By Charlotte Green – Local Democracy Reporter
Chiefs are investigating whether run-down mills across Oldham could be converted into new homes or torn down for housing to prevent building on green belt land.
A meeting of the full council was told that the authority is currently undertaking a ‘mills strategy’ following feedback about the draft proposals for the borough included in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
The second draft of the strategic masterplan for the region published in 2019 envisioned thousands of new homes over the next 20 years, and had proposed building around 14,290 homes in Oldham.
The allocation would see around 4,050 homes and thousands of square metres of employment space on ten allocations of land designated as green belt.
However, as with the first iteration of the huge document, the green belt plans have been vociferously fought by residents, many of whom argued that the strategy should prioritise the redevelopment of brownfield and former industrial sites.
Speaking at the virtual full council meeting, Failsworth East Councillor Liz Jacques raised the issue of the GMSF – which has allocated 260 on green belt land in Woodhouses village in her ward – and asked what the council had been doing to find alternative sites.
“These proposals were strongly opposed by local residents,” she said.
“I am grateful to the leader for meeting with local representatives of the green belt action group to explain the position and understand that the council was committed to looking for viable brownfield site to develop on greenbelt allocations so that they can be reduced.
“Given the delay to the framework caused by Covid-19, has the council used the time to find more such brownfield sites, and if so how soon will we know whether they can offset green belt allocations such as those in my ward?”
Cabinet member for housing, Coun Hannah Roberts explained that the town hall reviews its housing land supply position every year.
“The council’s creating a better place programme identifies a series of residential led development opportunities as part of repurposing the town centre, and this feeds into our latest housing land supply,” she said..
“In addition, many of the GMSF responses suggested that derelict mills should be built on before using green belt land, a suggestion I fully support.
“A mills strategy is underway to look at which unlisted mills should be protected but also possibly be converted for housing, taking in to account financial viability and other constraints.
“The strategy will also identify less important unlisted mills which could more easily offer land for new homes.
“At the same time we do not want to undermine the successful businesses which operate from some of our mills.
“All of this evidence will feed into Oldham’s land supply, the revised housing land supply and other detailed viability work commissioned by the combined authority to inform the revised strategic allocations which will be published in the final GMSF proposals later this year.”
A second consultation into the GMSF proposals has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but bosses are working to put them out again to the public from October.