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.
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.”