ONE OF Saddleworth’s most rural and picturesque villages is to be the target of a landmark planning application for a significant development on greenbelt land in a conservation area.
Weetwood, developers based in Southern England, are to apply to Oldham Council to build a 21-house estate on a village-centre site in Denshaw.
Local people flocked to the village hall last month to hear Parish and Borough Councillor Derek Heffernan outline the basis of the plan.
It involves the development of a steeply sloping site opposite Denshaw’s bus terminus in Rochdale Road, near the junction with Oldham Road.
Creating a unique development in Saddleworth, 15 three-bed and six two-bed houses would be built on the land, which is both greenbelt and in a conservation area.
Cllr Heffernan called the two-hour drop-in meeting to give villagers early warning of the potential planning application, although none has been submitted up to the end of January.
He explained that although the land is protected, he understood the developer may be trying to use a recent relaxation of rules allowing the building of affordable housing in greenbelt.
He said: “This is very worrying. If it were to be approved, it could set a huge precedent for other Saddleworth sites.
“I have always been opposed to developing greenbelt land and I would urge local people to object to this plan in the strongest terms.
“The other issue is what would be classed as ‘affordable’? Often this is around 20 per cent less than the market average for the area which could result in the new houses costing around £200,000 – hardly affordable for young people.”
Others at the meeting felt houses in a conservation area so close to the village centre would have to be built of reclaimed materials, considerably adding to the cost and making the ‘affordable’ criteria even more difficult to meet.
Villagers were also told that to meet borough housing targets for the next 15 years, 27 houses a year would need to be built in Saddleworth and there was no shortage of land to meet this figure without the need to hit greenbelt sites.
The Denshaw outline planning application from Weetwood is expected imminently and will first be considered by the Parish Council which will pass on its recommendation to Oldham Planning Committee.
“I intend to keep local people as up to date as possible as once the application is received. Individuals need to give their views within 56 days,” added Councillor Heffernan.
“If you agree we should not be developing greenbelt land in a conservation area and that this type of plan would have a negative effect on the nature of the village, then you should object to Oldham Council, not via a petition but individually as this will carry a lot more weight.”