REFUSAL should be given to plans for 265 homes and a link road in Lees, Springhead and Grotton, says Saddleworth Parish Council’s planning committee – for a second time.
The original hybrid application from Russell Homes was rejected by Oldham Council’s planning committee last November, with a recommendation of refusal by the Parish Council.
Concerns were raised about “the loss of OPOL 12 land and subsequent landscape harm and harm to the visual amenity of the Wharmton Undulating Uplands, LCA and Thornley wooded valley landscape”.
But an appeal was lodged by Russell Homes with the Planning Inspectorate and the hearing is expected to last four days from July 23 at Oldham’s Civic Centre.
However, residents were then baffled to receive letters stating a second hybrid planning application was submitted to Oldham Council at the end of April.
It is set to be heard by Oldham Council’s planning committee at an extraordinary planning meeting at the Civic Centre on Monday, July 1 starting at 6pm.
Once again, Saddleworth Parish Council’s planning committee voted in favour of recommending refusal for the plans at a special meeting on June 20.
Around 25 members of the public gathered with ‘Save Our Valleys’ posters and banners at the Civic Hall in Uppermill to hear the decision.
A spokesperson for Save Our Valleys told the planning committee: “Residents are confused as this looks like the same application that was refused in November.
“It would cause the loss of vital green spaces, loss of wildlife and loss of biodiversity. No amount of tree planting will make up for the harm that will be done.
“Russell Homes are now saying that the area is urban not rural. But it makes no difference. It is an open green space and should be left that way.
“The fact we can see parts of Oldham and Manchester from there surely means we should be keeping our green spaces, not building on them.
“They say there have been no developments in the last five to ten years – and there is a reason: the area is full and there aren’t the services and amenities to support more homes.”
Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani, a Parish and borough councillor, said claims that the link road is an aspiration of Oldham Council is outdated and unrealistic.
“It has been looked at before and every time it has been rejected. It is not practical,” he argued.
“It might have been an aspiration link road for the council 30 years ago when plans were first put forward but it is not the wish or aspiration of the community now.
“This green space is a critical heart of the community which the council wants to destroy for an aspiration that is 30 years old.
“Oldham’s planning committee rejected it last time and so did we. I can see nothing in the new application that can justify us not rejecting it again.
“This would be a huge development on a critical piece of land that would be lost forever.”
Cllr Stephen Hewitt has been working alongside residents for more than two years campaigning against this proposal.
He said: “Russell Homes have blatantly ignored residents and I would even say treated both local councillors and constituents with disdain.
“Their new submission is no different from the one refused by both Saddleworth Parish Council and Oldham Council.
“The only difference is they now claim the acres of open space is urban not rural and that this justifies development.
“I find this to be very convenient given they wish to promote this new estate as Lees village as villages by definition are houses in a rural area.”
Cllr Pam Byrne recommended refusal for the plans, saying none of her previous concerns were alleviated by the new application.
“It’s ironic this application should come before us today as it’s Clean Air Day,” she told the meeting. “What we’re looking at would pollute the green land in our area.”
“Last time I was concerned about the road, culverts and loss of green space. What has changed? I voted against it last time and I shall again. I do not think it is necessary and it will destroy the area.”
Cllr Kevin Dawson added: “This will not help solve the housing crisis as the planned homes are not affordable, which is the type of building we need.
“The OPOL designation is there for a reason – to make sure the villages maintain their boundaries and open green space. That should be maintained.
“They have tweaked the first plans but you can not get rid of the fact that they are destroying vital green open space.”
Cllr Duncan Goodman commented: “It seems to me the surveys that have been done are very shallow.
“The transport one doesn’t look at the impact of possibly 500 cars using the new link road, which would be major issue.
“There have been no surveys on the impact on services, like doctors surgeries and schools.”
And Cllr Neil Allsopp said: “For me, green spaces are what defines Saddleworth. If we do not fight to protect them, what do we have?
“It is easier to build on greenfield than brownfield sites but just because you can does not mean you should. We should be building on every last bit of brownfield site first.”
Councillors voted seven in favour of recommending refusal for the plans, with abstentions from Cllr George Hulme as he is also on Oldham Council’s planning committee and Richard Darlington has he had written in objection to the application.