Monday 4 December 2017

Makerfield Christmas Veterans' Lunch

On Saturday (2nd Dec 17), I hosted my annual Christmas Veterans’ Lunch at St Matthews Parish Hall, Highfield and was joined by over 120 veterans from across the Makerfield Constituency.

I welcomed Mr Mark Dumican, Headteacher – St Edmund Arrowsmith High School and Deputy Leader of Wigan Council, Cllr David Molyneux as my special guests. Councillors from across the political spectrum representing wards in Makerfield were also present.

Cllr Clive Morgan, a former Welsh Guard and veteran of the 1982 Falklands War, was the MC for the day. The Rev Sian Gasson was on hand to open the event with prayers followed by the Exhortation led by Mr John Burns (Chair – Ashton in Makerfield Royal British Legion) and Mr Lawrence Powers (Burma Star Assoc).

Tucking into a traditional 3 course Christmas lunch provided by H&H Catering Ltd, guests were also entertained with a musical performance by pupils of St Edmund Arrowsmith High School.

Monday 6 November 2017

Opening of Winstanley Warriors FC Sports Hub

I was joined by former Wigan Athletic FC defender Emmerson Boyce to officially open Winstanley Warriors FC’s new sports hub on Friday 3 November. The project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation.

The grant has enabled Winstanley Warriors FC to install a new floodlit third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) and refurbish their existing changing pavilion. The new 3G AGP, which caters for 7v7 and small-sided play, is in addition to the club’s three existing full-size grass pitches, 9v9 grass pitch and a training area.

The pitches and changing pavilion, which comprises two refurbished team changing rooms and a large officials’ room, will be used by the club’s 28 teams ranging from the Under-7 level upwards. Local clubs and schools, including the Hope SEN School and Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School, will also be able to use the facilities.

Winstanley Warriors FC has close ties with Wigan Athletic FC, with players having been scouted by the Latics in the past. The Wigan Athletic Community Trust will take advantage of the facilities at the upgraded sports hub, to deliver a range of community outreach programmes. These will include ‘Every Player Counts’ sessions for disabled pupils from local schools, helping them to get involved and enjoy football, and Premier League Kicks.

The club worked in partnership with the Lancashire FA to secure a £418,714 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund with support from Wigan Council and local ward councillors in Worsley Mesnes and Winstanley.

My thanks go to Winstanley Warriors FC for inviting me to help open their new all-weather pitch and improved changing provision. It is excellent to see the new facilities already in use – a real boost for grassroots sport in the area. It is great news that the improvements made to the sports hub is going to increase football participation.

The club have worked really hard to make this project a success, with the support of the Football Foundation – funded by the Premier League, The FA and the Government, through Sport England. The Foundation delivers great facilities like this all over the country, and I’m sure that this one is going to encourage local people to get involved in sport and enjoy themselves.

Monday 8 May 2017

School funding cuts will betray a generation of our young people

I kicked off my re-election campaign in Ashton in Makerfield on Saturday, 6th May.

I used the launch to step up the fight against damaging Tory proposals to cut local school budgets and collected hundreds of signatures for my petition calling on local people to join me in the campaign.

Announced in December the Tory proposals will see the vast majority of schools in the Wigan Borough lose significant funding.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) have performed their own research into the cuts and their impact finding that 98% of schools across the country will have per-pupil funding cut.

In Wigan, website calculates Wigan Schools will lose a combined £20.9 million equivalent to 563 teaching posts – a cut of £505 for every pupil by 2020.

The Tories are overseeing the first real terms cut in the schools budget for over two decades.

The Government has not made clear how the savings will be made, nor have they clearly stated to schools the “scale and pace” of cost-cutting that is required. However, it appears to me that many local schools will face the prospect of job losses to balance the books, depriving our children of the excellent education they deserve.

It makes no economic sense to betray a generation of our young people. Already we have a shortage of teachers, class sizes are soaring and reports from across the country show that the number of school places is not keeping up with the demand.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Ashton & Bryn Veterans Lunch

I spent a lovely afternoon with veterans at Garswood Hall Community Club, Bryn recently.

