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  • Writer's pictureNoel

Oldham Local Plan consultation

Oldham Council has put out its Local Plan to consultation. The Local Plan will implement the policies of the Places for Everyone Greater Manchester joint-development plan in the Oldham area. All of the other Local Authorities party to Places for Everyone will similarly be expected to implement a Local Plan. Whilst the Local Plan will not release any Green Belt itself (this was the function of Places for Everyone), it will establish the policy framework for how the allocated Green Belt sites will be developed. Therefore, if you live close to one of the Green Belt allocations in Places for Everyone, you may choose to submit a response.



The Local Plan documents can be viewed on the council's website. The Local Plan is not all about Green Belt; it addresses a range of issues from housing, the environment, the economy, heritage, transport etc. Some of the most concerning issues are outlined below.


Housing

Places for Everyone scrapped the 50,000 affordable homes target, justifying its decision by saying the target would be delegated to Local Plans. Oldham's share of that target would equate to just over 3,000 affordable homes, but there is nothing in the Local Plan bearing any relation to that figure.


The Local Plan also proposes to build houses at 70 dwellings per hectare in Royton town centre (roughly twice the density as the rest of Royton). Given how traffic is already gridlocked and the fact that Royton has no train or Metrolink service (and a barely functional bus service), it is impossible to see how development on this scale will constitute “sustainable development”.


Mills conservation sham

The plan also proposes a conservation strategy for Oldham’s Mills. Save Royton’s Greenbelt has long maintained the Oldham Mills Strategy is nothing more than a fudge so the council could artificially restrict its land supply in order to justify building in the Green Belt. The Council worked alongside Historic England to assess the heritage value of Oldham’s unlisted mills. Of the 64 mills assessed, only two had high “historical or architectural significance”. Oldham Council added an extra criterion: “sense of place”; the way this works is, if a mill belongs a “cluster” of mills, its significance rating for "sense of place" increases. As a result, a cluster of mills of no individual significance would be conserved for its collective contribution to the "character" of the landscape. In the end, the council has imposed conservation orders on 48 of the 64 mills, thus preventing their demolition, and forcing development into the Green Belt.


There was a consultation for the mills strategy, but it only included developers and various historical societies, and excluded the general public. Save Royton’s Green Belt maintains the view that if Oldham Council cared about the landscape then it would demolish mills of no historical significance (i.e. most of them) in order to protect our green spaces, which offer a valuable amenity to the general public, somewhere for children to play, and are a vital tool for tackling climate change.


Impossible carbon target

Oldham Council has also set a target for being carbon neutral by 2030. Save Royton’s Greenbelt accepts the necessity to tackle climate change and welcomes ambitious targets, but questions the motive behind setting an impossible carbon target. Transitioning to net zero involves moving over to heat pumps and electric cars, which in turn are dependent on decarbonising the National Grid. This will not occur until 2035 according to the Government’s own time-scale, so how will Oldham Council decarbonise Oldham before the National Grid is decarbonised?


In short, it can’t (research by the University of Manchester shows that Oldham won't be carbon neutral until 2055 at the earliest on its current trajectory). To meet its 2030 target, Oldham will need to offset carbon emissions using a carbon credit scheme, whereby the council will either purchase carbon credits on the open market and pass them on to Oldham residents via council tax, or alternatively require residents to purchase carbon credits from the council itself, thus creating a lucrative revenue stream for them. Setting an impossible target is even more perplexing considering that the council is hell-bent on adopting a plan that will take out our natural carbon sinks, which costs us nothing for sequestering carbon emissions.


Oldham Council does not care what Royton thinks

The council scheduled drop-in sessions in every partnership district of Oldham, except Royton. Save Royton’s Greenbelt petitioned Royton’s councillors to arrange a drop-in session. All of our councillors assisted on this issue (with special thanks to Cllrs. Maggie Hurley and Steven Bashforth), but the council dug its feet in, refusing to organise a drop-in session. Cllr. Hurley received a response telling her that the “[Local Plan] documents are available for viewing at the library” if residents wished to view them. She did point out to them that Royton library was closed at the moment, and the nearest available library is in Crompton, but to no avail. It is a shame that the council has adopted this position, and it is quite revealing of its mindset when it comes to Royton. It has become increasingly obvious throughout the formation of Places for Everyone and now the Local Plan that Royton only has one purpose as far as the council is concerned, and that is as a cash cow. We paid for these drop-in sessions through our council tax, but the council could not even spare us half a day and couple of council officers.


Whether it is collective punishment for Royton voting out Labour councillors we couldn’t really say, but it is crystal clear that for now Royton does not have a voice in debating the future of the borough.


The consultation will run until 11.59 pm on Sunday 25th February, and can be accessed here.

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