Manchester’s Great Green Belt Revolt

Oldham Evening Chronicle

OLDHAMERS will be among hundreds of residents descending on Manchester on Saturday to protest against controversial plans to build on the green belt.

And organisers Save Greater Manchester’s Green Belt (SGMGB) are urging more people to join the Albert Square rally at 1pm and swell the number to thousands in the battle against the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) plans.

It follows a host of successful local group rallies, and tens of thousands of objections to the draft plans – Greater Manchester’s development blueprint for the next 20 years.

The proposals, embraced by each borough, show the building of 225,000 new homes, and millions of square metres given to office and industrial space – but have faced widespread negative feedback for building on protected green belt.

In Oldham, the plan requires 13,700 new homes to be built and 700,000 square metres of land to be made available for new factories and warehouses.

Protest groups have been created in the areas most affected, including Shaw, Royton, Chadderton and Saddleworth.

At a recent Oldham Council meeting Councillor Howard Sykes, who objects to the use of green belt land, proposed a motion to see Oldham withdraw from the GMSF and create their own local plan, however an amendment by the ruling Labour group saw the borough stay in.

Steve Lord, group member for Save Shaw’s Greenbelt, said: “Our rally in early January was a clear warning that the folk of Shaw and High Crompton are not going to be walked over by the combined authority. It was a huge success. Three thousand people passionate about hanging on to their greenbelt, determined to stop the destruction of green fields where the community walks, and runs, rides, relaxes and builds their wellbeing.

“And now we’re asking our supporters in Shaw to make their way to Albert Square on Saturday for a show of strength that will be seen and heard across the breadth of Greater Manchester.

“The planners want to build 3,000 homes in Shaw, and create a 446,000 sq ft industrial development. It would clog our roads. Increase pollution. Overwhelm doctors, dentists and schools. It would deliver an urban sprawl that turned Oldham and Rochdale into a single town.

“And it would destroy the fields and greens spaces that have been enjoyed for generations by the families of Shaw and High Crompton. Of course we understand the need for affordable housing and new jobs. But first the planners need to go back to the drawing board, investigate brownfield sites?and ensure that is where development takes place until it is exhausted.”

Mayoral candidate and Leigh MP Andy Burnham has described the plans as unfair and disproportionate, adding they needed to be radically rewritten, while Lib-Dem mayoral candidate Jane Brophy said the 20-year framework should be scrapped altogether.

The rally has support from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who have highlighted potential flaws in the authority’s estimations and calculations on housing and jobs.

SGMGB chairman Steven Longden said: “We’re maintaining the terrific impetus created by the local protest groups, and hope that the powers that be can see just how serious we are about scrapping these plans in the current format. Our peaceful protest, in front of the TV cameras, will highlight how passionately opposed the ordinary folk of Greater Manchester are about this blueprint to destroy our green belt and damage communities.

“Of course we understand, and have empathy with the need for affordable housing; and of course we understand the need to create new jobs for the future. We have children and grandchildren.

“But these same children, and their parents, need places to walk and run and relax and play. We must protect this natural environment and secure it for future generations.

“We would urge the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to go back to the drawing board to ensure a much greater amount of brownfield is proposed than the current 70 per cent target stated in the plan. Previously much higher targets were being achieved by authorities across Greater Manchester.”