During the course of our campaign to save Royton's Green Belt, the people of Royton have been subjected to disinformation by the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. With the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework scheduled to return this autumn, we believe it is important to set the record straight and address any misunderstandings.
We appreciate that some of the supporters of the campaign to save the Green Belt also support the Labour Party and object to "politicising" the campaign. If, by stating the campaign should remain politically neutral, you mean that the campaign should not be hijacked by other parties and individuals with ulterior motives then we agree with you completely, and have removed many such people from our Facebook page. However, if you mean we should not hold our elected representatives accountable for their actions and ask difficult questions about the policies they support then we cannot agree to that.
We are not anti-Labour and have no associations with groups that are, but ultimately the GMSF is a policy initiated by the Labour-run councils of Greater Manchester and we must face it on those terms.
MYTH #1: Greater Manchester has not got enough land for the houses the Government is forcing the councils to build.
This is categorically not true and we can prove it using Greater Manchester's own land assessments. The land surveys compiled by the councils prove that Greater Manchester has enough land for the next 15 years. The GMSF claims there is a land shortage because it cannot provide all the land for the 19-year plan upfront. However this is not correct because Government policy only requires 10 years of land to be provided upfront. In short, the councils of Greater Manchester have manufactured a land shortage and have attempted to scapegoat the Government.
MYTH #2: The Tories are "forcing" the councils to build on the Green Belt.
If this were true why are the councils lobbying Government to change the law to allow them to alter the Green Belt boundaries with a reduced evidence base? Here is the pertinent quote (from GMSF delayed again as Combined Authority points the finger, Place North West, 25 July 2019):
"The GMCA had been attempting to convince Whitehall officials to change legislation to allow the GMSF to be able to release Green Belt, despite it being an SDS, but this has been met with push back from Government."
MYTH #3: The council has to permit building on the Green Belt if it fails to meet its Housing Delivery Target.
This refers to a policy known as the "presumption in favour of sustainable development". This policy essentially invalidates other policies that restrict house-building. However, Green Belt land is explicitly exempted. In other words, if a council fails to meet its target that does not mean they have to grant planning permission on the Green Belt (NPPF, par. 11, footnote 6).
MYTH #4: If the council does not build on Royton's Green Belt the Government will take over and do it instead.
In extreme cases the Government may step in and remove planning responsibilities from the council. In Royton's case this may be no bad thing, because it could not be much worse than the apocalypse OMBC has planned for our town. But let's be clear on this singular point: the Government has NOT told Oldham where to put the houses. This is something that is at the council's complete discretion. Around 80% of the houses that are planned for the Green Belt will be in Royton or on its border (see our blog post on this subject). OMBC is not being forced to build that many houses in Royton, and they could have put forward a more proportionate plan to spread the burden but elected not to.
MYTH #5: Save Royton's Green Belt Community Group are a bunch of NIMBYs who do not care about homeless people or affordable homes.
These houses will cost £250,000 at an absolute minimum and will not address the homeless issue in any significant way. In fact it will probably exacerbate it because developers will be expending resources on developing the Green Belt rather than focusing on social housing. We also reject the NIMBY accusation as well: Save Royton's Green Belt does not believe there should be building on the Green Belt anywhere, regardless of whether that is in Royton, Saddleworth or the other side of Manchester.
MYTH #6: Labour opposes building on the Green Belt.
Royton councillors are quite happy to repeat this mantra on their leaflets and on social media but what exactly are they are going to do about it, when the GMSF comes to full council? So far, very little from what we have seen. These are the known positions of our current (all Labour) councillors:
James Larkin (Royton N) – UNKNOWN
Clint Phythian (Royton N) – Pledged to vote AGAINST GMSF.
Hannah Roberts (Royton N) – SUPPORTS GMSF
Amanda Chadderton (Royton S) – UNKNOWN
Maria Bashforth (Royton S) – UNKNOWN
Stephen Bashforth (Royton S) – UNKNOWN; however, as Chair of the Planning Committee he did the decent thing and voted against building on Protected Open Land.
Mick Harwood (Labour candidate for Royton North) – SUPPORTS GMSF
We believe that all of Royton's councillors know that the GMSF in its present form is not right for Royton and hope they join Councillor Phythian in pledging to vote it down.