In a dramatic move that stunned even the most long-standing of councillors, former MP Mark Hunter led a council shock that saw the chamber forced into a vote on plans to build more than 12,000 homes on Stockport greenbelt.
The Labour-run council narrowly avoided an embarrassing hit today as Liberal Democrat councillors forced the chamber to take an immediate vote on an amendment that would have halted the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities’ (GMCA) potential plan to build 12,100 homes on greenbelt land in Stockport.
When the chamber was asked whether they agreed to consider a report by the council, Liberal Democrat councillors stood up in support of Cllr. Mark Hunter who spoke on behalf of local residents as he rejected plans to allow the Greater Manchester Spacial Framework (GMSF) to build on Stockport’s green spaces, and called for a vote on his amendment.
The amendment, drawn up by Cheadle’s former MP of ten years, Mark Hunter, saw the chamber thrown into disarray as Labour and Conservative councillors were forced to make a snap decision on whether Stockport should pull out of the GMSF process.
A short break was requested by a Conservative councillor.
Despite the Liberal Democrats’ best efforts, Labour and Conservative councillors joined forces to vote down the amendment with absolutely no debate on the amendment.
Mark Hunter, who stormed to victory with 60% of the vote in this year’s local elections, cited that the ‘greenbelt land provisionally allocated and scale of the housing development proposed are unacceptable.’
The GMSF will go ahead as planned following Labour and Conservative councillors’ successful teaming up.
Mark Hunter said: “This is a huge disappointment for us, and more importantly for local residents, but it is not the end. This is a Stockport issue and I still believe the decision should be made here in Stockport.”
More than 20% of all identified potential sites for development by GMSF were within the Stockport area, which Cllr. Mark Hunter slammed as a result of ‘developers and landowners targeting Stockport’.
He continued: “What we need, and fully support, is affordable family homes close to existing public transport and shops, and until all other options have been exhausted I can’t support destroying any of our green spaces.”
The former MP added that there is an ‘abundance of brownfield spaces, derelict and disused buildings and existing sites that should be developed first.’
Cllr. Lisa Smart, who seconded the rejected amendment, said: “This is another example of Liberal Democrats standing up for local residents, and Conservatives’ hypocrisy and Labour’s complacency towards the people of Stockport’
“This whole process has just been about where is easiest and cheapest to build on, not where is most appropriate for the average family and future generations.
“It means nothing to the residents of Stockport to tell them you’re against building on greenbelt, and then not support this amendment today.
“Our amendment today would have brought the decision about where to build these houses back to Stockport, where it belongs, but instead, this Labour-run council with the support of Conservatives in their top pocket have handed it to the super council.”
She added: “As Labour and Conservative councillors stand by and watch our children deprived of green spaces to grow and play in, it will continue to be the Liberal Democrats that stand up for local residents.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Stockport Council, Cllr. Iain Roberts, added: “Liberal Democrat councillors work exceptionally hard all year round, listening to residents’ concerns and taking their voice to the town hall.
“This is another example of just how hard our group works and how much Labour’s complacency will continue to damage Stockport.”
Jane Brophy, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester added: “This whole backroom saga from the GMCA has been an absolute shambles, highlighting their embarrassing lack of transparency and the desperate need for a more open process.
“The GMCA needs to stop making decisions behind the scenes and involve local authorities in issues that affect their areas.”
Cllr Philip Harding, Planning and Highways Committee Chair at Stockport Council, Said:
“There are times when even we are surprised by the capacity of the LibDems to bend the truth, use scare tactics and blatantly twist the facts for, what they consider to be, political gain. Following recent public statements and emails from a LibDem Councillor please let me set the record straight:
“Are plans which “jam thousands of new houses onto local greenbelt” still going ahead? NO – absolutely no decisions have been taken and residents are still being consulted (something the LibDems wanted to stop). There will be further consultations next year. The GMSF plan will probably change or possibly be abandoned altogether if Councillors are unwilling to accept the final version. But right now it is crucial that we all engage in a constructive dialogue about the best ways to both meet development need and minimise greenbelt incursion – and that’s what the consultation is all about.”
Were the GMSF plans “pushed through” Council last week? NO – what the Council did agree was to start the process for its ownLocal Plan for Stockport. The LibDems voted against having such a Local Plan which would result in the Council having no defence against free for-all-development. This would leave the greenbelt with no protection whatsoever. The Local Plan report that was before Council specifically states “The purpose of this report is not to consider the agreement of emerging GMSF figures or any proposed allocations as this is a wholly separate process“.
The Council has to produce an updated Local plan that’s about Stockport and its future development needs regardless of what happens to the GMSF. It is irresponsible in the extreme that the LibDems are not prepared to support this.”
— SMBC Conservatives (@SMBC_Blues) December 2, 2016