First published in the Saddleworth Independent
LOCAL campaigners are urging Oldham Council to consider their alternative development plans and prevent Chew Valley being “destroyed” by the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
The Chew Valley Green Belt Action (CVGBA) was formed last year as a cross-community, non-party political group in response to the city-region’s masterplan for boosting jobs and house building until 2037.
The latest version indicates land for up to 180,000 new homes would be freed up across Greater Manchester, of which 50,000 would be affordable – lower than the 227,000 proposed in the original document in 2016.
Robert Fletcher Mill site, Greenfield
The amount of employment land has also shrunk by half from the level proposed in the original masterplan.
And greenbelt development has been reduced by 60 per cent.
A greater emphasis will be placed on breathing new life into brownfield sites, with the combined authority planning to use £80million of government funding to fulfil their ambitions.
However, it is still proposed to build 171 houses and 8,500 sqm of employment space on the site of the former Robert Fletcher’s Paper Mill and the surrounding area in Greenfield.
The plans are set out in the Spatial Framework documents as GMA15 Chew Brook Vale (Robert Fletchers) but was previously listed as just Robert Fletchers.
The site is being put forward for a mix of ‘commercial, leisure and retail facilities to support tourism’.
These would include shops and cafes, while around 2,500 square metres employment floorspace would be delivered at Waterside Mill.A ‘modest expansion’ of 10 to 15 holiday lodges would be focused around the mill pond, and a ‘boutique hotel’ could also be provided.
And a visitor education centre could be provided in partnership with the RSPB and United Utilities.
An area of the greenbelt in the eastern half of the site would be retained to maintain a separation between the development and Dovestone Reservoir.
A new access point would be created off the A669/A635, including a new bridge.
However, CVGBA say that unless there is an 11th hour rethink, these plans will destroy the greenbelt, turning it into a giant housing estate and devastating the environment.
They have put forward an alternative plan for the derelict Fletchers Mill site with the hope of saving the greenbelt.
Andrew Taylor, CVGBA co-Chair, said: “Our Alternative Plan, developed in co-operation with Fletchers Mill, would deliver the full requirement of GMSF’s housing and leisure/recreational targets and save all of the undeveloped greenbelt land in the Chew Valley.
“We have now asked Oldham Council Leader Sean Fielding for a meeting to discuss our alternative plan so that GMSF can be amended”.Richard Knowles, CVGBA co-Chair, said: “By developing a new compact Pennine village on the disused Fletchers Mill site, including converting some of the old mill buildings, Chew Valley’s greenbelt can be saved and a derelict eyesore would be transformed into an attractive community.”
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.”
Other sites in Oldham’s greenbelt that look set to be developed under the housebuilding masterplan are Beal Valley (480 homes), Bottom Field Farm (30 homes) Broadbent Moss (1,450 homes and 21,720 new employment space), Cowlishaw (460 homes), Hanging Chadder (260 homes), land south of Coal Pit Lane, Ashton Road (255 homes), and south of Rosary Road (60 homes).
But Conservatives in Oldham and Saddleworth are warning these proposals pose a grave threat to greenbelt.
Councillor Graham Sheldon, Deputy Leader of Conservatives in the borough, said: “This is the final draft, but it is far from over.
“The size of the developments have been reduced. However these proposed smaller developments will inevitably lead to much bigger versions.
“These proposals are unpalatable and we cannot support the destruction of our greenbelt.”
Saddleworth Parish Councillor, Max Woodvine
Saddleworth Parish Councillor Max Woodvine added: “Building should always be on brownfield first but, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we have neither the infrastructure nor services to cope; especially in Saddleworth.
“Overdevelopment around Fletcher’s Mill will ruin a beautiful aspect of Greenfield village – the Chew Valley!”
However, council leaders expressed their approval of the latest iteration of the GMSF at an executive meeting last month.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “I hope everybody in the city-region would be able to agree that [the GMSF] is substantially different from the plan in 2016 which had a very different approach.
“Over those intervening years we have been listening very closely to what communities have said, and I hope people see that consultation is real.
“But we do now want to bring this matter to a conclusion and agree the GMSF.”
Council leaders have agreed to table the masterplan at town hall debates in November. Oldham Council is set to hold its Extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, November 25 starting at 6pm, available to view online.
If the GMSF manages to gain the consent of all councils it will then go out for a public consultation in December.
For more information about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, visit