indeed in the top ten worst in Europe. GMSF, by building so much on our green spaces and crazy ideas like new motorways will add to this, not make it worse.

Mr Mayor the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is not only bad for Bury, but it is also a bad process, and the quicker we go back to the drawing board the better.

What it feels like is that we are only being given one option, and the world will end if we don’t take it.

It reminds me very much of the last time our Greater Manchester leaders thought they knew better with the Congestion Charge, where we were told that this was the only option to fund new tram lines and public transport expansion, and low and behold the Metrolink network has more nearly quadroupled in size since without it.

In fact what we propose, that Bury developes its own plan, obviously with conversations with our neighbours, will enable us to be more sensitive to our local needs, and also by having a 15 year supply of housing, not 20 year – many councils are producing 15 year plans, then we actualy need to identify 1/3rd less building land.

We will have to make difficult decisions, but we will be able to make them in a way that,is right for Bury from the outset.

We will no doubt be told that we are ‘jumping the gun’ without waiting even the outcome of the consultation. Jumping the gun before the Housing White Paper. jumping the gun on the outcome of the GM Mayoral elections this May.

Absulutely we are, and important to note that the GMSF isn’t waiting for the latter two things to happen either – so if we’re jumping the gun they are too.

Ultimately but we are elected to serve our electorate and I am pretty clear what that means we need to do which is to stop this GMSF, today, or Liberal Democrats and many others will keep trying right across Greater Manchester every step of the way.

Mr Mayor thank you for your patience and I am happy to recommend this motion to members.