Open Letter to the reporter

As a passionate member of Save Tameside Greenbelt and Greenspaces I have somewhat concerned by the confusing mix of recent articles, lobby strategy and rhetoric across the board on this subject and as a member of a cross –party group wanted to offer an alternative view of the facts and figures and issues to be examined in this debate. The election of Andy Burnham to GM Mayor has given us an excellent opportunity to begin again with the GMSF as the power to create GMST strategy now falls into his hands. Tameside is part of this framework that runs alongside our local strategy. Our new mayor has made it clear that the GMSF strategy needs a radical rethink away from a focus on greenbelt-led development to boost council revenues by building larger homes to attract skilled workers to live, work and spend their wages in the area to a strategy that includes urban redevelopment, affordable housing and regeneration of brownfield areas. As a group we are fighting to raise awareness of these issues to keep Tameside as green as possible and highlight the need for brownfield sites to be regenerated for affordable housing for the local people who love Tameside.

A key concern we had on the GMSF strategy was that in all the areas chosen in Tameside no mention was made of social housing and this concern was ironically echoed by the Housing the Powerhouse Lobby of house builders in their response to the 2016 consultation. Nor were several of the sites in the GMSF inclusion of the list of sites already laid out in the UDP that has been in place in Tameside since 2004 as our blueprint for housing, transport, infrastructure, air quality, employment and conservation. Alongside the GMSF the UDP is being replaced in Tameside with a Local Plan that should have been implemented in April 2017 and we urge the council provide a draft version and go out to consultation with local residents before implementing this plan and to also explain the financial rationale behind the Local Plan and the Tameside GMSF vision as well. Two informal consultations were held on the GMSF prior to 2016 and all residents should have been allowed the opportunity to have a say on these important matters.

The UDP is a very specific 141 page document which along with strategy documents such as the SDP for Hattersley set out a vision for Tameside. Sites earmarked for development for housing, new railway stations, freight lines were in, conservation areas were referenced and mills to be preserved. In 2004 65% of the borough was designated as open space “Critically, the network of green open spaces which help to break up the urban areas and meet local recreational needs must continue to be protected, and the policies concerned with this are strengthened. “Town cramming must be avoided.” The UDP also highlighted the SSSI and SBI protected areas we need to protect in our waterways and countryside and the ancient woodlands and mosslands such as Ashton Moss as 99% of mosslands in the North West have been eroded according to the Wildlife Trust. From our perspective, the UDP was and is not a perfect strategy and does include sites that we as a group may object to as sites for potential development bordering on greenbelt areas but it set out a very clear vision. A vision however is not a plan of action nor a plan of financial investment. Some potential sites listed for development in 2004 are now built but Tameside seems has not moved forward in other areas if you visit areas mentioned in the UDP today. The planned train station at Droylsden is mentioned in 2004 and features again in 2016 in the GMSF. The question remains unanswered as to who will pay for these infrastructure developments needed? Again worryingly we are in agreement with the Housing the Powerhouse lobby on this point as they ask in their 2016 GMSF response who will pay these levies for new bus links, train stations, new schools as the law of obligation remains vague on this? If you wish to attract an affluent skilled workforce to live in Tameside they need good transport links, schools for their children and doctors with capacity for new registrations. the new GM Mayor could have the power to implement development levies across Tameside but will new legislation be brought in to do this?

The link between building aspirational homes and an increase in council tax revenue to counteract government cuts and our ageing local population is referenced in articles around this issue. Under the UDP “Housing Land Provision Land will be made available to enable an average of 370 new dwellings per year, net of clearance, to be provided in the Borough from April 2002 to March 2011 inclusive, or to the date when a reviewed plan is adopted if earlier. Land will be made available, in addition, to allow for the replacement of dwellings lost through clearance. This is predicted to average 170 dwellings per year from April 2002, subject to monitoring the actual number of dwellings cleared and the possible need to reduce the rate of replacement in light of the tenure and occupancy of the stock which is lost. The Council will give priority to the construction of new dwellings on previously developed sites and the reuse of empty and underused buildings for residential purposes, and will aim to provide at least 80% of new dwellings on such sites between April 2002 and the end of the plan period. Development of phase 2 greenfield sites will not be permitted unless an adequate five year supply is no longer available through outstanding commitments and remaining allocated sites, inclusive of an appropriate allowance for brownfield windfalls. Housing capacity studies will be undertaken to assess the potential for further housing development on brownfield sites within the urban area of the Borough and to inform the need for plan review. The Council will monitor and manage the release of land to achieve the annual average rate of housing provision set out in RPG13 and in doing so will minimize the amount of land needed for new housing”.

Under the GMSF Tameside will provide 6% of the 227 000 houses needed over the next 20 years across Greater Manchester. This equates to under 14 000 houses. Outgoing MP for Stalybridge and Hyde Jonathan Reynolds referenced in an article in October last year that there are Brownfield spaces to build 8000 houses already in Tameside. As we all revel in the beauty and open spaces of Tameside should we not all be focused on the regeneration of town centres and the preservation of our mill heritage? English Heritage has referenced 539 mills to be redeveloped in Greater Manchester. As a group we are asking the council legitimate questions as to how much revenue these GMSF developments would raise offset against the major investments needed to attract these aspirational home buyers to Tameside and in such desperate times who much further will the new local plan go to generate revenue in contrast to the much more positive vision of the UDP?

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