Controversial plans to build on Saddleworth green belt have been slammed as “outrageous” by campaigners opposed to re-development proposals for Robert Fletcher’s Paper Mill in Greenfield.
A total of 120 ‘executive’ houses and 100 holiday lodges are earmarked for the sprawling site under proposals outlined in the contentious Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Hundreds are thought to have objected locally, including individual residents, petitioners, Residents’ and Action Groups, Saddleworth Civic Trust and Saddleworth Parish Council.
However, the Council is also considering housing use for the brownfield section of Fletcher’s land in its discussions for a future Saddleworth Neighbourhood Plan (SNP).
The SNP will be officially launched on Tuesday, February 21 at Uppermill Civic Hall (7pm) but isn’t expected to be published until December 2018.
The GMSF wants to provide 227,000 new homes by 2035 with 13,700 built in the Oldham Borough.
Elsewhere, thousands have mobilised themselves to fight developments in Greater Manchester’s 10 Local Authority areas, many greater in size than Saddleworth’s contribution to the ‘land grab’.
Further public consultation is expected towards the end of the year, potentially – in view of the mass opposition – to a modified development blueprint.
The Civic Trust, established in 1964, has been particularly vocal in its condemnation of the Fletcher’s proposals. They recently contacted Greater Manchester mayoral candidate, Andy Burnham, a critic of green belt development, for support.
Spokesperson Meg Langton OBE said: “The GMSF policies stress the importance of preserving the Saddleworth countryside with its special qualities and they recognise its value in terms of leisure, tourism and recreation.
“But the proposals fly in the face of all these fine words. Dovestone is a much loved and valued recreational destination. The developments proposed would have a very damaging effect on its setting and the beauty of the valley.
“The existing brownfield factory site can be developed for tourism and leisure but the surrounding green fields must be preserved.”
Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents’ Association submitted its objections prior to the January 16 deadline while a petition was handed to the GMCA from the Dovestone and Chew Valley Action Group.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also submitted a response to the GMSF proposals.
Conservation Officer Jeremy Sutton said: “We have looked closely at the draft and have responded in detail to ensure it delivers strong protection to nature.
“We don’t believe the development of Robert Fletcher’s would lead to significant loss of wildlife or habitats at the actual site.
“However, we do have significant concerns about what impact a large housing development would have on the protected habitats and species at our adjacent Dovestone site and the wider South Pennine Moors.”
The Parish Council identified five points of objection:
* severe damage to a precious landscape at the gateway to the Peak District National Park
* severe harm to a tourism and leisure asset of local and regional importance
* counter-productive over emphasis upon holiday lodges, not justified by evidence of benefit to local community.
* holiday lodge development is not proper reason for removing area adjoining and crucial to the setting of the National Park from the Green Belt.
* damaging set of proposals is leading to poorly thought out realignment of the Green Belt.
The Council response also stated: “The proposed site allocation includes green fields that clearly should not be developed on and describes a scheme which would actually not deliver the intended benefits-it would be counter-productive.
It added: “The SPC’s desire is to see a quality development of this site in its unique and beautiful location.
“This should be a development that commands the support of the local community and which is an asset to the area for many years to come.
“Fletcher’s can play an important role in meeting housing needs and in contributing to a sustainable local tourism economy.
“It should provide quality homes which enhance the borough’s housing mix. “
Councillor Barbara Beeley told the Independent: “Above all we stress that before development of any kind takes place, we have to deal with pressing issues to the present infrastructure which cannot take anymore development: the problems caused by an antiquated sewerage system and the impact of additional traffic on village roads.”