Former council leader adds voice to objections against Spatial Framework development plans

A FORMER leader of Oldham Council is adding his voice to the objections against extensive development plans in Greenfield.

Richard Knowles is backing campaigners who are fighting against plans to build on greenbelt and greenspace around the derelict Robert Fletchers’ paper mill.

The proposals are part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) and include around 170 new homes, 10-15 holiday lodges and a boutique hotel.

The plans also outline provision for a visitor education centre, a new access point, around 2,500sqm of employment floorspace as extension to Waterside Mill, and open space, sport and recreation facilities.

The GMSF report states: “The site provides the potential to provide a high range of high-quality family and executive homes in an attractive and desirable rural location.

“It also provides an opportunity to enhance Oldham’s housing offer and contribute to meeting Oldham’s housing need.”

However, former Saddleworth councillor Mr Knowles, who led Oldham Council from 2000-2003, has hit out strongly against the outline plans. 

In a detailed letter to Oldham planners he objects to the “overdevelopment of a highly visible set of sites adjacent to the Peak District National Park”.

He explained: “I objected in writing both to Oldham Council and to Greater Manchester Combined Authority in March and have yet to receive a reply. 

“GMSF and its Robert Fletchers Mill Site Allocation 18 had failed completely to mention Section 62(2) of the Environment Act 1995 that requires all public authorities to have a duty of care to the Peak District National Park. 

“The Peak District National Park objected strongly, and in great details, to proposed housing on the existing green belt land, the new link road, additional holiday lodges and the proposed visitor education centre’s location and car park.”

In his letter, he wrote: “I have no objection to the redevelopment of the brownfield at the redundant Fletchers Mill for housing and a hotel, as long as the housing is affordable and related to local needs.  

“However, it is essential any planning permission requires the former mill itself to be redeveloped first to avoid cherry picking of development on land that is cheaper and more profitable to develop.

“It is completely unacceptable and unnecessary to develop any of the green belt between Dove Stone reservoir and Fletchers mill, apart from the provision of a small Visitor Education Centre at the site of the current public toilets.”

He also highlighted inaccuracies, including reference to a new access at Manchester Road, which should be Holmfirth Road, and failure to specify the boundary of the brownfield land and the greenfield land.

And he added: “From my experience, the best way to ensure this outrageous GMSF proposal is stopped is for all opponents of the scheme to work together.”

Strong opposition has also come from Save Greenfields Greenbelt (SGG) protestors, who are keen to keep on the pressure ahead of the formal (statutory) consultation in September 2019.

They are looking for support and donations to help raise £5,000 to fund professional advice to “keep Greenfield green and protect our community”.

A spokesperson for SGG said: “If we do not make our feelings known this will be just the start of easy targets across Saddleworth greenbelt by OMBC to capitalise on high council tax yields from suffering residents. 

“We have to act now so OMBC understand the people of Saddleworth will not allow the jewels in our crown to be traded off and that our countryside is not for sale.”

If you would like to help and support Save Greenfields Greenbelt email greenfieldgreenbelt@gmail.com for further details.

Any donations are welcome no matter how big or small and can be made online: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/savegreenfieldsgreenbelt 

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