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Byline: NICK STATHAM Local Democracy Service

HUNDREDS of protesters linked hands along the shores of a beauty spot to send a 'hands off our green belt' message to planning bosses.

Organisers say upwards of 850 people took part in 'Hands Around the Lake 2' event at Hollingworth Lake, in Littleborough, Rochdale - more than turned out for the original demonstration in March.

The bank holiday display saw protesters form a near one-mile chain around Lake Bank and Rakeworth Road, demonstrating their opposition to plans to build in the area under the region's long term development plan.

Known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), the 20-year blueprint includes plans for 300 homes north of Smithy Bridge and 210 in the Roch Valley.

Planning permission also exists for more than 170 homes on the former Akzo Nobel site - although this is a brownfield site and does not come under the GMSF.

Public consultation on the second draft of the GMSF closed in March, but progress appears to have stalled amid legal technicalities and rising tensions between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the government.

It is thought a further bout of consultation - on a third draft - may now be postponed until after next May's Mayoral elections.

Rochdale retains the largest amount of green belt of any Greater Manchester borough under the latest GMSF draft. But campaigners in the Pennines say they have every intention of keeping the pressure up on the council to find alternative brownfield sites for new homes.

Kate Clegg, vice-chair of Save the Green Belt: Littleborough and Smithy Bridge, said: "The green belt loss in Rochdale across the borough doesn't seem that much.

What you Write to: M.E.N, Mitchell House, Oldham, Or email: @men-news.

"But, if you look at how concentrated it is, Littleborough and Smithy Bridge are losing a huge part of their green space in a popular tourist area. People won't want to visit the lake when it's surrounded by housing and concrete and traffic."

do " The second version of the GMSF went out to public consultation in January after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham ordered a 'radical rewrite' of the original because of the public outcry over green belt loss.

think? Viewpoints, Henry Hollinwood Ave, OL9 8EF viewpoints But while the Roch Valley development has been scaled back from 300 homes to 210, the blueprint remains highly contentious. Explaining why many residents are passionately opposed to the GMSF as it stands Mrs Clegg adds: "Because it's the village identities that are being eroded . "Smithy Bridge and Littleborough have green space that divides them up, but between the developments that are ongoing already and the developments they are proposing all that is going to go and we will all be merged together.

"Littleborough, Smithy Bridge, Dearnley, Smallbridge are all very concerned, we have a village infra-structure, we don't have the infrastructure for the housing developments they are proposing." The GMSF states that all proposed housing sites would have to come with the necessary infrastructure - such as new roads or schools - but Mrs Clegg says residents are not convinced these would materialise.

Another bone of contention is the intention for many of the houses to be larger homes to attract 'high income families.'.

Mrs Clegg said: "We need homes that people can afford, there are plenty of brownfield sites in this area, we don't need to lose our green belt to build the houses we need - it's greed."

Rochdale council leader Allen Brett said that all sites were still being looked at as part of the GMSF consultation process.

"We are listening, we have three councillors who represent the area and the needs of the borough. You have to weigh everything up before making a decision."

Residents in the area reacted with fury last week after Bloor Homes signalled their intent to submit a planning application for 350 homes and a primary school on the land north of Smithy Bridge - despite the GMSF being some way off being finalised.

At this point the developer has only requested a screening opinion to assess whether an Environmental Impact Assessment would be required with any future application for a residential development.

More than 100 objection have already been received by the council, again demonstrating the strength of feeling in the area.

But Coun Brett says that it is unlikely permission would be granted to build on the land while the former Akzo Nobel brownfield site remains undeveloped.

Littleborough and said: "The Rochdale borough are of in a The second went out has What do you think? Write to: Viewpoints, M.E.N, Mitchell Henry House, Hollinwood Ave, Oldham, OL9 8EF Or email: viewpoints


Hundreds took part in Hands around Hollingworth Lake 2 event
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:Aug 29, 2019
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