A massive new seven-year housing development programme for one of Saddleworth’s “green lungs” will not solve Oldham’s demand for affordable homes.
But, say Save Our Valleys (SOVs) campaigners in Grotton, Springhead and Lees, the controversial plans will have detrimental impact on residents’ well-being, devastating effect on wildlife, raise noise, light and air pollution levels and increase the risk of flooding.
Russell Homes (UK) Ltd want to build up to 265 homes off Knowls Lane and a £3.5 million road extending from Knowls Lane/Lees New Road to Ashbrook Road/Oldham Road crossing Thornley Brook. Only 27 dwellings will be affordable housing.
Part of the development will be on land which enjoys Other Protected Open Lane (OPOL) status.
The planning report suggests OMBC will receive £416,300 in annual Council Tax revenue and there will be a £4.3 million expenditure from new residents into the local economy.
More than 100 protestors attended last month’s meeting of Saddleworth Parish Council’s Planning Committee, when councillors voted unanimously 9-0 to refuse the link road and housing development.
Springhead Ward Councillor Barbara Beeley told the meeting: “These proposed houses will not solve the homelessness crisis and neither will they be affordable by people working in Oldham’s low wage economy.
“OPOL is there for a reason to make sure communities maintain their identity and give breathing space between them.
“If we look at the communities of Lees, Springhead and Grotton they were all over developed in the 1960s and 70s.
“They have the narrow linear park of the old railway line which passes through all three. Apart from that there is a football field and two small parks.
“If this development is agreed the noose will totally surround Springhead and there will be no more breathing space in the area.”
Residents and councillors believe between 500-1,000 extra cars will be introduced if plans receive the green light from Oldham Council.
“Concerns are expressed about the design, route and safety of the proposed road but these concerns are summarily dismissed by the proposed developer,” added Cllr Beeley.
“The traffic census seems to have been done during school holidays and outside of rush hour. So how accurate are they?
“It says in the preamble there is little opposition to this proposal.
“Is that why there are so many people are at this meeting, why we have received so many letters of opposition and why about 100 people walked the valley to protest?”
Saddleworth West and Lees councillor Adrian Alexander described the link road as a “road to nowhere”.
He added: “The developers state the link road has been a long-standing aspiration of the council.
“But we are unable to ascertain who wants this road and why. Certainly the residents don’t want it.”
He added: “Locals know how difficult it can be at times to exit Ashbrook Road, particularly turning right towards Saddleworth.
“Yet the proposal is to massively increase traffic without mitigating measures.”
Speaking on behalf of an estimated 2,000 residents and stakeholders, Susan Hall said: “We understand the need for more houses.
“But these must be the right houses in the right location. This proposal offers neither.
“The Eastern sector (OPOL 12) has had protected status for many years.
“It provides a much needed area of open space which is used for quiet enjoyment by residents, separates conurbations, prevents urban sprawl while maintaining the boundaries and character of area.
“The developer admits in their documentation that the scale of the development proposed for the Eastern OPOL is in technical conflict with existing planning policy.
“We feel this proposal is completely unacceptable, inappropriate in scale and critically goes against planning policy.
“This heavily developed area needs this green lung, open space for health and well-being, recreation and visual amenity.
“It does not have the services, facilities and infrastructure to provide development of this scale.”