Questions are invited from members of the public about the work of the Cabinet.
Notice of any question must be given to Democratic Services by midday on Monday, 14 February 2022. Approximately 30 minutes will be set aside for Public Question Time, if required.
The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by a member of the public, Anton Slawycz:
The capital programme for the budget does not detail any schemes for the Whitefield township other than a line of £71k. Can the leader advise why this is the case?
Responding, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien reported that the capital programme is generally used to invest in Council-owned land and property: for historic reasons we own very little across Whitefield. Importantly though, the Council is working in partnership to deliver positive capital schemes across Whitefield, which can mean the budget lines don’t appear in our capital programme but are nevertheless being spent to improve Whitefield. For instance, we remain committed to working with the NHS to deliver a new health facility at the Uplands – which is not in Council ownership – as well as supporting the delivery of a new special school in Unsworth on what was Council land, until the academisation was finalised. The Special Free School is fully approved and supported by the DfE with approved Trust sponsor being Shaw Education Trust (SET). The build is funded by the DfE, Bury has a capital allocation earmarked to cover any sundries that we require to fund. The Revenue place costs are factored into Bury's High Needs Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) expenditure profile taking into account the phased admissions from September 2023. All is on track for this essential additional capacity to open at September 2023.
We have also been progressing the Wheatfields site for new housing, delivering affordable housing, bungalows for the first time in decades and all on brownfield sites. We expect this investment to be millions of pounds but, again, this won’t appear in our capital programme because of our proposed delivery model.
We have also been spending significant sums on improving highways and road safety across Whitefield and Unsworth, including a new pedestrian crossing on Croft Lane (£65k). Through the Highway Investment Strategy, during this financial year, we have spent £802k in Whitefield. We have completed resurfacing works on Thatch Leach Lane, Sunnybank Road, Oak Lane and Randale Drive (all complete as part of HiS2) – and we have West Avenue yet to come.
We already have agreement to spend £175,000 on 31 roads in Unsworth this summer to repair roads that are in a bad way. Next year’s road safety programme also includes a 20mph zone on Rufford Drive and a safety scheme on Hollins Lane which will have pedestrian refuges. In addition to this, we have allocated £164,000 towards the landslip at Springwater Park in the budget and continue to lobby the Government to fund the rest of the works under the national flooding impact funds they have. And we recently awarded nearly £6000 to the Whitefield Environmental Forum for work in Springwater Park too.
I would be keen to see even more spent across Whitefield, which was why I was so disappointed that the Pilkington Park Councillors rejected a £800,000 road safety scheme around Higher Lane. This scheme would have put significant sums into Whitefield, but it was made clear that the local Councillors did not support the plans and therefore did not want to money to be spent. As I say, this was the wrong position in my view and something they will have to explain to their residents and the families of Higher Lane primary and Philips High in particular.
I’m glad I’ve been able to outline just some of the spend in our budget for Whitefield and thank Mr Slawycz for the opportunity to share that.
The following question was submitted in advance of the meeting by a member of the public, Andrew Luxton:
Can we be assured that the significant shortfall in parks provisional spending is now earmarked on ensuring the halt of the rapid riverside erosion at Burrs park in Elton ward. In particular to prevent further damage and have in place a longer term solution restoring the riverbank to what it was with attention to the existing pathway routes along the riverbank?
Responding in Councillor Quinn’s absence, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien reported that a recent assessment has taken place on all of the waterbodies in Burrs, which included the riverbank, and contact with the Environment Agency is now being made to check what license may be required ahead of any works. A funding bid for the infrastructure work at Burrs has been made and a planned programme of works will be produced if / when funding is secured. A scheme for Burrs park is included within the capital programme for 22/23.
A further supplementary question was submitted:
Could we also get in touch with the Canals and Rivers Trust, the local groups in relation to the canal maintenance and utilisation of the area, and will the Cabinet Member meet with the local groups, Cllr Rydeheard, and James Daly MP to assess what can be done in terms of the canal and the riverbank maintenance and utilisation of the area?
Councillor O’Brien reported that he was sure Councillor Quinn, as Cabinet Member, would be happy to meet with interested parties and, if the MP could offer any assistance with delivering funding, they would be happy to work with him and the Canals and Rivers Trust. He advised that schemes like this should always be delivered in partnership where possible.
The following question was submitted at the meeting by a member of the public, Carol Bernstein:
In all the various budget schemes, I’ve noticed there’s not many school playgrounds or children’s playgrounds included in the budget. Are those an omission or are there plans afoot to have more children’s playgrounds?
Responding, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien reported that there is a rolling programme of work on some of our play areas which the Council has been working on which are split over multiple years. The capital budget includes this 3 year rolling programme; once the budget has been confirmed we will be able to share which park and play areas will be done and in which years. So far a significant amount of investment had been made over the past year in parks across East Bury, as this area has not received as much investment through other means such as Section 106 agreements. Cllr O’Brien also credited the Parks Team and the Friends’ Groups and volunteers for their continued work to maintain Green Flag status on Bury’s Parks.