Stockport Lib Dems call for withdrawal from GM Spatial Framework due to new planning law proposals

Following the publication of the Conservative government’s latest proposals to completely change how Local Plans are developed and how planning applications will be dealt with, the Liberal Democrats have called once again for Stockport to withdraw from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), branding it “flawed” and “not fit for purpose”.

Changes to planning law currently under consultation would see councils like Stockport required to develop a completely new Local Plan that allocates land for development within 30 months of the new legislation being enacted. Despite this, the Labour-controlled Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Greater Manchester Combined Authority seem hell bent on continuing with GMSF, even though it would have to be replaced almost as soon as it is adopted.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, Cllr Mark Hunter, said: “While these planning proposals might be attractive to property developers and their friends, residents should be clear that they would effectively drive a coach and horses through the planning system as we know it. Local councillors would find their ability to influence decisions on behalf of the people we represent massively reduced if they were to go ahead.

“The plans, as they stand, are ill thought out but the government have the votes to push them through parliament. Here in our area they render the controversial GMSF proposals redundant. GMSF has limped along towards an unsatisfactory conclusion for months and it’s now time to put it out of its misery and focus on our own Local Plan.

“We call on the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to withdraw GMSF, or for Stockport to pull out of it. We will be tabling a motion to this effect at the next full meeting of the council” he concluded.

Lib Dems in Stockport slam Government’s planning proposals

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Conservative Government’s plans to reform the planning system, arguing that proposed changes will do nothing to alleviate the housing need in Stockport.

The Liberal Democrats believe the Conservatives’ proposals will not help those who are stuck on social housing waiting lists and express concern that zoning plans risk “leaving whole areas behind”.

Instead, the Party is calling for “an urgent social house building programme”, with proposals to build 100,000 social homes for rent every year.

Councillor Lisa Smart, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Hazel Grove said:

“Across Stockport, thousands of families are stuck on the housing waiting list. This is unacceptable.

“With councils across the country approving nine out of ten planning applications, it is obvious that reforming planning laws will not help people on waiting lists or struggling to afford a home in Stockport.

“The Liberal Democrats want to see 100,000 new social homes built in the right places across the country every year, and for Stockport to have the power to suspend the right to buy.”

Councillor Tom Morrison, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Cheadle said:

“This announcement comes as local residents are still being consulted on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). The Government’s plans do not make it clear how GMSF will be affected.

“To continue with the GMSF process now would throw more time and money at an obsolete plan, and risks giving up Green Belt land that could perhaps be protected. This is sadly typical of a Conservative Government that seems to dream up these schemes without thinking about how they will affect local people.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, Communities and Local Government Tim Farron said:

“Government Ministers have done nothing to persuade anyone that their planning reforms will alleviate the UK’s housing crisis. Their “zoning” plans risk worsening inequality and leaving whole areas behind.

“The Conservatives’ plan is that new developments of up to 50 homes may no longer have to provide any affordable housing. This will further reduce the number of affordable homes being built. These proposals are an attack on local democracy and will deny people the chance to have their say on local development.

“The Liberal Democrats are calling for an urgent housebuilding programme of environmentally friendly social homes for rent. That is the only way to tackle the housing crisis head on.”

Labour “asleep at the wheel” as Council gets in local shopping muddle

Local Liberal Democrats fully support the idea behind the new “One Stockport” campaign, but the mishandling of its launch has been another clear example of the current Labour administration’s ineptitude.

Posters encouraging people to shop in districts away from their own area is just one example of where this opportunity to do good by local businesses has fallen flat at the first hurdle, apparently without proper leadership or attention to detail from the Labour cabinet.

Residents and shop keepers in Romiley and Cheadle Hulme have been left unimpressed by the efforts so far to increase footfall, mainly as shoppers were encouraged to go elsewhere by One Stockport posters.

Cllr Mark Roberts, Scrutiny Chair for Communities and Housing and who represents Bredbury Green and Romiley, said: “It highlights that yet again the current Labour administration are asleep at the wheel. I completely understand the anger of local shop keepers who have worked really hard to get our community through the Covid Lockdown only to have their local shoppers ‘signposted’ to other district centres. “

“I absolutely support the ethos behind the idea, shopping local, working together as we have been doing throughout the pandemic. I’ve felt very proud of my community but this poster fiasco has felt like a kick in the teeth that could have been avoided with better oversight from the current Labour administration. Some residents think it is a terrible waste of money to have launched the campaign in such an ineffective way, given the current financial position the council finds itself in.”