The luncheon was organised by Cllr Ann Rampling with entertainment provided by pupils of RL Hughes Primary School.

I know that Cllr Rampling is a strong champion of our Armed Forces and everybody present appreciated her efforts in making the day a great success.

Attendees tucked into a buffet provided by Travelling Teamrooms.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

I am supporting Bowel Cancer UK’s campaign to urge more people to take part in bowel cancer screening and save lives, as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April.

More than 44 people die from bowel cancer every day in the UK, it’s the nation’s second biggest cancer killer.  However, it shouldn’t be. It’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.

I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it. Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early. If you are over 60, take the test when you receive it in the post. If you are younger, tell the people over 60 in your life to take the test. Early diagnosis really can save lives.”

One in 14 men and one in 19 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime but it is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

Visit Bowel Cancer UK’s website to find out how you can get involved in their campaign for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

It's time to give a s**t about mental illness

New figures from mental health research charity MQ show that four in 10 (42%) people in the UK have come to believe that mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are now an inevitable part of life, such is the lack of understanding and action around mental health.

84% say that not enough is being done to tackle mental illness for the future. And 68% of parents believe that having more education about mental illnesses could prevent suffering for future generations.

Three children in an average class are affected by a diagnosable mental illness. But many are waiting a decade between experiencing their first symptoms and getting help. Only a quarter of young people referred to services receive appropriate care.

Overall only £8 is spent on research per person affected on mental health in the UK, which is 22 times less than per person for cancer (£178) and 14 times less than dementia spend (£110) and despite 75% of mental illness starting before the age of 18, less than 30% of the total mental health research spend is focused on children and young people. As a result, the majority of mental healthcare resources are not designed or developed for young people, leading to poor treatment outcomes in young people and hindering prevention efforts.

Mental illness should not be seen as an inevitable part of life. The current state of mental health treatment would simply never be accepted for a physical condition.

MQ’s ‘We Swear’ campaign aims to make it clear that radical change is needed right now and asks the public to show they ‘give a s**t’ by swearing to take on mental illness.

Through research we can get to grips with this growing crisis in young people's mental health - and build progress towards much-needed hope for everyone affected.

Swear to take on mental health. Search #WeSwear on social media or visit MQ mentalhealth for further information as to how you can help.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

My letter to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) consultation

16th December 2016

Dear Sir/Madam

Draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

I write to comment on general aspects of the draft GMSF, and in particular the proposed removal of the Green Belt status from three areas of land in my constituency of Makerfield.

General Issues about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework:

A number of Greater Manchester Members of Parliament have raised concerns about aspects of the Framework. As advised, whilst we support the ambition of the strategic plan for jobs and growth for our city region we are concerned about the Draft Plan as published. I enclose a further copy of that letter for consideration.

In addition to the points raised in the attached letter, I am also concerned about the democratic deficit aspect of the GM Spatial Framework decision making process. If devolution is to work, then it cannot by-pass communities and their elected Councillors who must be given the opportunity to raise these matters in the Council Chamber. So far I have not been given assurances that this will be the case.

The GMSF needs to be of the highest quality and support the aspirations of both the combined authorities and the residents of all the Boroughs of Greater Manchester; a model that others can follow.

28.7.1 M6C1 Junction 25 (Wigan)

On the 15th August 2013, Mr. Kevin Ward BA, an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, produced his report on the examination into the Wigan Core Strategy. The report was prepared following a number of hearings, one of which I attended to present a case against the Council’s proposal to allow industrial and logistics development on land off junction 25.

In summary, the Inspector determined that:

taking all factors into account, the benefits of the proposed broad location in terms of potential investment and job creation are not sufficient to outweigh the adverse effects in relation to the Green Belt and other matters. Exceptional circumstances to justify removal of the land in question from the Green Belt do not exist. The proposed broad location at Junction 25 of the M6 is neither justified nor consistent with national policy.

The Inspector advised that in order for the Core Strategy to be approved, this proposal would have to be removed, which is what happened. Three years ago Wigan Council conceded that its argument to remove green belt status from this area of land was not strong enough. The Council’s argument today, in relation to an even larger area of green belt at this location is no different I would argue, than it was previously.

