Greater Manchester Spatial Framework Proposals for Heald Green
I am writing this letter in support of the residents of Heald Green as they again face the prospect of losing swathes of local green belt as a result of the GMSF. I am sorry that I am unable to attend this meeting in person, weekday evenings are difficult due to the requirements of a Parliamentary diary, however a member of my staff is present tonight on my behalf.
A clear concern which people are raising with me regarding this new GMSF is the belief that our current infrastructure will not be able to cope with the scale of housebuilding proposed for our local green belt. I fully share this concern, and do not see any of the infrastructure solutions proposed in this GMSF as being adequate enough to address what would be increased pressure on an already stretched A34, and negating the benefits of the new A555.
People have also let me know their worries about air quality in the area and the negative health effects of more pollution. As Heald Green is already in the vicinity of a major international airport and two key bypasses, air quality is unlikely to improve with thousands of families moving into the area. While assumptions can be made about how people will travel and where they will work, in my view this GMSF doesn’t adequately explain how Heald Green’s local environment will improve in these circumstances.
We must also view this GMSF in light of the thousands of homes which are being proposed right on our border with Cheshire East, which seem to not be taken properly into account. All the indicators are that a great number of people living in new homes in Cheshire East will need to access schooling and health provision in Stockport. I don’t see any coherent explanation in this GMSF for how Heald Green’s local services are supposed to improve to accommodate new homes here, let alone thousands more on our border in Cheshire East.
It’s crucial that we protect the distinct identity of our communities, and I have responded to Cheshire East Council consultations in the past criticising the creeping urban sprawl which would effectively merge parts of Cheshire East with parts of this constituency. With the scale of housebuilding south of the A555 in Cheshire East, the GMSF proposals would exacerbate the problem of urban sprawl between Heald Green and Handforth, Cheadle Hulme and Manchester.
The plans for the land at Stanley Green are particularly concerning in light of the fact that the land is the subject of a planning application currently going through the appeal process, which you will no doubt be well aware of. Many people in Heald Green have already made their concerns clear about development on this piece of green belt in particular, and will be disappointed that this GMSF furthers the threat of losing it.
While this new GMSF draft contains some welcome news in that the amount of green belt designated for development has been reduced, it remains totally unsatisfactory in light of changes to the areas allocated. Heald Green’s allocation now puts this village hall under threat, as well as the playing fields, both of which are valuable assets which would be a loss to the community, and would see the end of the always well-attended Heald Green Festival on this site. Such green spaces provide invaluable public health benefits to communities like Heald Green, and people rightly worry about finding affordable and accessible alternatives if local playing fields are lost.
Finally, it’s an issue of fairness. Nearly half of all green belt development in Stockport has been allocated to a single Council ward: Heald Green, which would in reality lose over half of its surrounding green belt as a result. I have always supported a ‘brownfield first’ policy and am glad to see that this GMSF utilises this land much more than the first draft, but Stockport Council’s Brownfield Register currently comprises just 27 sites for around 1,500 homes across the whole of the Borough. In this light, you can only conclude that 1,700 homes on green belt in a single area is disproportionate.
Thank you to Heald Green & Long Lane Ratepayers' Association for organising this meeting, and to everyone who has attended to show your support in protecting our precious green belt. I hope that you will make your views known in the official consultation before it closes on 18th March, and please do get in touch if there is anything you’d like to raise with me directly.