Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Third time lucky: Liberal Democrat Leader calls again for special Council meeting to discuss Labour’s green belt homes plan

by Garth Harkness on 27 July, 2020

The Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Leader of Oldham Council to ask once more for a special meeting of the full Council to be convened to consider a one-item agenda – the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and its impact on the Oldham Borough.

Councillor Sykes first asked the Leader for such a meeting in the Full Council meeting in September 2018, and again in December of that year.  Council minutes have since recorded that the matter is ‘in progress’.  After almost two years of waiting for a meeting, Councillor Sykes’ patience has worn thin and he is concerned that time for further meaningful debate on the issue is fast running out.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said:  “The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will, aside from Coronavirus, have one of the greatest impact of any issue on Oldham and its people, and this impact will be felt for twenty – thirty years.  Under the current plans of Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor and the Leaders of the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, thousands of new homes will be built across the Oldham Borough over two decades.”

“Many of the Borough’s residents were rightly up-in-arms about the proposals to build most of these new homes on our precious and irreplaceable Green Belt, and Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Councillors joined them on protest marches and by objecting strongly in writing in response to every consultation and by raising questions in Full Council.  I now feel it is time for Oldham’s Labour Administration to bring the latest proposals before the elected members who represent the people, and it must be at a one-item Council meeting as this is such an important issue there should be time for proper debate without the distraction of other business.”

The letter from Councillor Sykes to the Leader of Oldham Council, Councillor Sean Fielding, is shown below.

22 July 2020

Councillor Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Borough Council

Dear Sean Fielding,

Re:  Meeting to discuss Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

I am writing to you to follow up on my question to you at the full meeting of Oldham Council on 12th September 2018 requesting that a special meeting of the Council be convened with a one-off agenda item to discuss the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

In your response, you indicated that you were mindful to have an extraordinary meeting with this single item agenda and I would request that this be in addition to the agreed meeting cycle.

In ‘Update on Actions’ at last Council (page 133) there was a short note to say this was ‘in progress’ with Constitutional Services.

I hope that we are not being left behind, and I would appreciate it if you could give me an indication of when this meeting will be held?

Will it be in the current municipal year or in the 2021/22 Council meeting cycle?

Are there any provisional dates under consideration which you can share?

As always, happy to discuss before a formal response is sent.

Yours sincerely,

Howard Sykes

The question Councillor Sykes asked the Leader in Full Council on 12 September 2018 is shown below

Mr Mayor, my first question tonight relates to a future decision which will be one of the most momentous in its impact on many of our Borough’s residents over the next two plus decades.

Namely the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) – the adoption of a 20-year housing and industrial land use development plan for Greater Manchester.

The revised proposals have been some time coming, but I understand that they will now be available for so called public consultation in October.

I also understand that a decision has recently been made by the ten Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them. 

There will be NO requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the ten Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors.

This is a complete reversal of democracy.

Members will recall that many of our residents were outraged when the initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled.

Liberal Democrat colleagues, I and members from the seats opposite, joined them in opposing the proposals when responding to the consultation or attending demonstrations in Tandle Hill Country Park and in Albert Square.

Mr Mayor, public sentiment is still the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our Green Belt and YES to local Councillors as the people’s representatives ultimately making the decision where new homes are built.

Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.  How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt.  Yet the ten Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people.

It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight, whether despite this backroom deal, he will still be doing the honourable thing by bringing the final plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.

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