Campaigners celebrate as Planning Inspector overturns ‘cutting a valley in two’

PEOPLE opposed to plans to divert a footpath so it can make way for a controversial Saddleworth housing development are celebrating after its approval was overturned.

Russell Homes was previously given the go ahead to change the passageway from Ashbrook in Springhead to Rhodes Hill in Lees to accommodate a new link road to the Knowls Lane development.

However, the Planning Inspectorate has said the proposal to introduce 96 steps up and over the new road should not happen.

It was proposed what is known as footpath 26, which currently runs adjacent to the brook, would be taken over an elevated road with 48 steps on either side.

L to R
Renny Krupinski, Michael Taylor, Jane Barker (front), Anna Oldfield all of SOV and Mark Kenyon.

That was passed as part of the planning application and again approved by Oldham Council’s Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) panel after hearing concerns.

Resident Jane Barker said: “The stepped route unfairly discriminates not only against those with mobility problems but also prevents the elderly and people with toddlers and pushchairs from using Footpath 26.

“Access to Footpath 26 will actually be worse than it is now for many of our local residents.

“The stepped diversion will be a permanent obstacle, leaving many of our local community excluded from the small area of green space that will be left after the development is built.

“When in the 21st century we are presented with the opportunity to make the public right of way more inclusive and improve accessibility to the remaining vital green space, surrounding area and local shops and services, why would anyone settle for and endorse anything less?”

Know Cllr Mark Kenyon, who disagreed with the proposal, has welcome the Planning Inspectorate’s verdict.

He said: “Russell Homes’ plans to divert the well-used footpath are in disarray.

“The decision sides with arguments made by a large number of objectors that such a huge number of steps would discriminate against all but the most able bodied.

“The Inspector also heavily criticised the lack of clarity in the developer’s plans, saying that if the order was granted, the design for the new path was in such disarray that no-one could be sure what would have been built.

“A 96-step diversion was cynical, discriminatory and miserly. Russell Homes have been told to go back to the drawing board”.

Glenn Shallcross from Save Our Valleys, the group who have campaigned against the Knowls Lane development since 2017, added: “We’ve been saying for years that these plans don’t deliver for the community.

“The Planning Inspector agreed with us. Hopefully now the developer will listen and engage with us in a constructive way.”


18 Replies to “Campaigners celebrate as Planning Inspector overturns ‘cutting a valley in two’”

  1. Absolute nonsense. You need to be able bodied in order to walk along the footpath by the stream as it is now. Adding any amount of steps is not going to be excluding anyone from accessing green space or shops.

    1. The Inspector visited the footpath and made a decision on what she saw and also on the evidence heard during the Inquiry. The footpath from Rhodes Hill along Thornley
      Brook is fairly level – it certainly doesn’t have 96 steps up a nearly 30 foot climb. Whatever you might think about the diversion, the council has to follow the law – Public Sector Equality Duty – regarding accessibility. It hasn’t done that in this case. The Inspector also had concerns about safety aspects of the diversion. The Planning Inspector is an independent expert.

      1. Although I didn’t actually post the comment above, (I find it a bit weird that someone else here posts comments as JPC-W but OK if they must,) to which you’ve replied I nonetheless agree with the main points, however that said I’m pleased the footpath and the Right of Way will be retained.

        The footpath and the Rights of Way throughout Oldham are under constant assault by attrition and are often blocked illegally.

        For example, The footpath running up from Strinesdale Reservoir towards Grains bar has recently been fenced off with 6 foot high wire fencing and now looks and feels like a prison walk. That’s one but example.

        So this is good result.

          1. I think the demarcation line here is between those of us who actually use these footpaths and, “Rights,” of Way, (which many landowners and most property developers absolutely resent,) regularly and with enthusiasm, (and in my case have done for well over 50 years,) and those people who drive up to Chew Valley in trainers, on the first sunny day and then promptly break an ankle; possibly in order to meet fit and attractive young men with beards ?

            It’s a case of, “Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

  2. I have lived in Grotton for the past 56 years . In the first instance I had great respect for SOV but this is ridiculous. I walk through the valley on many, many occasions and in places the pathway in question has never been and never will be passable for wheelchair users and someone pushing a pram would really struggle. SOV raised a total of £50000 pounds to fund a judicial review, this review was not granted and some £20000 was spent on this. A promise was made to improve the Grotton Pavilion with any monies that where left. What has happened to this? I am sorry SOV just let this go, it’s happening no matter how many times you attempt to delay it, you are wasting your’s and a lot of other people’s time .

