CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating victory as they have saved a huge swathe of land in Stalybridge from the clutch of developers.
Sidebottom Fold, which had been earmarked for 650 homes, has been removed from the revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework having initially been included in the 2016 plan.
The three Conservative councillors, who represent Stalybridge South, were actively involved in the bid to save the green belt land, along with Save Stalybridge Green Belt group.
They were helped by the backing of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s election in 2017 when he told planners to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the Spatial Framework.
Mr Burnham’s vision was for a “no net loss” of green belt to be allocated for development which was a massive boost for the Sidebottom Fold campaigners.
“This is fantastic news. Though, on the side of caution, there is still the possibility of an appeal from the landowners,” explained Cllr Liam Billington.
“I think it is a great decision to remove this site from the Spatial Framework and protect this area as green belt.
“I want to thank Debbie for her hard work in running Save Stalybridge Green Belt and bringing residents together to object to the plans.
“Over 90 per cent of Tameside residents work outside of the borough. That adds cars to the roads which brings congestion and air pollution.
“It is important we bring jobs and business back into the town centre to reduce those and develop our economy, but at the same time protect our green spaces.”
Campaigners were opposed to the loss of green belt and also had grave concerns about the infrastructure not being able to withstand such a sizeable development.
Cllr Billington said: “You can safely say there will be more than one car per household.
“There would be the question of access on single lane roads on to Mottram Old Road and Walkerwood Drive and the impact on traffic on both Mottram Road and Huddersfield Road.
“One of the biggest concerns was the increased risk of flooding. We don’t want a repeat of previous floods.”
In the revised Spatial Framework document, there is more of an emphasis on developing brownfield sites of which Cllr Billington says there are a number in Stalybridge town centre.
Cllr Clive Patrick, who also represents Stalybridge South, added: “I think if the Sidebottom Fold development had gone ahead it would have changed the town we live in and love for ever.
“Covering our moorland with bricks, concrete and tarmac would affect the environment, the character and the liveability of Stalybridge.
“We would lose the purple heather in the autumn, the oxygen creativity and the absorbency of the moor.
“The roads would be clogged up with perhaps an extra 1,700 cars. Bringing in more people would initially lead to more jobs to build the houses but when finished and the roads more gridlocked it is not an environment many of us would like to call home.
“The houses planned were executive style homes ‘to encourage the right kind of entrepreneurial type people to our town’. However, I believe most of the homes would be bought by people commuting to Manchester.
“The development would have little or no effect on the economy of Stalybridge and Tameside.
“More affordable homes would be another matter but that was not how the original GMSF saw this site.”
Save Stalybridge Green Belt, who campaigned against Sidebottom Fold being included in the Spatial Framework, were delighted to see the plans removed from the revised proposals.
They said: “A lot of people have been involved behind the scenes, from helping to deliver leaflets, going to the rally in Manchester, or writing reports for the group, or just objecting to the plans.
“We want to thank the councillors Liam Billington, Doreen Dickinson and Clive Patrick for listening to us and supporting us.
“The site had too many challenges and we’re pleased that Tameside Council’s planning department has reversed its decision and said it shouldn’t be built on.”
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, was “absolutely delighted” to see Sidebottom Gold taken out of the Spatial Framework.
He said: “The Spatial Framework is not perfect but the second draft is improved and strikes more of a balance.
“I have asked for an assessment of the Hyde side as I regard three sites in the Spatial Framework as being too much.
“What people need to understand is that if we do not have a plan then developers will pick the sites.
“If we don’t have a plan that serves for 20 years and provides sufficient land for housing, we would be in a much weaker position.”
Mr Reynolds added it was not easy to choose sites for development, but he welcomed the removal of Sidebottom Fold and the area around the M67 roundabout at Mottram.
He also pointed out people want to live in city and town centres, as Summers Quay in Stalybridge has proved, and he favours using such brownfield sites so long as they are viable.
The new draft Spatial Framework is Greater Manchester’s plan for jobs, homes and the environment.
The plan focuses on making the most of Greater Manchester’s brownfield sites, prioritising redevelopment of town centres like Stalybridge, which was selected to be Tameside representative in Andy Burnham’s Town Challenge, and other sustainable locations.
Cllr Billington added Mr Burnham has a £60 million pot to go towards developing brownfield sites in Greater Manchester and Stalybridge ought to be bidding for a slice of that.
It will also help to address the housing crisis with a minimum target of 50,000 additional affordable homes, 30,000 of which will be social housing.
The net loss of green belt has been reduced by more than half in the revised spatial framework.
The new draft plan was approved at a Combined Authority meeting on January 11 and will now go out to the public for consultation.