The GMSF Strikes Back
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has returned, with Royton's Green Belt once again in its sights. The last time we saw the GMSF was in the Autumn, when it fell victim to a Lib Dem-Tory coup in Stockport. The GMSF is back sans Stockport, albeit in a slightly different form. Since the last consultation, way back at the beginning of 2019, the Government has doubled down on its pledge to protect the Green Belt and denied the Mayor of Greater Manchester the power to release land from the Green Belt. The councils of Greater Manchester have therefore resorted to exploiting a legal loophole which will allow them to circumvent Green Belt protections. The upshot of this is that there are two separate consultations. They are both important, and we will try our best to explain what is going on and what you need to do...
Fig. Oldham Council intends to offset Green Belt loss by turfing bus shelter roofs.
One plan, two policies, two consultations
Following the Government's decision to deny the Mayor the power to release land from the Green Belt, the councils resorted to their Plan B: they would exploit a legal loophole and turn the Spatial Framework into a Joint Development Plan, and advance the policies of the GMSF through the older Local Plan system, which still retains the legal power to release land from the Green Belt. This involved rebranding the GMSF and splitting it into two policies:
Places for Everyone
Oldham Local Plan
Places for Everyone is the "top level" of the plan. It houses the strategic policies across the city region, and will redraw the Green Belt boundaries. It is for the most part the old GMSF.
The Oldham Local Plan houses the Oldham-specific policies. Each district will have one, so there will be a Rochdale Local Plan, a Bury Local Plan etc.
There are also two consultations, one for the Places for Everyone policy, and one for the Oldham Local Plan.
Places for Everyone
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Save Royton's Greenbelt and the support of the community, we have succeeded in having the Thornham Old Road and Hanging Chadder allocations removed from the plan. Pending review by a Government inspector, these two sites will remain in the Green Belt.
However, we were less successful in the south of Royton, where we received far less support. As such, Places for Everyone proposes building around 2,000 houses on Beal Valley and Broadbent Moss (and 20,000 sqm of employment space), and a further 460 on Cowlishaw. In addition to that there will be 1,700 houses built at Stakehill along with 150,000 sqm of warehousing, which will impact on traffic around Royton and also the views from Tandle Hill. The latest slate of allocations can be viewed on our website.
The Places for Everyone consultation will run from 9th August until 3rd October. This consultation will ask people to comment on the "soundness" of the policy. Along with the Shaw and Chadderton groups, we have instructed Leith Planning Consultancy to appeal the Green Belt allocations in our towns.
Oldham Local Plan
Not all of our green space lies in the Green Belt; a lot of it lies beyond the Green Belt and is protected by council policies. These sites are known as Other Protected Open Land (OPOL) and Oldham has 22 OPOL sites. Cowlishaw is OPOL, and the GMSF proposes to develop it, along with OPOL at Shawside and Royton Moss. The Local Plan will remove the OPOL protection from these sites in order to permit the development to go ahead.
The Local Plan also proposes other strategic policies that could impact on how much green space will be developed across Oldham. It also proposes a conservation strategy for 76 unlisted mills, and we are concerned that these proposals will push development on to green space. We do not take issue with conserving mills of genuine historical interest, but there is a national heritage scheme already operating and we do not need a DIY scheme from Oldham Council. If these unlisted mills are not in use then we would prefer it if they were converted into apartments or made way for new developments.
There are also other policies within the document that are a cause for concern. One proposal for offsetting loss of Green Belt is to turf bus shelter roofs. Save Royton's Greenbelt does not regard this as adequate mitigation.
The Oldham Local Plan consultation runs from 5th July until 29th August. The Royton and Shaw Greenbelt groups have collaborated on a response to this consultation, which is now finalised.
What do campaign supporters need to do?
We advise campaigners to hold back from the Places for Everyone consultation just for now, and focus exclusively on the Oldham Local Plan consultation. The deadline is coming up at the end of August so it is a priority to address this consultation first. You can find instructions and appeal notes here.
In regards to the Places for Everyone consultation, we will be getting our borough appeal from the Leith Planning Consultancy at the end of August and will be meeting with them to discuss it. We will ask them to advise on the best course of action for appealing and then we will get back to you. This will be our last opportunity to appeal so it must be done right.