Botched green belt consultation cost tens of thousands

May 17, 2017 3:00 PM
It can today be revealed that the botched consultation on the 'Greater Manchester Spatial Framework' cost taxpayers £82,596. This is the tip of the iceberg however as it doesn't include any of the spend that the 10 authorities in Greater Manchester incurred. It is only money spent by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. The figure has been revealed in a Freedom of Information Request by Rochdale Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are the only united political party against plans to build on green belt across the conurbation. The money was mainly spent on expensive, external consultants including external graphic designers, social media experts and a press agency.
The plans were formulated under previous interim Mayor Tony Lloyd. They are now being re-written by new Mayor Andy Burnham. Any new plans would have to be fully consulted on rendering the previous one redundant.
Andy Kelly, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Rochdale commented: "I said right from the start that this consultation was an expensive waste of time. Now, we have the figures to prove this. The original plans were written in consultation with developers and that's why so many people objected to plans that would see towns like Rochdale change forever. Why would a developer want to build on a brownfield site, with all the pollution and costs associated with redeveloping mainly industrial sites? They always were going to choice our green belt and this is what was mainly consulted on."
A spokesperson from the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities said, "Similar costs incurred by districts for local consultation events, local advertising, hire of buildings and staffing, etc would need to be sought from each of the ten districts involved as the GMCA do not hold this information." This means that the costs will be even higher.
Andy Kelly continued: "It's not like all 10 Council Leaders and the previous Interim Mayor weren't warned. They went ahead with this expensive mistake that mobilised communities across Greater Manchester against it. When the Liberal Democrats came out, united against these plans, we were accused by Greater Manchester Conservative Sean Anstee of '...playing politics.' Everyone knew that plans written from the 'top down' would not convince communities. I think it is should now be up to each and every local council to formulate their own plans to tackle the housing crisis. Any plans must be done in full consultation with residents and include a robust plan to develop brownfield sites."
New Mayor Andy Burnham has promised to re-write the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and has appointed Salford's mayor Paul Dennett to start the process. He replaces Labour's Council Leader Richard Farnell, who led the botched consultation and angered many by criticising objectors. Councillor Farnell received £5,000 in allowances for his role.