THE Mayor of Greater Manchester has pledged to help protect Dovestone Reservoir after hearing first-hand of the issues plaguing the area.
Andy Burnham was invited to visit the Greenfield beauty spot by Dr Andrew Taylor, chair of the Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents Association and an Oldham Mountain Rescue Team member.
Dr Taylor took Mr Burnham and other guests, including MP Debbie Abrahams, police and fire officers and Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding on a short trip around the reservoir.
Then back at Dovestone Sailing Club, he explained about recent problems at the site, including litter, parking, anti-social behaviour and devastating moorland fires.
He added that many organisations, including United Utilities and RSPB, and volunteers already come together to look after the site but more needs to be done.
“It is bad and it is getting worse,” he said. “We need a plan to bring everybody together so we have better management of the area.
“Hopefully this meeting will raise awareness of the problems we’re having at a higher level.”
Dr Taylor presented photographs of the area and added that a photo of Dovestone Reservoir is one of the first things travellers see when they land at Manchester Airport.
“We want support from Greater Manchester for the area if they are telling people to visit,” he said. “We do want people to come but we need help to do it properly.”
Mr Burnham pledged support and help to tackle the issues and protect the area, saying: “You will be hard pressed to find a more picturesque spot in Manchester. It’s amazing.
“I know there are plans to introduce a Public Space Protection Order at the site, which I fully support.
“I am confident that should the order come into force, Greater Manchester Police and Fire and Rescue Service will work closely with the council to ensure the right enforcement is in place.
“We also want to support the management group at the site to see if there is more we can do to help them. I hope we can create a way forward that everybody can get behind.”
The meeting also brought up plans to build homes in the valley under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which has been met with anger by many residents.
Mr Burnham admitted the GM Combined Authority is under pressure to meet the government’s housing quota but was adamant brownfield sites should be developed before greenbelt is lost.
“Everywhere needs new houses,” he said, “But I am looking for a shift back to urban core and brownfield sites in town centres.
“The second draft already gave back 50 per cent of the green belt. An in ideal world we would like to see that come down even more but that will be a tough thing to do.
“You live in a truly special place and we need to look after it. We are prepared to listen and work on a joint plan that is fair for the long haul.”
The third draft of the plans has recently been delayed, with further official public consultation now not expected until summer 2020.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said: “Dovestone is a jewel in the crown of Saddleworth – and also the country.
“We need to protect this wonderful site for our children and grandchildren.
“Andy and I will do all we can to reduce the risk of the fires we saw last year and earlier this spring.”
• FORMER Oldham Council leader Richard Knowles is calling for plans for a new road and roundabout in Greenfield to be withdrawn.
The proposal has been put forward by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Oldham Council as part of the GMSF Allocation 18 ‘Robert Fletchers’.
Mr Knowles, who lives in Greenfield, said: “The existing mill road leading from the derelict Fletchers Paper Mill to Holmfirth Road near the Clarence junction roundabout is more than adequate to serve a redevelopment of Fletchers Mill.
“Bank Lane was widened a few years ago, at huge public expense, with retaining walls to provide unimpeded road access to Dovestone Reservoir from A635 Holmfirth Road.
“There is no need whatsoever to build a second road to access Fletchers Mill and Dovestone Reservoir – this would be a huge waste of public money, would sever the green belt and be an eyesore on the boundary of the Peak District National Park.
“I am making this request, after consultation with the Greenfield Greenbelt Campaign Group who are campaigning to ‘Save Chew Valley’ from unnecessary and unwelcome urban development.”