    1. The money raised was spent on a Judicial Review, where the decision went against the community – that’s where the money went. A Planning Inspector visited the footpath and made a decision based on what she saw during her visit and the evidence heard during the Public Enquiry. Disabled people are not just wheelchair users, there are many forms of disability, all of which were covered in the Inspector’s decision. Oldham Council should have considered their accessibility obligations under Public Sector Equality Duty but they didn’t. That is against the law. The Inspector also had safety concerns about the design. Simple things like handrails on a path with a 30 foot drop? Members of the public wrote in with their experiences about pushing prams etc. too. The Inspector received 31 objections to the diversion, most of which were not from SOV. The only time being wasted is our own in trying to get Oldham Council to do their job right and follow the law. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

    2. The fact that SOV exists is a testament to locals who value the area they live in. The nay-sayers and those who’d rather not get directly involved are happy to carp about the extraordinary time, effort and work put in by a small core of residents acting in the best interests of many, whilst doing nothing and allowing big business to ride roughshod over the community. Shame on you for daring to think SOV have misappropriated donations and are just wasting their time. This result proves their worth.

    3. You are absolutely correct about the path in the valley. It is not passable by wheelchair users and I have never seen anyone pushing a pram down there. However, for any misappropriation of funds I personally doubt they would have done that but a full audit of accounts could be offered to dispel myths.

      1. You could try asking the person who was Treasurer of SOV at the time – Paul Shilton. There will be records of all the money that got paid to the solicitors.

        There are testimonies from a number of people who use wheelchairs and pushchairs in the valleys who submitted these in writing and one individual appeared as a witness at the Public Inquiry. The CCTV count that the developer did just before the Public Inquiry also included over 40 cyclists. Accessibility under Public Sector Equality Duty is not just restricted to wheelchairs – it includes all disabilities – replacement hips, people with walking aids. In fact the Inspector noted in her report that she had seen people with walking sticks using the path when she visited. The proposed steps needed 350mm risers and in some parts a 1 in 2 gradient. Even able bodied people would struggle with that. The path would be unusable.

        1. 350mm risers? Don’t be rediculous. You are a bitter woman still sore that this development is going ahead. Just get over it for your own sake. How truly sad that you appear unable to do so and a waste of your senior years.

          1. The Planning Inspector stated that the proposed plans would make the path unusable, the developer needs to come up with sensible plans for the diversion that the community can support. As for my “Senior years” how old do you think I am? ????

    4. Just to clarify, the full cost of legal fees was £50k. I don’t know where you got £20k from, but as the decision in the Judicial Review went in favour of Oldham Council, did you realise that the £10k legal costs awarded came out of 10 SOV members own pockets as they’d signed as guarantors? I suggest before you make careless remarks about funding you are in full possession of the facts.

      1. Jane, I am not implying that there had been any misappropriation of funds, however as far as I am aware an application for a Judicial Review was heard on the 28th July 2020 before
        Mr Justice Julian Knowles. This application was rejected on all grounds of the challenge and therefore it was dismissed. No actual Judicial Review took place. The claimant (SOV) was ordered to pay the defendant (OMBC) the costs of £10,000 which was the capped amount . I am also well aware that there would have been legal costs payable to the solicitors that had been instructed by SOV. And if this equated to £50,000 then so be it. I stand by my original post regarding the footpath,

        1. I’m sorry but you are not correct. It was the actual Judicial Review that took place in July 2020. There had already been an application to take the case forward previously which was granted. The Judicial Review found in favour of the Council and that is why the full £50k was used and the award of costs of £10k was made.

          The Planning Inspector made her decision in the diversion based on a number of factors – accessibility, safety, unable to build the diversion in accordance with the submitted plans, not in accordance with the Council’s own Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan. Also, have you ever heard of all-terrain wheelchairs? Maybe look them up – most can go almost anywhere these days, apart from up flights of stairs.

  3. Walking through our countryside is not just for the fit and able. That’s what these steps would have meant. We should be increasing access for all people not restricting it for many. These steps would have split the valley in two for generations to come for so many people. 96 steps is no laughing matter if you have COPD, small kids on a bike, you have a hip replacement, you’ve got vertigo etc…..

    RH made grand promises to improve the local area….this design was the complete opposite of that. Now they’ve been told to go away and think again.

    So many people complain to me about over development of our villages….and it’s not nimby-ism….. the vast majority of people are concerned that all these houses come without any improvements to local doctors, dentists, schools and roads. That’s the fight SOV have taken head on.

    1. SOV weren’t interested in doctors, dentists or schools; they wanted to stop the development regardless. I do agree planning should include provision for additional facilities, especially on a scale such as this but that was not the bee SOV had in their bonnet. It was NIMBYISM but NIMBYS will never win over increasing council tax revenue.

      1. Really, lack of local infrastructure was one of the points of objection against the application originally but was ignored by the Planning Department. SOV has around 1000 members of the local community. We accepted that half the site had been allocated for housing years ago but not the OPOL land. This has got nothing to do with the footpath diversion at all which was thrown out out for a long list of reasons.

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