For some time I have been working on a project to bring a new leisure centre and nearly 300 new houses to Brinnington, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Stockport. As councillors we have a responsibility for the whole of Stockport and this is a very important project that will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
The new leisure centre, planned to be built on Brinnington Park and replacing the ageing and increasingly tatty Lapwing Centre, will offer all the facilities currently available at the Lapwing and more. The 292 new houses will not be social housing, but a mixture of different housing and tenure types, giving Brinnington residents the ability – when they wish – to move out of social housing and into private housing without moving away from their friends, relatives and local neighbourhood.
All these plans come from consultations with Brinnington residents that started in 2009 and have continued since – most recently with a consultation in the last few months showing strong support for the new leisure centre.
As the Council prepares to submit planning applications for the leisure centre and housing, find out how to have your say here.
Why build on Reddish Vale Country Park?
Brinnington is quite a unique neighbourhood, bordered by the M60 on two sides and Reddish Vale Country Park on the other two. In order to make the proposal for housing and the leisure centre stack up financially, we need to have the 292 houses – many fewer and the housing won’t be viable; and with no housing neither will a leisure centre of the scale we want to build.
The Council started off looking at every possible location to build and found six within the current area of Brinnington, but that left us about 60 houses short. Reluctantly, we agreed to build on 0.8% of Reddish Vale Country Park – the area immediately behind Blackberry Lane in Brinnington. This is exceptional and a one-off, and wouldn’t be considered if there were a viable alternative. There isn’t. If we want the new leisure centre and housing, we need to build on this one small area of the Country Park.
Will there be any further building on the Country Park?
No – we have no plans for any further building on any of Stockport’s parks. This limited proposal is only going ahead because of the unique geography of Brinnington meaning it’s necessary if the scheme is to go ahead. We’re also making planning policy changes to secure the future (larger) boundary of the country park – see below.
Is there mitigation proposed to the Country Park?
Yes. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to the parks groups and, whilst I fully accept many people are never going to be happy with the decision we’ve made, a lot has been done to mitigate the effects of the development. This includes:
- The development area in the original proposal has been more than halved to 1.3 hectares – 0.8% of Reddish Vale Country Park.
- The access point from Blackberry Lane into the Country Park will be improved
- A “green screen” behind the new development will ensure the view from the rest of the park isn’t blighted by housing.
- Although 1.3 hectares will be lost from the Country Park, Penny Lane Fields – a 10 hectare area not formerly park of the Country Park at the moment – will be added to it, so overall the legal and formal area of the Country Park will increase by approximately 8.7 hectares.
- The Council will work with friends group to improve the Visitor Centre.
- The Council will make a specific commitment in its new Planning Strategy to protect the new, enlarged, boundaries of the Country Park from future development. This is a statutory document.
Have Councillors taken the decision knowing the facts?
Campaigners who oppose the new housing and leisure centre in favour of keeping the 1.3 hectares of Reddish Vale Country Park undeveloped have claimed that councillors didn’t realise the land was in Reddish Vale Country Park when the decision was taken.
I’ve argued strongly that no-one has been misled and I think the evidence supports that, but the debate has since moved on. Over three Full Council meetings, and through strong lobbying, every single councillor has been left in no doubt as to the status of the park and the arguments on both sides.
Knowing those arguments, a clear majority of councillors – including all three local Brinnington councillors – not to mention Ann Coffey, the Stockport MP – have come out in favour of the proposals. Had councillors from any party wished to reverse the decision, they could have brought a motion to any of the last three Full Council meetings to do just that, but no-one did.