Protect the greenbelt - the ‘people’s vision for the future’
Date published: 04 March 2018
Councillor Neil Butterworth backing Save our Villages (Newhey and Milnrow)
A conference to discuss solutions to the threat to greenbelt land encompassed in the Greater Manchester ‘Spatial Framework’ was attended by ‘Save our Villages (Newhey and Milnrow)' in Manchester on Saturday.
The Spatial Framework is a plan drawn up by the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities for land allocation across Greater Manchester to ‘provide housing and investment opportunities for sustainable growth’ over the next 35 years.
‘Save our Villages (Newhey and Milnrow)’ was set up in response to the first draft of the plan, published in October 2016, which caused uproar with its proposals to build on greenbelt land throughout the borough, including 1,500 homes and industrial units on a large swathe of land adjoining Newhey and Milnrow.
The group of residents who set up the group aimed to save the green areas around Newhey and Milnrow so that they are not “swamped by urban sprawl and infrastructure problems building en-masse would bring to this area”.
The group has been active since inception organising meetings, conferences and protest marches with the backing of local councillors.
A second draft of the Spatial Framework is to be published in June 2018 and promises a ‘radical rewrite’, to include more emphasis on affordable homes, fringe towns, and a significant reduction in plans to build on greenbelt.
The Save our Villages group “understands that there has to be a forward-thinking plan for Greater Manchester that helps towns grow and prosper over the next few decades” and its aim is by "negotiation and awareness to protect our countryside for future generations in the new plan".
Councillor Neil Butterworth, Labour councillor for Milnrow and Newhey, attended the conference and said he was deeply concerned the Spatial Framework plan is still in danger of having a long term negative impact on the local environment, health and quality of life.
He laid the blame for that on the government of former Prime Minister David Cameron. He explained: “The Cameron government decided that opening up the greenbelt for building was necessary to encourage the building of new homes, despite evidence that it was not necessary.
“This resulted in councils producing five-year plans in a kneejerk reaction to keep control.
“Developers have seen this as a sign that it’s open season and are land grabbing anything with a blade of grass on it.”
Councillor Butterworth says he wants the law to be changed to protect the greenbelt from developers "building on every blade of grass". That, he said, is “the simple bit”, the difficulty is that to change the law, “the current government needs to be replaced with one that wants to change the law”.
He added: “We have an opportunity within Greater Manchester to try and change things locally and that possibility lies with the new mayor, Andy Burnham. He has the authority and the backing of a massive majority across all 10 boroughs, but does he have the appetite for the challenge?
“He will have the appetite if enough voters tell him that’s what they want.
“27,000 people responded to the last consultation on the Spatial Framework. Is that enough? I suggest not.”
Coouncillor Butterworth says the framework could detrimentally affect large parts of the borough, not just Newhey and Milnrow, and whilst he is aware of a number of active campaign groups, he wants to see many more residents throughout the borough lobbying their councillors, their MPs and most importantly Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
His aim is for people power to force Mayor Burnham to “come up with alternatives”.
He implores people to, “get involved and make your views known”.
He admitted he gets a “bit passionate on this issue”, but says it is crucial “we do something”, adding: “I can have some effect, but together we can have a much greater effect. Let’s work together.”