Agenda item

Member Question Time

Questions are invited from Elected Members about the work of the Cabinet.  15 minutes will be set aside for Member Question Time, if required.

 

Notice of any Member question must be given to the Monitoring Officer by 9.30am Friday, 16 July 2021.

Minutes:

The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Carol Birchmore:

 

For some time now Bury Council has been claiming that it is committed to a brownfield first policy. However I would like you to consider the following: 

  • Out of the £97 million Greater Manchester Brownfield Housing fund Bury Council have so far only managed to secure only £1.4 million whereas Bolton, Manchester, Rochdale and Wigan have all secured over £10 million each. 
  • Bury Council failed in its bid to secure funding from the Brownfield Housing Fund for the largest brownfield site in Bury i.e. 400 houses on the East Lancashire Paper Mill site. 
  • Despite identifying brownfield sites for over 4,000 homes in Bury, the Council has failed to meet its Housing Delivery Targets and at 52% of target it has achieved the poorest performance amongst all the Greater Manchester councils. 
  • The topic papers for both the Elton Reservoir and Walshaw greenbelt sites, talk about first completions on those sites in 2025. Considering how long it takes to put planning applications through the system and site land preparation this would indicate a proposed immediate start on the process of building on greenbelt as soon as Places for Everyone is approved. 

Considering this the following questions need to be asked: 

1.   Why has more effort not been put in by the Council to ensure that brownfield sites are in a shovel ready state for development? 

2.   Why is the Council not using its own brownfield sites to build affordable homes by setting up wholly owned house building company similar to the one set up by Salford Council? (Derive)  

3.   Do you agree that the claim of a brownfield first policy as at best questionable? 

 

Responding, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien reported that the Council has brought several reports around our brownfield strategy including the success we’ve had in applying for brownfield funding and in starting on site as much as possible needs to happen in an accelerated time. Underneath all of that the Council has been developing its own Business Growth and Infrastructure directorate, something that did not exist for a number of years. The capacity, the resource, the skills, the expertise we’ve brought into that have now put us in the position where we are far more capable of delivering these brownfield sites. Prior to that in-house capacity, much of the Council’s strategy relied on disposal of the land directly to housing providers for development. We wanted to make sure we were taking a more active approach, intervening in these brownfield sites, developing as much affordable and eco-friendly housing as we can.

 

One of the reasons we have secured less money than some of our neighbours is because we have less brownfield land than they do. Boroughs with larger brownfield sites are able to bid for larger sums of money. Our biggest brownfield site is 400 homes; our neighbours have multiple sites of well over 1000 homes. Considering our starting point and our present circumstances, we have competitively bid and been successful in five cases, which is approximately the same as our neighbours albeit smaller.

 

We have made progress on the East Lancashire Paper Mill site, a report on the partnership and collaboration with Homes England came to Cabinet, and one of the benefits of working so closely with them is that they can access funding that we can’t, can use their resources and skills to do so., and that their sole purpose is to get on with the delivery of these housing sites and are therefore best placed to chase down that funding. We do have to acknowledge that it is a complicated site and therefore using their expertise, skills and capacity as well as their connections with government funding streams is sensible and will produce far better results for us and allow us to focus our efforts in other places.

 

With regards to a Council-owned housing company, it’s an interesting idea and one we have discussed over the years and is an option available to us. One of the reasons we have not, at this stage, pursued it is because it is naturally something that takes time, effort, new capacity, resources, and skills that we would have to build into it. We’ve decided to go a different route, but by going down a company route we would have to use even more time to get it up and running before we could start to deliver. We’ve accepted that we want to get on with this as quickly as possible.

 

In addition, we may not need a company to secure the outcomes we would like to see. Much of what Salford are producing we can deliver ourselves in our current set up. We have ALMO and Six Town Housing arm and are working closely with them, having just re-established that relationship through the housing review. There is a lot we can achieve together and now we have a strategic housing group to bring together both sides of that from a housing services and strategic housing purpose where we can work together on schemes where there is mutual interest, getting the best of both worlds in terms of growth and housing service.

