‘Yes’ to more home but not on greenbelt, say Lib Dems as housing plan comes under attack

THE amended Greater Manchester Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment – also known as the GM Spatial Framework – has been criticised for plundering greenbelt.

The document, ratified by GM’s 10 local authority leaders on January 11, calls for 201,000 new homes to be built in the next 20 years – a reduction of 25,000 from the previous plan.

However, Oldham Council’s Liberal Democrat group says very little has changed in terms of Oldham, especially Shaw and Crompton.

Shaw Councillor Howard Sykes MBE said his party recognised the need for more homes, including affordable housing and for people living independently with disabilities.

But he added: “Our greenbelt is irreplaceable. We will continue to oppose any plans to build there when there are unused brownfield sites and empty mills which can be converted into residential accommodation.”

Under Lib Dem proposals new housing development would take place first:

• on brownfield or derelict sites

• on sites with existing planning permission for housing

• by converting long-term empty mills, shops and offices into homes

• by bringing existing long-term empty homes back into use.

They have also called for the infrastructure to be upgraded to cope with extra demand for services new homes will bring.

“In Shaw and Crompton, we already have primary schools which are bursting at the seams and an overburdened and run-down health centre,” added Cllr Sykes.

“We made our position crystal clear in response to the so-called earlier consultation – NO building on our greenbelt.

“These pleas have been ignored and therefore we will redouble our efforts in opposing these plans that will concrete over and change the character of our borough.”

Cllr Howard Sykes

It is proposed new properties will be built at Cowlishaw, in the Beal Valley, Rushcroft, the Whitfield Farm area towards Newhey, and around Gravel Hole and Low Crompton.

Adjacent sites at Broadbent Moss (Oldham), Hanging Chadder (Oldham) and land east and west of the A627M (Rochdale and Oldham) if developed would also see a significant erosion of the greenbelt in the so called Northern Gateway.

Cllr Sykes continued: “There is no justification for the construction of a large number of properties (or indeed any properties) on greenbelt or OPOL before new homes are first built on brownfield sites, on sites where planning permission for housing development has already been granted and upon the many derelict and unloved sites in our town centres and districts.

“Our existing motorways are frequently constrained by high levels of congestion resulting in unacceptable journey times and additional traffic jams on feeder and local roads.

“The projected growth of industrial warehousing, office space and new homes will require monumental investment in transport infrastructure.

“It is of paramount importance to ensure the transport infrastructure is in place before other building takes place.

“All the sites identified, especially those in Royton, Shaw and Crompton, are devoid of good vehicular access and there is no obvious way to make the necessary improvements.

“The topography around the Whitfield Farm area makes it difficult to envisage an elegant solution to site access.

“Similarly, the Beal Valley site is currently served only by a narrow road and the desire to facilitate access to this site by enhancing links to Shaw and Crompton Metrolink station seem incredulous.

“The increase in population will necessitate provision of additional services. The GMSF does not appear to adequately address available funding to deliver on these requirements.

“Under the proposals, 3,000 homes will be built in Royton, Shaw and Crompton for growing families.

“These new residents will need more primary and secondary school places; more GPs and dentists; leisure and shopping facilities; and new highways and more buses and trams to get them there.

“Now doesn’t Oldham Council’s decision to close and not replace Crompton swimming pool and gym look a little short-sighted given the number of new young residents that will need to learn to swim and the adults that will want to keep fit?”

He added: “The vast majority of sites are attractive open spaces that provide pleasure, relaxation, and health benefits to local residents as well as our wider community.

“These sites are further enhanced by a diverse range of flora and fauna and importantly provide those ‘green lung’ areas which minimise urban sprawl between built up conurbations.

“Two of the sites include small but nevertheless important rivers within their boundaries; the Rivers Irk and Beal (Cowlishaw and Beal Valley respectively) help to prevent flooding and are attractive features of the two sites.

“Additionally, the Cowlishaw site is renowned for upwell of numerous local springs and given to serious flooding.

“Cowlishaw and Beal Valley also contain sites of biological importance and these must be retained.”

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