You are probably aware of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which was a plan incorporating all 10 councils in Greater Manchester and which was intended to determine the use to which all land could be put throughout Greater Manchester. In the case of Heald Green, it originally proposed, in addition to the existing 5,200 houses we have, that an additional 4,700 house be built in our Green Belt. Ratepayers mounted a campaign against this, involving detailed research, leafletting the whole of Heald Green, articles in every issue of Contact, Public Meetings, meeting with Andy Burnham, demonstrations in Stockport and Manchester and encouraging all residents to write letters of protest.
Ratepayers have been leading on GMSF since 2016, before the first consultation was published.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE
We published a full page article on it in the September 2016 issue of our magazine “Contact”, in preparation for the first GMSF consultation document. All issues of Contact are delivered to all 5,200 houses in Heald Green. The February 2017 edition of “Contact”, devoted three pages to GMSF. GMSF has featured in all 15 issues since September 2016, including the latest one.
Since October 2016, we have carried a page on our website advising people of the importance of GMSF and urging action when necessary, with posts on our facebook site as appropriate.
A (first) Consultation document was published by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. We set up a Group of people in order to research the consultation document and the 1,000’s of pages of backing documentation. The Group ploughed through thousands of pages of backing documentation and met numerous times. This hard work enabled us to submit a well written, well researched response to the GMSF consultation, which we published on our website.
We called a Public Meeting in November 2016. This was publicised in advance by means of an article in Contact which went to all 5,200 houses in Heald Green, by our facebook site, our website and by public notices around Heald Green. We put the Council’s Director of Place, Chief Planning Officer and GMSF Manager on stage for questioning by you. At the meeting we asked for volunteers to join the Group working to put together a response to the consultation.
We called a second Public Meeting on 12 September 2017, specifically to publicise the Local Plan. This is the detailed plan for Stockport which would be based on GMSF. At the meeting we advised that our existing research group would henceforth include the Local Plan in their remit. At the meeting, an open invitation was issued from the stage, inviting everyone to:
1. Join the Ratepayers’ research group to deeply examine the thousands of pages of documentation in the Consultation Document
2. Volunteer to act as foot soldiers for leaflet deliveries etc.
3. Leave their email addresses so that they could be kept informed of developments.
We called a third Public Meeting on 12 February 2019. This meeting was packed out, with people unable to get near the hall 10 minutes before the start. Again, we brought the Council’s Director of Place and Chief Planning Officer to answer your questions and listen to your views.
The tremendous amount of work by the research group enabled us to submit a long detailed response to the second consultation document.
Both our responses were published on our website.
We led the people of Heald Green on two mass demonstrations. One on 14 January 2016 to Stockport Town Hall and one on 1 April 2016 to Manchester Town Hall. These were publicised in advance by poster, facebook and our website.
We published the statements of the Council political Groups on our website.
We have been in touch with the councillors in the other most affected areas of Stockport, making particular use of our Ratepayer councillors, in order to compare submissions and plan lobbying.
We called a meeting of organisations representative of all other deeply affected areas of Stockport.
We have kept in contact with our MP, who has been supportive of our efforts.
We carry regular updates on our facebook page, generally referring people to our website for more complete information.
We encouraged and helped residents to make submissions to the consultations and hundreds did so. We erected three banners around Heald Green to publicise our fight against overdevelopment.
The meeting on 12 September 2017, was specifically about the Local Plan. We brought in the Interim Chief Planning Officer to make a presentation and answer questions from the floor. We stated that the existing Research Group had widened its remit to include the Local Plan and invited anyone to join the Group.
We represent Heald Green on the Save Greater Manchester Green Belt umbrella organisation and have attended all their well researched meetings and presentations by planning experts over the last four years. Peter Burns has been co-opted on to their sub-group to proofread and negotiate with their planning consultants. The result of all this research has been fed back to our councillors to help them in their council work on GMSF and the success in getting Stockport out of GMSF.
As a result of the tremendous work by our Research Group, councillors and Ratepayers’ workers, our campaign resulted in the number of extra houses planned in GMSF being reduced from 4,700 to a final figure of 1,630; a reduction of over 3,000 and a clear tribute to the vast amount of work put in.
Ratepayers did not consider this reduction sufficient and mounted a second campaign against this amended proposal. At the same time, feeling was growing throughout Stockport that Stockport might be better to pull out of GMSF and go its own way. After careful thought it was decided that this was a better option. At a full meeting of Stockport Council in December 2020, with strong speeches from all three Ratepayers’ councillors, Stockport formally pulled out of GMSF.
WHAT WE ARE DOING NOW
However, there is still a legal requirement for the Council to have a planning document in place by 31 December 2023. This is called the Stockport LOCAL PLAN. This plan will set the policies to be used to decide all planning applications from the date it’s adopted. A major part of the plan will be to determine the use of all areas of land in Stockport. Included in this will be any reductions of Green Belt and the number of additional houses to be built and where. At the moment, work is taking place in the Town Hall to produce a plan to go out to consultation this Autumn (2021). The Local Plan aspect has been low profile as Greater Manchester and Stockport Council concentrated on GMSF. Now that GMSF will no longer apply, the research group will continue with their Local Plan work. As they are now only working on the Local Plan, it will be clearer if they are known by their remit, the Heald Green Local Plan Group (HGLPG). They will have to do some preparatory research and be ready to examine Stockport’s Draft Local Plan when it comes out for consultation in the Autumn. In addition, Stockport Council’s officers will use much of the information from GMSF as background information in producing the Local Plan. As a new GMSF consultation document is due out soon, the Group will need to research this new GMSF documentation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP IN THE FIGHT AGAINST OVERDEVELOPMENT IN HEALD GREEN?
We want to build on our success so far. Some of the original members of the Group have moved on, so help from anyone to join in the work would be welcome. Should anyone wish to help, please send an email to email@example.com