The opposition Labour Group at Bolton Council have today unveiled radical plans to save Haslam Park from the bulldozers.
At the meeting of Bolton Council on Wednesday 16th February, when the Council will set the budget for the financial year 2022/23, Labour Group Leader, Cllr Nick Peel, will present an amendment to the Conservative Budget proposal that will provide the necessary finance to not only provide the land for a new secondary school, but crucially, will remove Haslam Park as the preferred site.
The Council needs to plan for a new school serving a large part of the southern and central parts of Bolton due to pupil numbers data that shows that in a few years’ time there will not be enough secondary school places for primary school leavers within this catchment area. However since the news first emerged last October that the Council had chosen Haslam Park as the preferred site for a new secondary school, widespread opposition to the plans have continued to grow, with hundreds of people staging a protest against the plans last November.
Cllr Nick Peel said “We know that it’s vital that a new secondary school is provided in this area of Bolton, and obviously, land is needed to make this happen. However, land searches in the area, carried out by the Council, have only been looking at land that is currently in the ownership of Bolton Council, such as valuable park land. We asked at the time, why the Council were not looking at purchasing land that was not in our ownership, and the answer was that we didn’t have the cash to do this.”
However, since that time, it has emerged that an additional £1 million of one off capital has been found in the budget, and in the budget report that is due to the go to the Council meeting on Wednesday, the ruling Conservative Group have decided to use this extra £1 million for additional highways maintenance instead of finding land for the school.
Cllr Peel continued “whilst finding extra cash to repair potholes is of course important, we believe that the protection of a much loved and valuable piece of parkland, especially land in a built up area, is of much greater importance. The Tory Council had a choice to make, and yet again have made the wrong choice. Our budget amendment is therefore is quite straight forward; we want to make this £1 million available to the council so that they now have the option to buy other pieces of land that have so far not been considered. Only after this would any cash that is left over be redirected into the highways budget.”
Labours Deputy Leader, Cllr Akhtar Zaman stated “the council did not think outside of the box on this one. They said to the local councillors in the area– its either lose the opportunity for a new school and have kids taught in portacabins or lose the park. We thought that this choice was fundamentally flawed. It was always just a matter of finding the cash. If both a new school and protecting an existing park are seen as important, then every effort should have made to achieve both.”
Cllr Peel concluded, “I will put this proposal to the Council budget meeting on Wednesday, and I call upon members of all the other parties, especially the ruling Conservative group to accept our arguments, abandon their plans, and vote for this amendment. If they do so, then we will not only put the challenge back to the officers of the council to find another site, but also provided them with the finance to come up with a much better solution that can satisfy everyone.”