Leader of Irlam-based Community Reform [Core] Independents, Darren Goulden, believes independents like him can topple Labour’s majority in Salford following their “politically suicidal” proposal to build 1,600 homes on Chat Moss.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework in January announced plans to build 1,600 homes on Irlam and Cadishead’s Western greenbelt, which Mr Goulden describes as the “lungs” of Salford.
The original framework from 2016 was to include a plan for 2,250 homes, but after backlash from residents Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham dropped the figure to 1,600, which Mr Goulden believes is “still 1,600 too many.”
“We don’t mind housing and progression. We don’t mind improving the area, but we can’t do it on the only Grade A1 arable land in Greater Manchester,” he said.
The greenbelt in Irlam and Cadishead is particularly important, as it is peat-based. Peat is essential for water management and wildlife. It holds up to 20 times its own weight in water and many species inhabit peatlands.
Additionally, peat pulls carbon from the air and stores it, cleansing the surrounding air.
He said: “When you go up to the Moss, the air quality is superb. That’s why they call it the lungs of Salford.”
Mr Goulden says that the proposed housing plans will also add to the long-standing one-road problem.
“We foresee 1,600 homes being built, which is a disaster. They’re not putting any more money into infrastructure, or building any new roads.”
He advocates a more intimate relationship with Salford City Council, believing this would pave way for the installation of a Metrolink link and the reopening of the railway bridges.
Minimising the loss to the greenbelt and ending the one-road problem are just two of several pledges of Core. Its candidates are also encouraging use of the countryside and calling for a community master-plan.
He said: “We want the community to contribute. At the moment we have community committee meetings that are not fit for purpose. They’re run by Labour councillors, who decide what does and doesn’t suit their agenda.
“We want to launch a neighbourhood forum. It consists of 21 or 23 people from all aspects of the community, from 21 to 65 year-olds all in different roles. Irlam and Cadishead are given money each year, but it’s the six Labour councillors that decide where it’s spent.
“There’s no vision or coming forward with ideas. It’s just like the Spatial Framework. Without Core, no one would’ve known about it in Irlam and Cadishead.”
In the 2018 Salford City Council election, Mr Goulden won 36.4 per cent of the vote in Irlam.
“The people have had enough and they will show it on May 2nd.”
CORE stood as Independent, and they plan to do so again this year, despite the omission of the name from the voting ballot. Registering a political party can be a costly and intricate process. Mr Goulden believes there is an advantage when holding independent status:
“We went to the registration process twice, and it’s very, very restrictive as a party. We felt it was putting people off joining Core,” he said.
This is what lead to the formation of the Salford Independents Alliance. Founded by Mr Goulden and David Pike, the alliance champions the virtues of ‘Community, Honesty, Strength and Transparency.’
We have been working with a network of individuals across Salford to establish Salford Independents Alliance
If elected in May we will have a much larger representation of like minded people in the town hall who will be able to influence change & bring Transparency ?????? pic.twitter.com/gNuYaFycOy
— CORE (@COREIndepend) March 24, 2019
Many independents have joined the alliance due to the benefits being cooperative can bring. Mr Goulden believes there is more room for “independent thinking.”
“When you win and when you’re in the halls of power, you’ve got more power as a group. People can join us and stand where they like.
“This is not about party politics, it’s not about the tail wagging the dog. Labour have to follow a lot of what the party demands. The candidate has to follow what the people say. It’s wrong. We stand as a party of independent thinking. We want to stand for local issues.”
Despite this, he says it is no reason to adopt victim status: “But you won’t hear us blaming anyone. We’d rather work with businesses to regenerate our area and rebuild from the start. We want to listen.”
“If you’ve shown that you’re working for somebody and you’re vocal, you’re available, people will believe in and listen to you.”
The other Irlam candidates are: Brian Norman Robinson, Ukip; Myrella Saunders, Conservative; Peter Taylor, Labour (existing councillor) and Daniel Towers, Green.
Elections are taking place on Thursday May 2 for one councillor in each of Salford’s 20 wards. You can find out who is standing in your ward and where the nearest polling station is on the Salford City Council website here.
The Walkden South election is being postponed following the death of Conservative candidate George Darlington.