‘It’s dead’: Rochdale’s vote on Greater Manchester’s development masterplan dropped
Date published: 09 December 2020
Rochdale district overview - map showing proposed development under 2020 version of the GMSF
Rochdale Council has dropped its vote on the region’s controversial ‘spatial framework’ masterplan, with one chief admitting the blueprint is now ‘dead’.
Councillors were due to decide whether to sign up to the joint-strategy for housing and businesses at a meeting next week.
It comes after elected members in Stockport voted against the long-term development plan, effectively killing it off in its intended 10-borough form.
Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for a ‘thriving economy’, has championed the benefits of the Greater Manchester Framework (GMSF) but says there is now no point in holding the vote.
“Even if we voted for it, it’s not happening because Stockport said ‘no’, but the majority of the council is fully behind it.”
The ‘death’ of the GMSF has been celebrated by green belt campaigners who have fought against proposals for several sites – including those at Slattocks, Stakehill, Bamford and Littleborough.
But Councillor Blundell says the need to build enough homes and employment sites over the longer term still remains.
“The problem doesn’t go away, it will keep coming back until a plan is put in place,” he said.
“Ultimately, to protect Rochdale’s green belt and ensure it’s not picked off by developers, Rochdale council has to produce a long-term plan.
“We are okay in the short term, because we have a local plan in place and have sites available. But looking ahead to the next 20 years, we need a robust planning policy in place to ensure our green spaces are not picked off one by one.”
The Conservative and Lib Dem groups in Rochdale had both said they would not vote for the GMSF due to its proposals for building on the green belt.
Councillor Blundell claims that only a change in government policy towards greater subsidies for urban renewal would reduce the threat to the green belt.
“No matter who is in charge of the council, they have to be able to provide enough land to build enough homes. Without public subsidy in urban areas, that is unachievable.”
He added: “If [the Conservative group] is so disillusioned with national planning policy they can join the Labour party whenever they like.”
Conservative group leader, Councillor Ashley Dearnley, sees things rather differently, however, declaring himself ‘delighted’ with the vote being pulled.
He added: “The government doesn’t say you have to build so much on green belt to get funding, where does it say that? The government wants to protect the green belt and always use brownfield sites first.
“There’s an opportunity going forward to look at this afresh and work with the green belt groups, rather than working against them all the time.”
It is understood the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is currently discussing how to move forward in the light of Stockport’s decision to pull out of the GMSF.
But Councillor Dearnley hopes the strategy is finished for good.
He said: “I hope they don’t think they are planning some political thing prior to the elections in May and will want it to come back because that’s not acceptable. It should be scrapped.
“As a borough council we should be working on our local plan and updating that in a sensible way and taking groups with us.”
Gordon Tilstone chair of the Save our Slattocks campaign group, said he feared the plan may yet ‘come back to bite everybody’ – possibly in the form of a nine-borough blueprint.
Campaigners remained opposed to the use of ‘outdated’ statistics for the population forecasts that underpin the GMSF and believe no green belt need be sacrificed to meet housing needs over the next 15 years.
Mr Tilstone, who is also involved with the wider Save Greater Manchester’s Green Belt group, added: “We are hoping that local councils will actually listen to local people and what we are saying to them about the green belt and its importance to climate change, the environment, and people’s general health and wellbeing.”
Despite the GMSF vote being removed from the agenda, a full meeting of Rochdale council will still take place on Wednesday, December 16.
It begins at 6pm and will be streamed on the Rochdale Borough Council You Tube channel.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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