The main issues of contention are that:

1) The Green Belt in this location separates the two settlements of Wigan and Ashton. Its removal would allow substantial development beyond the existing built up areas. This would allow sprawl of the built up area and encroachment into the countryside.
2) The site in question contributes positively to the overall appearance of the settlements and is crossed by public rights of way which provide a recreational resource for the local community.  The resource value of any maintained or rerouted rights of way, which would then no longer be in an open land situation, would be diminished, regardless of any amount of mitigating measures taken.
3) I do question if the Council requires this land to provide an adequate supply of employment land across the borough as a whole for the GMSF. In 2013 the Planning Inspector noted 200 hectares of land would be appropriate during the life of Wigan’s Core Strategy to 2026. In this respect the junction 25 proposal was not considered necessary as significant opportunities for economic growth in the borough could be met from existing sites, town centre opportunities and the proposed broad location for new development involving safeguarded land. Whilst I appreciate the extended life of the GMSF, I do wonder about the calculations that have been used to reach the levels agreed. The CPRE also queries the employment land and housing requirements identified within the framework.
4) The removal of this greenbelt would have the potential to undermine efforts to promote regeneration elsewhere in the borough and act as a disincentive to developers to assist in regeneration aspirations. Brownfield sites could be rejected in favour of this more desirable and potentially profitable green field area.
5) Whilst I can see there is some advantage in warehousing and distribution development having direct access to the motorway system, I and the former Inspector were not convinced that it was a critical factor in attracting employment. There are other sites available a little further from the motorway that would offer a reasonable prospect of attracting business. Also, removal of this greenbelt status would set a precedent and put under threat any greenbelt land close to a motorway junction.
6) Is this development proposal exceptional?  Currently, within about a two mile radius, there is the South Lancashire Industrial Estate and the Landgate Industrial Estate providing warehousing. Large scale housing and employment development has received outline permission in Bryn. There are also several other similar developments proposed in the adjoining Boroughs of Leyland and St. Helens just over the nearby constituency boundary at this point including Florida North and Haydock Point.
The Inspector previously agreed, on inspection of the Jt. 25 proposal, that the type of employment uses envisaged are typical of those found on employment sites within the borough and elsewhere and were not exceptional as to warrant removal of the Green Belt status on this site. There has been no change in the proposed use of the land since it was previously rejected.
7) The cumulative effect of the developments highlighted at 6), together with development proposed for the Bell at junction 26, also raise concerns about the impact on air quality. I note the aims of the GMSF in terms of air quality but I question how the considerable increase of HGV movements in my constituency along and around the M6 will not further compromise air quality.
8) Insufficient account is still being taken of the specific circumstances relating to junction 25 on the motorway. One of the main arguments for the Council putting this site forward is its proximity to the M6 providing easy access. However, this junction only provides direct access to the proposed development to or from the south. Vehicles travelling north on the M6 from this site would have to find a route through the already congested local areas to reach Junction 26 or travel south on the motorway to junction 24 and turn around. The idea of a two way junction 25 is no more than an aspiration and there are no proposals for such a scheme to be implemented in line with the employment plans.

Given the above, the Council’s case for inclusion of the site at Junction 25 of the M6 motorway for logistics and distribution purposes is not sufficient to outweigh the adverse effects in relation to the Green Belt and other matters and is therefore not in line with national policy.

