Judicial review decision pending for Knowls Lane development

DEFIANT campaigners are waiting for the outcome of a judicial review of a planning application for 265 homes and a major link road in Grotton, Lees and Springhead.

The hybrid planning application for the homes off Knowls Lane and a £3.5 million link road to Ashbrook Road was initially refused in November 2018 by Oldham Council.

Save Our Valleys Knowls Lane

However, Russell Homes submitted a second application, which was heard at an extraordinary planning meeting in July 2019 and given the go-ahead.

But Save Our Valleys (SOV), whose members were among more than 2,500 people to send in objections to the applications, is continuing its opposition.

With the help of lawyers Irwin Mitchell, it was granted by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE to proceed with a judicial review, which is the process of challenging the lawfulness of decisions of public authorities.

The judicial review was heard by Mr Justice Julian Knowles on July 28 and a decision is expected in September.

Meanwhile, SOV has raised concerns over amended plans and documents submitted to Oldham Council’s planning department.

The changes were submitted in April this year but subsequently removed from the planning portal after a few weeks. They were validated and reappeared on the date of the Judicial Review with new and additional documents,

The application seeks ‘Variation of Conditions 8 (landscaping management) and amendments to approved plans within condition 13 (link road plans).’

But the alterations and additional new documents are ‘very confusing’ and contain numerous errors, say worried residents.

A spokesperson for SOV said: “A major problem is that a considerable number of new documents have been added but lots of residents (and councillors making the decision) don’t realise this because of the way they are presented and just classed as amendments.

“From looking over the documents, significant changes have been made. So to refer to these as just amendments is not correct in our view.

“The documents presented to Natural England are based on a bridge – this is inaccurate as the application was never based on a bridge, always filling in the valley.

“Another example is that nowhere in the application does it actually say how many trees will be felled.

“And the drawings do not make clear what the impact on public rights of way are. Where are these, how are they diverted and what has been done to engage with the authorities on any closure, temporary, permanent or diversion?

“The documents are very confusing, and the worrying fact is councillors are basing their decisions on these. We remain very concerned and confused with the whole process.”

They also argue that the recently identified Ancient Woodland must be taken into consideration and what impact filling in a large section of the valley will have on this and wildlife habitat.

They add that documents include conflicting drawings, outdated reports, drawings without scale bars and some documents which claim to be approved plans are not stamped as such.

And they feel that completely new reports added, such as the National Vegetation Classification Survey Report, “requires full consultation as a new application and the comments of all authorities, the public and committee members.”

They added: “Ultimately, should the community not be able to expect, as a minimum, that documents relating to such a large development have been checked and validated for accuracy before being presented to residents and decision-makers so that at least decisions are based on fact?”

To see all the details of the planning application, visit planningpa.oldham.gov.uk/online-applications/ and search using reference MMA/344723/20.

A spokesperson for Oldham Council said the decision on the application will be made by the council’s Planning Committee but the date is not known at the moment.

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