 

We are still in a strong position to get the outcomes that Salford are getting, acknowledging that they have much more brownfield land than we do and they have more capacity to deliver on bigger sites. Overall, there is our town centre masterplan work, we’re bringing forward Bury town centre, we already have the Radcliffe one, we’re working on Prestwich as well, alongside East Lancashire Paper Mill and other brownfield sites, and the accelerated land disposal scheme – we are taking our commitment to brownfield first incredibly seriously and wouldn’t accept it is a questionable thing. Where we are in control of doing brownfield first, that is precisely what we’re doing. I’m sure we’d all like to see brownfield first be a national policy as not all sites are in the Council’s ownership, there are private sites as well we should be encouraging to come forward. That would take action from the government and unless they’re willing to act and establish brownfield first as the national plan, we will be in this position where a Council can have it as a policy but can’t insist upon it at a planning application stage.

 

 

The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by Councillor Jackie Harris:

 

Can the Cabinet member for operations please provide details of the highways and Infrastructure forward plan for the Borough including details of road resurfacing, street gullies clearing and pothole repairs.

 

Responding, Councillor Alan Quinn reported that the resurfacing schemes 2021/22 (completed, committed, planned) represents around £4m of resurfacing works.

Please be aware not all proposed schemes may go ahead as many issues can frustrate the programme (e.g. utility companies).

 

Bury has 660km of roads, for that we should get around £6m from the Department of Transport to keep them in a standstill state. Since 2010 we’ve received a third of that, and therefore we took the decision to borrow £20m over two years for the Highway Infrastructure Strategy One and Highway Infrastructure Strategy Two.

 

Completed (Department of Transport monies)

·         Lever Street , Radcliffe

·         Alma Street, Radcliffe

·         Meadowcroft, Radcliffe

·         Walshaw Road, Bury

·         Harlech Avenue, Prestwich

·         Hastings Road , Prestwich

·         Hillcrest Road, Prestwich

·         Ravensway, Prestwich

·         Sandy Meade , Prestwich

·         Heywood Road, Prestwich

 

Completed (funded by Highway Infrastructure Strategy)

·         Westminster Avenue, Radcliffe

·         Woodhill Road, Bury West

·         Alston Street, Bury West

·         Mitchell Street, Bury West

·         Stewart Street, Bury West

·         Woodbank Drive, Bury West

·         Monmouth Ave, Bury East

·         Mosley Avenue, Bury East

·         Tennyson Ave, Bury East

·         Townside Row, Bury East

 

Underway/Committed (Department of Transport monies)

·         Wood Road Lane, Ramsbottom

·         Radcliffe Road, Bury East     

 

Underway/Committed (funded by Highway Infrastructure Strategy)

·         Cornwall Drive, Bury East

·         Glebelands Road, Prestwich

·         Park Road, Prestwich

·         Derby Way, Bury East

 

Planned (Department of Transport monies)

·         Albert Street, Ramsbottom

·         Tor Avenue, Ramsbottom

·         Bury Old Road, Radcliffe

 

Planned (funded by Highway Infrastructure Strategy)

·         Moorway, Ramsbottom

·         Westgate Ave, Ramsbottom

·         Buckingham Drive, Bury West

·         West Ave , Whitefield

·         Bass Lane, Ramsbottom

·         Walmersley Road, Ramsbottom

 

 

Growth Deal 2 Schemes (£4-5m funding by GMCA)

·         Market Street/Angouleme Way CYCLOPS Junction - underway.

 

Gully cleansing

·         We operate a cyclic gully cleansing regime whereby we endeavour to attend to all 44,000 highway gullies annually. In order to maximise efficiency we do not deviate from this cyclic regime to attend to blocked gullies unless there is a risk of flooding to adjacent properties or to the highway in a manner that endangers road users.

 

Potholes

·         Highway safety defects, including potholes are repaired in accordance with our formally approved “Highway Safety Inspection Policy”. So far this financial year, Streetscene have completed in excess of 3,000 pothole repairs.

 

Mayor’s Challenge Fund/Active Travel Schemes (some dependent on consultation outcomes)

·         Roch Valley Greenway Bridge (Gigg Mills) - MCF

·         Filtered Neighbourhood (Fishpool) - ATF2

·         5 crossings (Sheepfoot Lane, Heys Road, Thatch Leach Lane, Ainsworth Road, Church Street) - SSSL

·         Jubilee Way/Manchester Road junction - MCF

·         Bury Old Road/Heywood Road junction - MCF