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Council leader says she'll 'ram' plans for homes on greenbelt 'down your throat'

Brenda Warrington, leader of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, made the comments as she hit back at Conservatives battling against plans to build 2,150 homes on green belt land in Hyde, Greater Manchester. She also said she planned to be “first on the bulldozer” if the work begins.

Her views on the subject have prompted some opposition councillors to wear “Brenda the Bulldozer” T-shirts.

At a Tameside council meeting she said: “We want to grow Tameside, we want to have more houses in Tameside.

“And of course those houses will pay council tax and so we’re going to increase our growth agenda.

“Godley Green, I make no mistake, I will be on that first bulldozer and that is a promise.

“I will be on that bulldozer that actually starts to dig up ready to build houses on Godley Green and believe me it will be rammed down your throat. It really will.”

Claire Elliot, a lead campaigner to save the greenbelt land, told Manchester Evening News she was “utterly disgusted at the comments”.

She said: “Her total lack of respect for the green belt and the people that care about it is quite frankly shocking and disgusting.

“Her lack of professionalism is also very apparent. How can we trust these people, who have been placed in a figure of authority and power? To expect them to be unbiased and not be closed minded in the planning process? The answer is we can’t.”

Ms Elliot said that the council leader’s comments make it sound like the scheme is a “done deal” which she said “should not be the case”.

Ms Elliot said that her “totally disrespectful speech” was “rubbing people’s noses in it who live there, have businesses there or just love the area for what it is”.

Ellen Kirby-Tomlinson, who says she has enjoyed the area proposed for Godley Green for over 30 years, said she is “deeply offended” by the council leader’s comments.

She said: “This area means so much to me like thousands of others which is reflected in the amount of objections received.

“The comments that Brenda felt it was appropriate to share at a meeting this week I found deeply insensitive and disrespectful of the people who set to lose their homes, farms, businesses and so much more.”

The town hall’s legal chief has said Cllr Warrington did not breach the code of conduct with her comments.

This comes after a number of people submitted complaints to the council over her use of language.

However, not all of the Godley Green campaigners are outraged by her comments.

Caroline Slater said that many people have failed to acknowledge that the council leader was “reacting to deliberate provocation from several people”.

She said: “From my point of view and several others who are members of the Facebook GGGV group, while we don’t support Brenda Warrington’s response, we likewise take issue with the way some people opposing the build have chosen to behave.

“If elected councillors expect a professional response, they need to grow up and stop wearing Brenda the Bulldozer T-shirts and rudely interrupting in order to deliberately antagonise. That behaviour is childish and counterproductive to our efforts.

“They most certainly do not speak for all of us and frankly I’m embarrassed to be associated with them.”

After the meeting, Cllr Warrington issued a statement in which she said: “Of all the issues we discussed last night from the budget to vulnerable people – the opposition chose to shine a light on this, demonstrating their lack of care about a whole range of issues.

“Their creation of Brenda the Bulldozer shows their disrespect for something which deserves serious debate.

“After four years of personal abuse and harassment on this matter, I aimed my comments at those councillors who have been personally abusive, disrespectful and disingenuous in this debate.

“Clearly my comments were never directed at anyone else and any attempt by the opposition to suggest this is the case is a further example of their twisting of the facts.

“The real issue at stake here is the opposition’s role in creating the problem but not supporting the solution.

“We are having to build houses on the greenbelt at Godley Green because of government imposed housing targets.

“Their government is forcing us to do it, but they are opposing it locally, which is duplicitous and dishonest.

“To meet that target we could throw up lots of high density, low quality homes, and again here government policy would put other parts of the greenbelt at risk.

“We will not do that, our plan is to grow the existing community into a new village with high quality homes, school places, GP provision, transport and community facilities.

“Creating jobs for local people and opening up green spaces for our community.

“Godley Green is the only way to meet the government imposed target. I commit to making it a genuinely sustainable village community.”

The garden village  would include up to 1,300 sq m of retail, 1,600 sq m of commercial uses and 1,000 sq m of local community uses.

The properties will be split across two villages with 1,250 dwellings in the west and 900 homes in the east of the site.

According to the planning application, construction would take place over a 15 year period, with 102 homes intended to be delivered within 2022-23.

But even if the plans are approved by the council’s planning committee later this year, they will then go to the Secretary of State who will make the final decision on whether to allow it to go ahead.



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