Pupils quiz Mayor Andy Burnham about local life

FAILING or failed shops in Stalybridge may be demolished and have flats built on them after greenbelt land was saved from development.

Sidebottom Fold was taken off the revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) document after initial plans to construct more than 600 properties caused outrage.

Now Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has revealed the possibility of seeing empty properties converted in the centre, which is part of his Town Centre Challenge scheme.

The politician detailed the idea in a Q and A with nine and 10-year-old children at Wild Bank Primary School on Demesne Drive on January 23.

When asked about greenbelt land, which headteacher Jenny Callaghan admitted would have had a huge impact on the school had neighbouring Sidebottom Fold been developed, one child asked Mr Burnham, ‘Why are we wanting to build outwards and not upwards?’

He replied: “We’re trying to build more houses in Stalybridge as we think it’s better to build more in the town centres.

“We have lots of shops that are struggling. We actually think, ‘Knock down the shops and build more flats in town centres.’

“There are lots of high, tall buildings being built in Manchester and that’s part of the reason we can keep more of the greenbelt.

“As we’re building so many houses there, we don’t need to build them on the outside.”

Mr Burnham has seen the GMSF redrawn, to the delight of campaigners who wanted Sidebottom Fold to remain clear but a Godley Green Village development in Hyde remains in the plan.

And he admitted he would have removed even more green belt land but Government pressure meant he could not.

He added: “I’ve got people saying there’s a housing crisis, we don’t have enough homes but on the other hand green space is precious.

“People need it to go out for a walk or a run.

“I’ve cut the amount of green space we’re going to take by half but at the same time I’ve got to give some space for houses.

“What I’m going to do is protect more green space and we’re going to take a position on fracking.

“All the councils and myself are going to ban fracking as we think it’s right for the environment.

“If I could’ve protected more green belt land than I have done, I would’ve tried to do it but I was forced by the Government to build a certain amount of homes.”

Pupils at Wild Bank put Mr Burnham through the wringer in the Q and A, which came on the back of the school being given the AcSEED award.

Topics covered included drones, homelessness – when he revealed he donates enough of his salary to put a roof over the head of 42 people – football teams, and he was delighted when one boy revealed he follows his beloved Everton, the introduction of a new bus pass enabling free public transport for 16-18-year-olds, which he would have extended had he had the money, and why he decided to give up being an MP.

And he still hopes to eradicate rough sleeping by 2020, with figures showing it has already dropped by 20 per cent.

Mr Burnham added: “The Government said they wanted to stop it by 2027, so as a result we needed to make a big statement about the fact it just shouldn’t happen.

“I set up an initiative called A Bed Every Night in the run-up to Christmas, now we’re trying to find a way of running it all year round.

“New figures show rough sleeping in Greater Manchester has fallen by 20 per cent in the last year but it’s still a big challenge. However, I think we can still do it.”

Mr Burnahm attended Wild Bank after it scooped the AcSEED award and he hailed the work it has done to make sure both pupils and staff are as happy as possible.

Before then, he had been to Tameside Hospital and Emmaus ion Mossley and afterwards attended a similar event at Clarendon Sixth Form College in Ashton.

He said: “I’d heard all about the award and you’ve achieved something a lot of schools haven’t yet achieved.

“Young people need a lot of support, not just with work but to make sure they are feeling good and happy in themselves.

“You should be very proud of yourselves.

“I want other schools to follow, they’re going to have to do a lot more to support young people in and out of school.

“And sometimes we don’t really think enough about the staff in places like schools and hospitals. It’s very important to make sure everyone is feeling good.”

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