Plans to build more than 70 homes on land around Saddleworth's new high school have been approved, despite 'heartfelt' objections from residents.
A majority of councillors on Oldham’s planning committee voted to allow a 77-home estate to be built on land to the east of Huddersfield Road in Diggle.
The site was formerly partly occupied by Shaws Pallet Works, which ceased trading in 2006, and has since been demolished. It includes fields used ‘occasionally’ for pasturing horses.
The housing development will neighbour the new Saddleworth School site, which is due to relocate from its crumbling building in Uppermill to the new facilities early this year.
There had been 79 public objections to the plans lodged by WRT Limited raising concerns about the effect on local ecology, ‘inadequate’ access and parking provision, as well as over-development of the village.
Speaking at the planning meeting, objector Liz Murray said: “Granting this scheme would mean in the space of only two planning applications the council has facilitated the loss of the setting of Grade Two listed heritage asset in contravention of its own historic environment policy to preserve or enhance any such setting.”
Saddleworth Parish Council has also recommended refusal of the application citing poor vehicle access, and infrastructure concerns over the number of school places needed.
Ward councillor for Saddleworth North and parish councillor Pam Byrne told the meeting: “If you have seen and read the large number of objections, eloquent and heartfelt, you will realise what an important decision is to be made.
“There is a lot of feeling about this. In Diggle we’re only literally yards from the Peak park boundary.”
A site plan for the new homes. Photo: WRT Limited.
She raised residents’ objections to the proposals including the traffic impact and the impact on listed buildings nearby, as well as a lack of capacity in primary schools and loss of green space.
Committee member Coun Luke Lancaster, who also represents Saddleworth North had moved that the application be rejected over ‘poor vehicular access’ to the site which he argued ‘compromise highway safety’ and concerns over the impact of the traffic associated with the new school.
Seconding it for refusal, Coun Max Woodvine said that the 77 homes would adversely affect Diggle arguing it was ‘too much too soon’.
Lib Dem member Coun Hazel Gloster warned the combination of the opening of the new school combined with the housing development and construction could cause traffic ‘carnage’ on Huddersfield Road.
However Labour Coun Barbara Brownridge said the land was allocated for development, and there were no reasons to refuse the housing proposals.
“Here’s a site that’s not in the green belt, and the fact is we desperately need houses and I think Saddleworth has to make its contribution to that overall number of houses,” she said.
The proposed design for the new Saddleworth School in Diggle. Photo: Oldham Council.
Planning officer Matthew Taylor had told the meeting that the two parcels of land had been allocated to development for ‘some time’, although not necessarily for housing.
Head of planning Peter Richards emphasised that the entire site planned for development was allocated for employment use, and was not in the green belt.
Speaking about the traffic concerns, highways officer Wendy Moorhouse said: “We’ve considered the additional traffic from the development and we consider that it will operate safely even at the times when the schoolchildren would be using the access road.”
The development will be made up of 45 homes on one plot, and 32 on the other, with a mix of sizes, from two-bed up to five-bed properties, with more than 150 parking spaces delivered on the sites.
Ten per cent of the whole estate must be designated for affordable housing.
The developer must also pay a financial contribution of £378,747 towards the enhancement of existing open space and a further financial contribution to the provision of compensation for the loss of suitable ground nesting bird habitats.
After the vote to reject the application was overruled, six councillors voted to approve, compared to three who voted against.