Newly-elected councillor vows to fight green belt housing plans
Date published: 17 May 2019
Councillor Tom Besford
A newly elected Labour councillor has vowed to do everything in his power to stop green belt sites in his ward being built on under the region’s 20-year development blueprint.
Councillor Tom Besford says that proposals for Littleborough Lakeside included in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) are ‘wrong’ – and he will be pushing for them to be drastically changed, if not removed altogether.
He said: “First and foremost the infrastructure is not sufficient to cope with the extra houses and, second, we want to protect our green spaces and green belt”.
The spatial framework was subject to a ‘radical rewrite’ after Andy Burnham became mayor – and public consultation on the second draft recently came to a close.
However, the plans for Littleborough still include building 300 new homes next to Hollingworth Lake and Rochdale Canal.
While scaled back from the first draft, a further 210 homes are proposed for the Roch Valley between Smallbridge and Littleborough.
Rochdale council’s Labour leader Allen Brett says that the spatial framework is vital if the borough is to embrace a more prosperous future – although he will consider the responses to the public consultation.
But Councillor Besford says Littleborough’s infrastructure – the roads, schools and doctors’ surgeries – ‘can’t take’ the influx of people and traffic that new housing would bring.
And he will be pushing to change the proposals as much as possible before a final consultation is launched in September.
“I think the proposals for Littleborough Lakeside in the GMSF are wrong and I’m trying to get as much as possible on that stance. I definitely can’t say I’m going to get this whole thing stopped and it’s going to be cancelled, I doubt very much I can do that – but I will definitely try.
“But I don’t want to tweak around the edges and make a very small change – it’s not what residents expect of me and it’s not what I want to do anyway.”
“I think these proposals as they stand are not right for Littleborough Lakeside.”
The 32-year-old says getting the plans amended was top of his priorities following his election on 2 May.
“By the end of the first week I had already been for a meeting with the leader to explain my position and talk through some suggestions,” he said.
“At the moment we’re pulling together a list of sites I feel can mitigate the requirement for building on green spaces by using Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) on derelict buildings and building on brownfield to reduce the need to build on green belt.”
“All along I have said we should not have more houses, the infrastructure can’t take it.”
He adds the number of Littleborough-based pupils having to take places at Kingsway and Falinge Park shows that schools in the area are already under pressure.
As a resident of Littleborough he has first-hand experience of traffic problems – getting his two-year-old son to nursery in Milnrow can take up to 40 minutes on a bad day, he says.
But he doesn’t back calls for a new road.
“It’s building on greenfield sites which defeats the object,” he said.
Having not taken office until after the consultation closed, is it too late for Councillor Besford to make an impact?
He believes not.
“It’s definitely not a done deal, it’s not signed and sealed and wrapped up. I’m hoping now to work hard to look at the public responses to that consultation and work with officers and other people in seeing what we can do to change these proposals to make them appropriate,” he said.
A third version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will go out to consultation in September and is expected to be submitted to the government in spring 2020.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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