Houses plan is ‘same as destroying Amazon rainforest’ say protesters

TEARING up the countryside in Saddleworth for housing is ‘exactly the same’ as destroying the Amazon rainforest say campaigners as they prepare to launch a legal challenge.

Protestors raised £20,000 in just three weeks to challenge a controversial decision to build hundreds of new homes on green land off Knowls Lane at Springhead.The Save Our Valleys group hopes that by funding a private judicial review, the permission granted by Oldham Council for 265 homes and a new link road will be struck down.

Saddleworth councillor Garth Harkness had branded that chaotic planning committee meeting as the ‘worst’ he had ever attended.

Campaigners believe that official procedure on the night was not followed, and approval was ‘pre-determined’.

But Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding said following an investigation the authority is ‘satisfied’ that all procedures met legal requirements.

He added that developments are in their ‘best interests’ to deliver ‘good quality homes’ for local communities.

Around 2,500 people had originally objected to the plans to building a road linking Knowls Lane and Ashbrook Road, which developers Russell Homes said would help bring £11.3m into the local economy.

Half of the 15-hectare site was already allocated for housing, but the rest was deemed other protected open land (OPOL).

Builder Paul Errock, who lives in Grasscroft, said Save Our Valleys are committed to fighting against the ‘destruction of their green land’ in court.

“We keep seeing on the TV what’s going on in Brazil, the fires and churning up acres and acres of trees in the Amazon, but we’re doing exactly the same here,” he said.“Beauty spots and wildlife habitats are disappearing, and the fact there are enough brownfield sites in the UK to build a million houses without touching the countryside – it’s insane.

“I get that we need houses and we need to develop but we are not giving thought to what we are losing by just ripping up the countryside.

“What are we going to leave our children and grandchildren? I am not an eco-warrior but it does concern me.”

Mr Errock said they have engaged law firm Irwin Mitchell, who have already sent a letter to the council warning of the intention to launch a judicial review.

A judicial review is the process of challenging the lawfulness of decisions of public authorities but is not a re-run on the merits of the decision.

Campaigners expect they have to raise between £25,000-£50,000 to finance the entire legal challenge.

They have so far managed to raise the cash through fundraising events, including a ‘party at the pavillion’ at Grotton, a beer walk and a quiz night at Springhead Liberal Club.

The group also launched the ‘200 club’ which asks people who feel passionately opposed to the development to donate £200.

Russell Homes declined to comment when contacted.

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