Brownfield funding must be restored

Oldham Council unanimously backed Liberal Democrat Councillor Diane Williamson motion to the 10 July meeting of Oldham Council demanding the Government honour its previous commitment to provide £50 million in funding to Greater Manchester to fund the development of new housing on brownfield sites.  The Conservatives recently made the unilateral decision to renege on the deal.  Councillor Garth Harkness is seconding the motion, and their proposal is backed by the whole Liberal Democrat Group. 

Wards across Shaw and Crompton and Saddleworth are threatened with the prospect of thousands of new homes on the green space and surrounding green belt under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) proposals.

Councillors Williamson and Harkness, and their colleagues, want to see any new housing built on brownfield sites, former industrial land, rather than by destroying any irreplaceable greenbelt – and they want to see the Conservative Government cough up the promised money to do so.

Commenting on her motion, Councillor Williamson said:  “The Conservative Government stated in its white paper, ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’, that Councils should ‘maximise‘ the number of homes built on brownfield sites, and they promised Greater Manchester £50-million to remediate, or clean up, such sites for development.  In Oldham, most of our brownfield sites suffer from significant land or building contamination, which is the result of their previous industrial use. This contamination costs a small fortune to clean up and, without outside funding, housing development is often unaffordable.”

According to Department of Trade figures, the UK has approximately 1,000,000 acres of contaminated land, much of it in Northern towns, like Oldham.  The estimated average cost of cleaning up contaminated land is £250,000 per acre – meaning a staggering £250-billion would be required to clear them all up for development.  

Councillor Williamson added:  “The fact is that on remediation this Government is all talk.  £50 million is nowhere near adequate to address the challenge that we face in Greater Manchester in making these sites fit for use.  In reality we probably need ten times as much or more, but the money would be a start and every brownfield acre that we can redevelop for housing means an acre of irreplaceable green belt that we can save.  It is our hope that Councillors from across all parties will back our ambition next Wednesday to lobby this government to get our promised money back; after all it is the stated position of this Council to build on brownfield first!” 

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