Much has been written elsewhere on this website over the past six months about the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), their manifest failings and the exceptionally poor conduct of their elected representatives and chair (read just one example here).
Most notably, in the past few days they have, again, launched an extraordinary attack on Oldham Council as a whole and, by default, its present Leader, Cllr Arooj Shah. But, unsurprisingly, given the alarming lack of intellect and knowledge of due process, it has backfired on them spectacularly (read full story here and here).
Taken at its face, the FIP’s longest serving councillor, Brian Hobin, was the prime mover. Although the unseen hand of Party Chairwoman, Kathleen Wilkinson, is usually never far away.
In a hard hitting post, and in amongst the political maelstrom, Failsworth Labour Party has joined the fray, slamming the three Independent councillors over a betrayal of local people around proposals to open up the green belt in the area to developers.
In a crucial vote at a Special Meeting of all Oldham Councillors on 28th July, 2021 all three Failsworth Independents voted for a Liberal Democrat amendment to Oldham’s future plans for new homes. If successful, the amendment would have seen Oldham withdraw from a joint plan with other Councils, called ‘Places For Everyone’, in which the Woodhouses Green belt is protected. Fortunately for the people of Failsworth and Woodhouses the amendment failed as there were enough Labour Councillors, including Peter Davis and Elaine Garry from Failsworth, to vote it down.
The Independent’s vote is a direct betrayal of a pledge made during the recent local elections where leaflets promoting their candidates, Mark Wilkinson and Neil Hindle, stated, “If elected Mark and Neil aim to work with Brian (Hobin) to protect and enhance green spaces and areas of natural beauty”.
Sean Fielding, Secretary of Failsworth East Labour Party (in which Woodhouses is located) and a former Failsworth councillor, said:
“Fewer than three months after being elected, the Independents are already failing the electorate by voting against saving the very green spaces that they promised not just to protect, but to enhance.
“In Failsworth East the Failsworth Independents received vocal backing from key figures in the local ‘Save the Green Belt’ group too. If I were them I would be feeling utterly betrayed.”
A previous version of a joint development plan, known as the ‘Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’, included green belt sites in Woodhouses for up to 260 homes. Following negotiations between Failsworth Labour Councillors past and present, and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the plans for green belt development were significantly scaled down.
Sites in Woodhouses known as ‘The Trotting Track’ and ‘Land at Ashton Road’ were removed from the plan altogether and are proposed to retain their protected green belt status in Places for Everyone.
Despite the opposition of the Independents, Places for Everyone, formerly known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, was agreed by a majority of Oldham councillors and will go forward to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government who will order a Public Examination of the plan (read Council press release here).
Following inquiry, the plan will be sent back to the nine member Councils for a final vote on adoption, estimated to take place in 2023.
A local action group, ‘M35 Save Our Green Belt‘ (the M35 refers to the postcode area in which Failsworth sits) said on their website recently: ‘The abandoned GMSF plan has morphed into Places for Everyone (PfE). The new plan shows a significant reduction in the number of homes in the allocation for M35, with 2 out of the 3 originally proposed sites removed from the plan. The new plan does still include Bottom Field farm, where 30 homes are earmarked. Also, there are 273 homes earmarked for the site adjacent to Coal Pit Lane. Imagine all that extra traffic! The consultation period is now open, until 3rd October, 2021, and feedback can be given directly via this link‘
The Failsworth Independent Party has been asked, following the PfE vote, for a position statement on the green belt adjoining the town. Their website still broadcasts a pledge to protect it. It is just one of several misleading announcements; most notably a promise to be open and transparent. It is very arguable that, in the history of politics in the United Kingdom, there has never been a party so opaque as the FIPs.
Since this article was published, the FIPs have made a statement to a local newspaper:
“The amendment put forward by the Liberal Democrats offered the opportunity of a more local plan, formed through consultation with the public.
“We believe people have a right to influence what happens in their local area, so we were keen to support that amendment. However, as that did not gain traction, we reverted to our original status.
“Failsworth Independent Party will do everything in the best interests of our residents without any political coercion.
“There is no party whip, which is why Cllr Wilkinson voted as he did.
“His personal opinion is that Mr Burnham had too much input in the plan.”
Page last updated at 1235hrs on Monday 16th August, 2021.
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