New Year means New Priorities: We must Protect the Greenbelt - by Jack Rydeheard

Imagine if your already-congested roads were to face an influx of new drivers. Imagine if your local green spaces faced obliteration. Imagine if infrastructure was unable to support your community.

Imagine if your council were all too willing to rubber-stamp it...

This is what the residents of Greater Manchester face, under a plan by Andy Burnham and his Greater Manchester Labour Councils. After one council rejected it, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in their infinite wisdom have decided to proceed with the plan for the nine remaining councils.

I wish I could say it were my council who voted to reject the plan. With Bury Conservatives leading the fight against the disasterplan locally, Bury Labour have yet again delayed it, no doubt hoping to pass it at any point should the fuss die down.

Had they voted it through, there would have been a consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), but it is now unclear as to what will happen next. The GMCA is pushing ahead without Stockport, with the group of the 9 remaining Councils forming their own plan.

Conservative leader of the Opposition on the Council, Cllr Nicholas Jones, is clear - "Bury Council should draw up a local plan, a plan for Bury and not one drawn up by people with no connection to the town."

He went on to say "Bury Council are responsible for making a realistic assessment of the number of homes the borough needs. That said, I do not believe the current Labour administration have ever disclosed whether such an assessment has been made nor confirmed the number of homes they feel our borough requires over the lifetime of the GMSF. This is something they MUST do.

Our Boroughs across Greater Manchester must now speed up the local development of their own local plans which reflect the needs and asportations of their communities, not those of Greater Manchester Labour."

Deputy leader of the Conservatives on Bury Council, Councillor Paul Cropper, said "Labour-run Bury Council have a position that the Government are forcing them to calculate new home projections based on the 2014 population projections. This is simply not correct. The Housing Minister in 2019 confirmed that the 2014 figures are a starting point in this process but it is for the individual local authority to decide what housing numbers should be included in their local plan."

It is crucial that we construct a housing plan for Bury, by the representatives for Bury. We must keep up the fight.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework provides for the wrong sort of housing, built in the wrong places.

Around 10% of existing green-belt land faces being ripped up and concreted over, under the prerogative of the existing Labour administration. This is 520 hectares, 1,250 acres of traditional, natural scenery and land, which will never be replaced. Bury also faces much more of its green-belt being torn up than the other councils involved, which stand to lose an average of 4%.

Put simply, Bury is being treated as the fall-guy for a Greater Manchester Labour anti-environment crusade.

But it is not only the environmental impact which has been brought to the forefront. The plan is severely lacking in provision for additional infrastructure, for what are already neglected and overloaded roads.

This extends to other issues, which will include future problems of additional school places - this plan will have consequences for generations to come.

Throughout this process, the lack of transparency has been astounding. From first plan to revised plan, we know not what has changed or why. Around 3% of green-belt loss has been wiped off the new plan, with no explanation as to how or why this is the case.

Even the Labour leader of Bury Council has gone on record to say that the plans are a 'big political risk', with Cllr Nicholas Jones has said that the plan 'is bad for Bury, and we will vote against it to protect our green spaces.'

Developments in Elton, Walshaw and Simister totalling more than 6,150 new-builds are vastly disproportionate to requirements, with few wards taking huge hits in order for Bury Labour to attempt to minimise opposition to the plans,

Bury MBC's voters now need access to more details, and to be listened to in their vehement opposition to the plans. It cannot be the case that Bury Labour are allowed to revisit and ram through the GMSF at a later date with little scrutiny, whilst Stockport Council can vote it down with just 1.2% of their green-belt at risk.

Whilst Labour play political games with Bury's landscape, Bury Conservatives remain clear. Under a Conservative administration, the GMSF will be vetoed.

In the coming year, it is time to focus on our green-belt and ensure that we can preserve our valuable natural spaces and precious green-belt for future generations to enjoy.

Jack Rydeheard, Editor for Conservative Progress and 2021 Conservative Candidate for Elton Ward, Bury MBC

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