Lydgate housing scheme rejected after passionate appeals

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build on land at Lydgate has been turned down for a fourth time.

Simon Leigh looked like getting his four-bedroomed property through when officers at Oldham Council recommended the scheme for approval.

But after passionate statements from community leaders and two local councillors, its planning committee unanimously voted it down.

That came after head of planning Peter Richards repeatedly pointed out it was entirely outside the green belt – by 20 centimetres at its front and a comparatively huge 60cm at its back.

But after passionate statements from community leaders and two local councillors, Oldham Council planning committee unanimously voted it down.

And if, as expected, Mr Leigh goes to the Planning Inspectorate, comments from a previous appeal that ‘the entire site is inappropriate’ are likely to be used.

As is the historic significance of the area after it was recognised as the site of the first women’s suffrage meeting, on May 4, 1818.

The committee was told on Wednesday, June 5 by Jennifer Greenwood, chair of Love Lydgate, why it should not be built – with obstructing views of St Anne’s Church and the White Hart Inn, which are both listed buildings, cited.

She said: “We’re extremely surprised that after three previous applications being deemed inacceptable, the local authority found in favour of this last application, which differs very little from what has gone before.

Proposed site in Lydgate

“In December 2022 after an appeal was lodged, the planning inspector was even more robust. Supported by much evidence, she came to the same conclusion about the negative impact of any building on this site.

“Nothing has been shaved off the footprint, just a narrow bit of grass. Instead of looking down with your tape measure, look up.

“Lydgate is a tiny hamlet with a visual openness that can be viewed from every aspect. Just one house would harm views of building which are so special, they have been given Grade-II listed status.

“These views would be lost forever. This development would set a precedent. Our heritage should be celebrated and conserved.

“This land was never earmarked for development. It’s protected by the appeal decision, you have the power to do the right thing and say no.”

A site plan showed the site was entirely outside the green belt, but detailed measurements revealed there was an 8.5 metre gap between the existing house on A669 Oldham Road at the front and the green belt boundary.

The property would be 8.3 metres wide, meaning a school ruler would more than bridge the gap but Mr Richards said: “Categorically, this site is not in the green belt.

“There’s no unofficial or vagueness about that. We’ve measured it, it’s not in the green belt.”

But comments on a previous appeal dismissal by Frances Cullen of the Planning Inspectorate were repeatedly brought up.

The proposed site in Lydgate. Image by GGC Media

Cllr Helen Bishop told the meeting: “She said, ‘The introduction of residential development on this site would result in the incremental erosion of an open space within the village.’

“What she doesn’t say is, ‘Apart from that bit at the end. That will be OK.’ She doesn’t say that.

“She says, ‘on the site.’ That’s the full site and it says, ‘Any introduction.’ Really that should be end of conversation.

“I’m 100 per cent confident we could defend this at appeal without incurring any costs.

“If anything is built there, it will completely block the view of the church in Lydgate Conservation Area.

“We potentially have the birth of women’s suffragism. Wouldn’t it be nice for us to preserve that?”

Cllr Max Woodvine added: “The Planning Inspectorate said this site, in its entirety, is not suitable for development.

“Therefore, we’re well within our rights to refuse this. I’m surprised to see it’s before is as we’ve refused these plans three times before.

“I don’t see why we’d approve it now. This application would have an adverse effect on the openness of green belt.

“Ten council recently celebrated the site as the start of the women’s suffrage movement – I’m surprised we’re now planning to concrete over it.”

No representation was made on behalf of the applicant at the hearing but documents supporting it stated: “The proposed development will have a negligible magnitude of change to the setting of the church as the work constitutes slight changes to setting that hardly affects it.

“As the proposed new dwellings will not affect significant views of the church, and as the church is set back within the churchyard, it is assessed that the proposed development will have a neutral impact.”

However, committee member Cllr Brian Hobin said: “For once maybe, we need to put the residents first and rather than out them through any more misery, let’s get the vote for rejection done.”

When it came to it, every panel member voted against the officers’ recommendation.


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