“Welcome, but not enough” says the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, in response to the recent Government’s announcement that £400 million will be made available to Mayoral Combined Authority areas, such as Greater Manchester, through a new Brownfield Fund.
Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “As the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group adamantly favours building new homes on brownfield sites, and as we have previously called on this government to provide the cash to do this, it would be churlish of me not to welcome any announcement of government money to make this happen, but we have yet to see how much of this money comes to Oldham and in any case Oldham’s share will not be nearly enough.”
Councillor Sykes is also only all too aware that the Conservative Government has previously reneged on a promise to give the ten Greater Manchester local authorities £50 million for brownfield remediation. He said: “The Oldham Liberal Democrat Group condemned this betrayal in a motion we took to a meeting of the full Council in July 2019; for the reality is that, for Greater Manchester, this ‘new’ fund is not ‘new’ at all. When the government insisted that Greater Manchester build tens of thousands of new homes over 25 years. The ten, then exclusively, Labour controlled Greater Manchester authorities agreed, the government sweetened the pill by promising £50 million to help build on brownfield land. Then the government reneged on the deal.
“We have no idea whether Greater Manchester will get at least £50 million under this new arrangement, and until we actually see the cash whether this government will really deliver.”
In any case, Councillor Sykes is all too aware that any brownfield money will not be enough. “There are estimates that decontaminating land sites to make them safe for new housing costs on average £250,000 per acre and that in the UK there are approximately 1 million acres of such sites. Decontaminating a former cotton mill to make it available for housing takes several million pounds. Though every little helps, £400 million, whilst welcome, is not therefore nearly enough.”