“Apparently there are posters like this across the borough. I’d love to know where the ones encouraging people to shop and support the brilliant businesses here in Romiley are! There are also many great shops in Bredbury and across the borough that will have dropped off this campaign as they are not in a district centre. I’d encourage everyone to think big, support local businesses and Shop Locally, particularly using those shops on your doorstep.”

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Stockport and who represents Cheadle Hulme South, added: “As councillors the Liberal Democrats have always encouraged people to Shop Local and to support local business. They have kept us going during a very difficult time, supporting the community wherever they can through lockdown. It is absolutely right that we now continue to support them as much as we can in return.

“But details matter and Labour have been found wanting yet again. After four years in power they still seem to be unaware of where places like Romiley and Cheadle Hulme are. If they can’t manage to put a few posters up properly, what hope is there that they can run the Council effectively?”

Photographs show Cllr Mark Roberts with the poster recently installed and then incorrectly replaced in his Ward.

Lib Dems call on Council Leader to apologise for COVID-19 “Adventure” gaffe

At the meeting of the Corporate Resource Management and Governance Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 14th July, the Labour Leader of the Council was questioned about the Council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cllr Lisa Smart, Chair of the Committee and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said afterwards: “45,000 people have died in the UK from coronavirus according to official figures, with over 350 of those deaths in Stockport.

“I was shocked when Cllr Wilson described dealing with a global pandemic as ‘an adventure’ twice during Tuesday’s scrutiny meeting.

“Our community has been working so hard to deal with lockdown and a global health crisis. So many have lost loved ones, others are battling the health effects of the virus and more still are seeing the impact on their livelihoods.

“Cllr Wilson should apologise for what she said to all our residents who have suffered a loss during this pandemic.”

Stockport Lib Dems lead calls for community thank you

The Liberal Democrats have called upon Stockport Council to formally recognise those volunteers and key workers that supported local communities throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.

Across Stockport, organisations such as Helping Hands, Cheadle FM, and Woodley & Bredbury COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group organised support for those residents who were isolated as shops and services closed down.

Councillor Tom Morrison, Shadow Cabinet Member for Inclusive Neighbourhoods led the motion which called for the Council’s Chief Executive to write an open letter of thanks and for the Council to organise a day in the Stockport calendar to commemorate those that supported their communities.

The motion which was moved by Tom Morrison and seconded by Stepping Hill councillor, Mark Weldon, attracted cross party support, with politicians from all sides backing the plans.

Councillor Morrison said, “The last few months have been the darkest in living memory. People across Stockport have suffered, with businesses being forced to close and of course the awful human impact of a growing death rate which has impacted hundreds of families locally.

“However, the way local residents have stood up and helped those in need has been nothing short of inspiring. It’s only right that Stockport celebrates those volunteers and key workers, those people that kept our borough afloat when the crisis hit.

“The word hero is used too often these days, but that’s what these people are. They deserve a huge thanks and I am delighted that this idea has gained cross party support.”

Councillor Mark Weldon said, “It was never in doubt that people across Stockport would come together like this. We live in such a brilliant area and the communities that shape them really come in their own when situations arise like this.”

The text of the motion can be found below. It was debated at the Full Council meeting on Thursday 9th July 2020 and received unanimous support.

Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity with black communities

The Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity with black communities in the UK, US and around the world.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats have urged the Prime Minister to condemn in the strongest possible terms the language and actions of the US President in response to protests over racial injustice and police brutality since the murder of George Floyd.

Locally, Cllr Mark Hunter, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, has joined the leaders of the other political groups, reaffirming our opposition to racism and prejudice.

The statement says:

Stockport Council stands together with people here and across the world who face racism and prejudice.

We believe discrimination and oppression have no place in our society and we stand united in solidarity with those who seek to tackle inequalities.

Tolerance, kindness and respect are at the heart of our communities in Stockport and these values underpin our inclusive approach to the way we live. Racism and discrimination have no place in our society and we must, as a community, continue to make a stand.

Tackling inequalities has always been, and will continue to be, our priority.

Speaking after signing the statement, Cllr Hunter said: “The Liberal Democrats exist to fight for justice, liberty and equality. This is especially important at a moment in history where our values are challenged and as liberals we stand on the side of social justice. We must stand in solidarity with black communities in the US, the UK and around the world.

“Whilst condemning what is happing in the US, we cannot forget that black people are suffering at the hands of institutions systematically biased against them here in the UK, as reported in the Lammy Review in 2017. It’s unjust, it’s unfair and it’s racist. The Liberal Democrats stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We fully support all black communities and stand with them against the injustice they face.”