Seven-week public consultation for home plans during Covid crisis branded “disgrace”

THERE will be little change to Saddleworth’s contribution to Greater Manchester’s controversial Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment.

Oldham Council has confirmed more than 1,400 fewer homes will be built in the green belt as part of the borough’s contribution to the contentious document.

However, it is still proposed to build 171 houses on the site of the former Robert Fletcher’s Paper Mill and surrounding area in Greenfield.

The only ‘downsize’ sees the amount of mixed-use (commercial, leisure and retail) reduced from 8,500sqm to 6,000sqm.

Robert Fletcher Mill site, Greenfield

The identified areas for development are adjacent to picturesque Chew Brook and close to Dovestone Reservoir beauty spot which has been overrun by visitors in recent years.

Previously, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams raised concerns about the impact on transport infrastructures “particularly given the village roads”.

She had urged the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to “engage with both the Dovestone and Chew Valley Action Group and the Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents Association”.

The local authority says 11,764 homes need to be built across the borough by 2037 – an average of 692 homes a year.

However, it is not clear if developments unstarted but with planning permission will count towards the total.

The revised proposals have been criticised prior to a final public consultation between November 4 to December 31, 2020.

Oldham Liberal Democrat councillors have pledged to oppose them at a special meeting of Oldham Council on Wednesday October 28.

Council bosses insist they are prioritising brownfield land for future housing and employment space
Green belt allocations in the 2020 plan will now see the development of 2,597 homes and 141,720sqm of employment land instead of last year’s draft plan, which included proposals for 4,007 new homes and 342,386 sqm of employment land.

Proposed sites at Thornham Old Road, at Spinners Way, at Kingsway South and the majority of the proposed housing sites in Woodhouses have been removed.Cllr Sean Fielding, Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “We’ve been working hard to identify alternative viable brownfield sites which will enable us to fulfil our housing need whilst helping us to protect the green belt and be a catalyst for regeneration – including exciting town centre improvements.”

Cllr Hannah Roberts, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Oldham needs more and better housing – which meets the needs of residents at various stages of their lives including affordable housing and homes for social rent.”

The breakdown of the 171 Robert Fletcher houses has yet to be confirmed.

The plan previously stated a: “mix of low-density family and executive homes and affordable homes of two and three bedrooms.”

Cllr Fielding added: “We want green belt allocations to be the last to be built on, but we know brownfield sites can be less appealing to developers than other sites which are effectively a ‘blank canvas’.”

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat councillors have called proposals the “wrong plan at the wrong time.”

They said: “Greater Manchester Councils are proposing to consult with the public over a seven-week period, which includes Christmas and is in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In a democracy, people need to be able to meet, to discuss, and to campaign around the issues that affect them in their local areas.

“Oldham Liberal Democrats believe that this is the wrong time to conduct any consultation if it is to be meaningful and inclusive.

“At a time when people are rightly focussed on Covid-19 and its massive im-pact on our lives, it is a disgrace to even call this a consultation.”

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition, added: “People will just not be engaged with this final stage of consultation as they focus on keeping themselves and their families safe from disease and unemployment.”

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