Oldham’s council candidates have been quizzed on a range of environmental pledges by a campaign group.

Friends of the Earth Manchester has quizzed candidates from across Greater Manchester on a range of topics.

The group asked candidates 13 questions on topics ranging from whether they would support a ban on pavement parking, landlord licensing schemes to deliver warmer homes, and the Clean Air Zone.

All candidates were asked in every ward, as part of the all-out elections taking place this year.

While Oldham does already have a licensing scheme for landlords, it only applies in certain parts of the borough.

According to Friends of the Earth analysis, Oldham has the second lowest tree coverage of any borough in Greater Manchester.

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While councillors from a range of political parties, including Labour, Conservatives, Green, Liberal Democrats, Reform UK, independents, and local community parties and associations have responded to the questions from across the city-region, the results in Oldham are a bit more skewed.

Of the 10 responses from Oldham candidates, nine are Liberal Democrats in Crompton, Saddleworth North, Saddleworth West & Lees, and Shaw, and just one is a Labour candidate standing in St James ward.

More than 200 candidates are running for election this year.

A full list of responses for candidates in every borough can be viewed on the Friends of the Earth website.

Pavement parking

An issue which has been raised repeatedly in Oldham, six of the ten responding candidates supported bans on pavement parking, though Shaw councillor Chris Gloster said he would support one as long as it was not a blanket ban.

The Oldham Times: Pavement parking was raised as an issuePavement parking was raised as an issue (Image: Mike Tierney)

Cllrs Sam Al-Hamdani, Mark Kenyon, Alicia Marland, and labour candidate Josh Charters said they were undecided on the matter.

Cllr Alicia Marland said: “Parking is a contentious issue with so many homes having more than one vehicle.”

Manchester city centre Clean Air Zone

Most candidates were undecided on the issue of a Manchester City Centre Clean Air Zone including the most polluting private cars.

Oldham’s air quality has changed since 2020, with figures released in July last year showing air quality to be worse than before.

ALSO READ: Oldham man asks Burnham for CAZ compliant lorry compensation.

Mayor Andy Burnham has previously said Clean Air Zone charges are now ‘highly unlikely’ to be introduced, except for in Manchester and Salford boroughs.

St James Labour candidate Josh Charters was the only one to come out against the idea, saying: “I agree with a CAZ for business vehicles within the city centre bounded by Great Ancoats Street/Mancunian Way/Trinity Way, but anything else will disproportionately affect residents and have a negligible impact on the air quality outside of the city centre, especially within Oldham.”

Lib Dem Cllr Dave Murphy was the only one to support the idea.

The other eight respondents were undecided, with Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani saying: “The first attempt at introducing this was massively chaotic, and failed to provide sufficient support for firms to decarbonise.

“An appropriate scheme would be good, but I have no faith in the GMCA or central Government to deliver an appropriate scheme.”

Asked for an update on CAZ negotiations in February, a Defra spokesperson said: “We have reviewed Greater Manchester’s proposals and identified a number of underlying gaps in the evidence, meaning it is not yet possible to understand how the proposed approach will achieve compliance with NO2 limits in the shortest possible time.

“We have requested further evidence from the Greater Manchester authorities to enable us to consider the plans further.”

Workplace parking levy

The topic of a workplace parking levy, which has been mooted by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, saw all responding candidates undecided.

Nottingham City Council introduced a levy in 2012, charging workplaces a yearly fee if they provide more than 10 car parking spaces for employees – currently set at £522 – with the goal of raising money for public transport.

In Cllr Howard Sykes’ response, he said: “Public transport needs improving first, what is right for the GM city centre is not always right for those with poor or no public transport.”

Manchester Airport departure tax

Seven respondents supported a Manchester Airport departure tax, with just Lib Dems Mark Kenyon and Chris Gloster, and Labour candidate Josh Charters undecided on the matter.

The Oldham Times: Manchester AirportManchester Airport (Image: PA)

Josh Charters said: “I think that the way to affect change in this area, specifically at one of the UK’s busiest airports, is to introduce a levy that would affect airlines first, rather than passengers.

“However I am aware that many airlines would pass this cost onto consumers, so there needs to be a way of collecting this tax that ensures that airline profits are impacted more than ordinary passengers.”

Bike storage

All responding candidates supported the provision of more bike storage on streets.

Lack of responses

Political parties were asked whether more of their candidates would be responding to the questions posed.

An Oldham Labour spokesperson said: “We do not typically respond to these surveys but under Labour, Oldham has already brought in a landlord licensing scheme.

“We do take climate change seriously. We declared a climate emergency in 2019 and published our Green New Deal in 2020 which sets out our strategy to be a carbon neutral borough by 2030.

“We recently received £20mil funding from the levelling fund for our Green Oldham plans which will help deliver green jobs.”

Oldham Liberal Democrats leader Howard Sykes said he suspected more candidates would respond to the survey over the weekend, when they have more time.

Oldham Conservatives spokesperson Cllr Dave Arnott said he would reply to the questions.

Full list of questions

All answers can be found on the Friends of the Earth website.

The full list of questions asked to candidates is as follows:

  • Question 1 – Climate Change: Will you sign the Climate Pledge: “I’ll make Climate a priority if elected”
  • Question 2 – Workplace Parking Levy: If elected, will you support  introducing a workplace parking levy for large and medium-sized businesses in Greater Manchester?
  • Question 3 – Divestment from Fossil Fuels: Will you sign the UK Divest Pledge: “If elected, I will do all I can to ensure the council pension fund ends investment in fossil fuels within the next five years and invests in a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.”?
  • Question 4  – Carbon Literacy: Will you commit to taking Carbon Literacy training within one year of being elected?
  • Question 5 – Warm Homes: If elected, will you support a landlord licensing scheme to deliver warmer, safer and healthier homes?
  • Question 6 – Tree Cover: If elected, will you do all you can to ensure that your local authority puts in place plans to double tree cover in your area? 
  • Question 7 – Pavement Parking: If elected, will you support a ban on pavement parking in your council area?
  • Question 8 – Bike Storage: If elected, would you support your Council installing on-street bike storage in your area?
  • Question 9 – Aviation: Do you support the introduction of a Departure Tax on flights from Manchester Airport to raise funds for climate action across Greater Manchester?
  • Question 10 – School Streets: Do you support increasing the number of school streets in your local council area?
  • Question 11 – Zero-carbon Buildings: Do you support the introduction of a zero-carbon standard for all new buildings in Greater Manchester?
  • Question 12 – Clean Air Zone: Do you agree that a Clean Air Zone inside the ring road around Manchester City Centre with charges for the most polluting vehicles (including private cars) is a good idea for reducing air pollution?
  • Question 13 – Advertising: If elected, will you support the introduction of an ‘ethical advertising policy’ on Council-controlled sites?