“Leave GMSF now”, say Stockport Liberal Democrats

green-belt-mapjpgThe Liberal Democrats are calling for Stockport to withdraw from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and are inviting the other parties to support a Lib Dem motion coming to Full Council.

In December, in a motion proposed by Cllr Mark Hunter, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem Group, the Lib Dems tried to pull Stockport out of the plan, which will see thousands of houses built on the greenbelt. That attempt was blocked by the Labour and Conservative councillors who not only voted it down but even blocked debate on the issue.

Now they are trying again, with a motion to Stockport Full Council on 19th January.

“The GMSF is a top-down plan that will see thousands of houses built on the greenbelt with no plan to deal with the problems it will cause. It is very clear that the people of Stockport disagree with the proposals,” said Cllr Hunter.

“The right approach is to pull out of the GMSF and start work on a plan for Stockport, with Stockport people involved from day one,” Mark added.

The Liberal Democrats want Stockport to develop a 15-year Local Plan, as many other councils are doing. The GMSF is a 20-year plan, which means a third more houses.

“This is about the future of our area for decades to come,” said Cllr Lisa Smart. “Our future should be decided by our local communities, and that won’t happen if the GMSF goes ahead. We should leave it now and get on with developing a plan that’s right for Stockport.”

On whether the other parties would support the motion, Lib Dem leader Cllr Iain Roberts said “I’ve been told that we can’t do this in case we upset other leaders across Greater Manchester. I say we have to do this because it’s the right thing for Stockport. I hope the other parties will reconsider their positions and support our motion.”

Below is a briefing note we have prepared setting out the Stockport Lib Dem position on this issue.


Why the Liberal Democrats want Stockport to withdraw from the GMSF

A briefing document from Stockport Liberal Democrats, January 2017

The ten Greater Manchester authorities and the Combined Authority are jointly pursuing the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) to identify land for housing, offices and industrial use over the next twenty years. The requirement for a local plan comes from the Government.

The Liberal Democrats want Stockport to withdraw from the GMSF and instead start work on its own Local Plan.

We proposed this in December but the proposal was rejected by Labour and Conservative councillors who not only voted us down but refused to even allow the issue to be debated. However, we think this is too important to drop so we are proposing it again this month and we are urging councillors from the other groups to support us.

20 years is too long

Most councils across the country are producing 15 year local plans. Greater Manchester’s plan is over 20 years, which means a third more housing is required. But a lot can change in 15 years. The Liberal Democrats believe a 15 year plan would be more appropriate, and it would also greatly reduce the pressure on the greenbelt.

Look again at brownfield sites

If the GMSF goes through, the result will be large-scale building on the greenbelt while numerous brownfield sites in our towns remain empty and derelict. That’s largely a Government policy failure. The Government has cut funding available to develop those brownfield sites which means they are not viable. The Liberal Democrats want to see more done to use the existing brownfield sites, and to ensure that greenbelt is not developed while brownfield remains unused.

GMSF is a bad solution

The GMSF plans for Stockport are badly flawed. Sites are being proposed which will have a huge environmental effect, for which there is no transport infrastructure plan and little chance of getting the money to deliver to sort of plan that would be needed. We have concerns about many other issues including pollution, pressure on the NHS, schools and flooding. Taken with Cheshire East’s proposals, the thousands of additional houses near High Lane and clustered around the A34 are simply unworkable. We do not believe this can be fixed by tweaking – we need to rethink from first principles what we are trying to achieve.

Bottom-up, not top-down

The GMSF plan has been produced by Greater Manchester council officers and a small number of politicians. Former Lib Dem leader Sue Derbyshire never saw the proposals: they were developed when she was no longer leader. Stockport councillors, and the public, didn’t even get to see the plan until it was fully-formed. That’s no way to make such an important decision that will affect our communities for decades or even centuries to come. The Liberal Democrats want a plan built by communities. It should start with a discussion about what we want for Stockport, and then neighbourhoods can work on how to deliver it.

An end to secrecy

Greater Manchester will soon be electing a Mayor, but the Combined Authority is too secretive. The GMSF is just one example, but it’s an important one. Just as with the Congestion Charge back in 2008, this is an opportunity for local people to say “enough is enough – don’t take important decisions without involving us from the start”.

In line with the traditions of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority

The ten councils across Greater Manchester have a long tradition of working together effectively where they agree, and doing thing in other ways where they disagree. The councils have almost never tried to force everyone to go along a particular path against their will (the congestion charge is a rare exception). The Liberal Democrats strongly support the Combined Authority, but do not believe that this work is best done at a Greater Manchester level – it is just too remote from the local communities that will be affected.

We must use the GMSF consultation data

It is absolutely clear that Stockport residents strongly oppose the level of greenbelt building being proposed. But the responses to the GMSF over the last months will have a great deal more important information. That should be fed into Stockport’s Local Plan to help inform it.

What happens if Stockport leaves the GMSF

The GMSF is based on all ten councils working together, so if one leaves then the GMSF falls. It will then be up to the individual councils to decide how to develop plans: they may choose to do so individually or in partnership with one or more other councils, as happens with other issues.

Why leave now and not wait

Government rules means councils are racing against the clock. The Government is saying to councils “If you don’t have a plan, we’re going to let developers build houses pretty much wherever they want”. The Liberal Democrats do not want that to happen.

We do not believe the GMSF can produce a final proposal that’s acceptable to Stockport residents, for the reasons we’ve given above. If we wait to go through the whole process, one of two things can happen: either the GMSF will be approved, and Stockport’s greenbelt will be decimated, or it will be rejected, leaving all ten councils vulnerable to predatory developers.

Stockport currently has a compliant local plan, but it is getting old and needs replacing soon. To protect our greenbelt from the GMSF and from developers, the best option is to leave now and develop a Local Plan for Stockport.

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