28.7.2 M6C2 Junction 26 (Wigan) (known as The Bell)

1) The Green Belt in this location borders on the built up area of Kitt Green and its removal would allow substantial development beyond the existing built up area. This would allow sprawl of the built up area and encroachment into the countryside.
2) The Bell provides a barrier between the neighbourhoods of Kitt Green, Orrell and Pemberton and prevents the merging of these areas.
3) The site in question contributes positively to the settlements in the area and is used as a recreational resource for the community. It is the green lung in a built up area.
4) The air quality in this area is already compromised I believe as the site is close to the motorway and the Heinz development which involves a substantial amount of heavy vehicle movement. The cumulative impact of this proposal together with other developments on land off the M6 gives rise for serious concerns in relation to air quality.
5) The removal of this greenbelt would have the potential to undermine efforts to promote regeneration elsewhere in the borough and act as a disincentive to developers to assist in regeneration aspirations. Brownfield sites could be rejected in favour of this more desirable and potentially profitable green field area.
6) There is an acknowledged serious traffic problem in the area of Orrell and the proposed development of The Bell includes a link road to junction 26 of the motorway. This would be a major undertaking and may necessitate the demolition of residential property and potentially involve the Council exercising compulsory purchase powers. Concerns about the feasibility and deliverability of such a scheme, I believe, puts in question the whole proposal.

In connection with the consideration of its Core Strategy, Wigan Council previously included proposals to remove the Green Belt status from The Bell. However, this proposal was later dropped, I understand, because of problems associated with the potential development of this site including the construction of the necessary access link road from junction 26 of the M6 motorway. The problems remain today.

I do not believe the benefits of removing the Green Belt status from this area of land outweigh the detriment to the local area. The Green Belt at this location is still required. I also question if this proposal/development is feasible/deliverable given the difficulties outlined.

OA28 Liverpool Road, Hindley (Wigan) (Development known as South Hindley Urban Village).

It is proposed to remove the Green Belt Status on an area of land required for the link road through South Hindley Urban Village. Whilst I do not oppose this proposal, as I appreciate the road is vital to relieve traffic problems in the area, I would ask that the minimum amount of greenbelt land be removed for the road purposes.

In general I oppose the removal of Green Belt which serves the purposes of preventing Urban Sprawl, the merging of neighbouring towns and encroachment into the community’s greenspace and encouraging the development of derelict and other sites.  It is vital therefore that the green status be removed only from the smallest site required for road purposes.

Your consideration to the concerns raised both in this email and the letter from the group of Greater Manchester MPs attached would be appreciated.

I wait to hear from you.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Fovargue MP

I also secured the support of several Greater Manchester MPs who added their names as signatories to the letter below addressed to the Interim Mayor - Tony Lloyd.

Mr Tony Lloyd
Interim GM Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester
Openshaw Complex
Lawton Street
M11 2NS

16th December 2016

Dear Tony,

Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

We as Greater Manchester MPs wish to support the ambition of a strategic plan for jobs and growth for our city region.

However, we are concerned about the Draft Plan as published.

The timing of the transport infrastructure to support the expansion of housing and employment sites is crucial. Leaving the infrastructure to be developed piecemeal after developments are completed will lead to inevitable traffic congestion on our already overcrowded road network.

This leads to our second concern, that of air quality. GM already fails to meet required standards and additional traffic, particularly HGV traffic on a grid locked road, can only lead to further deterioration and, potentially, fines being devolved to local authorities.

Combining the spatial plan with the review of the Greenbelt has also raised concerns. Greenbelt was designed for specific purposes, retaining the identity of local communities, preventing urban sprawl and should only be redesignated in ‘exceptional circumstances’. The plan should ensure maximum use of brownfield sites prior to any review of greenbelt.

Additionally the outer Boroughs have concerns that our neighbours plans, which will impact Boroughs in GM have not been considered and there is a lack of joined up working.

We understand all local authorities desire to maximise their business rates to minimise the impact of the new localisation of business rates which will affect some local authorities adversely but this should not lead to a race to the bottom.

Whilst we recognise the need for new housing we are concerned about the apparent lack of affordable homes in these plans. Our young people in particular need access to affordable homes to rent or buy and these needs must be taken into consideration in any housing plan.

The plan should be rightly ambitious for GM but we need the right mix of housing and employment in the right place and this draft doesn’t facilitate this ambition.

It is important that the GMSF is of the highest quality and supports the aspirations of both the combined authorities and the residents of all the Boroughs as Greater Manchester will be the first area to bring forward their plan and should be seen as a trailblazer and a model to which others can aspire.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Fovargue MP
Chris Green MP
Kate Green MP
Andrew Gwynne MP
Barbara Keeley MP
Liz McInnes MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Yasmin Quereshi MP