Stockport councillors are expected to vote against the latest version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework at their meeting on Thursday 3rd December. This will remove one source of threat from targeted green belt in the borough – but dangers remain.
Most immediately the Tame Valley in Woodley is facing a planning application to expand the Bredbury Industrial Estate across green belt almost to the river. The developer Quorum’s attempt to concrete over the valley was triggered by the first stage of the Spatial Framework back in 2016.
While the Spatial Framework no longer targets the valley, Quorum’s planning application is likely soon to proceed to Stockport Council’s committees for decision. Since Stockport Council’s Planning Department was responsible for including the Tame Valley in the Spatial Framework, officials may be more sympathetic than they should be to this assault on protected green belt.
Under pressure particularly from Tameside Council on the other side of the valley, Stockport Council pared back the loss of green belt in the Spatial Framework’s plan for expanding Bredbury Industrial Estate. Quorum’s application would concrete over a much larger area.
Quorum first submitted a planning application in August 2019. A revised application followed last January. The current updated application is at https://planning.stockport.gov.uk/PlanningData-live/; search for application 074399).
Quorum’s current revised application (see top) includes two large units probably, for warehousing, that are being fast-tracked. The previous application was seeking outline approval for the expanded industrial estate. The revised application combines an outline application for most of the expanded estate, with a detailed application for two large units. If approved, construction of the two units could start immediately.The two units fill the space taken in the previous application by a horrifying monster unit, which was dramatically shown in an illustration produced by Quorum. But the two units combined are also massive. The plans show another eight units.
The proposal to build large industrial units in the Tame Valley at Woodley completely contradicts Stockport MBC’s policy of protecting the green belt, the river valleys and the natural environment.
According to planning law, building on the green belt can only be contemplated in “very special” or “exceptional” circumstances. There are no such circumstances demanding the bulldozing of green belt in the Tame Valley.
Need for more industrial units either now or in the future can be met by other sites in south-east Greater Manchester. A site of a similar size is available next to Junction 23 of the M60 without destroying green belt. Alternatively, the proposed units could be built on more than one smaller site. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proposes very extensive industrial space elsewhere in Greater Manchester.
Important green belt
Extending Bredbury Industrial Estate would knock a large hole in the green belt which provides a vital area of peace, fresh air and nature close to the centre of Woodley. Bizarrely, Quorum asserts that its plans will not harm the openness of the green belt or its role in preventing urban sprawl ie separating Woodley from Denton.
A visit to the site or a glance at the map of green belt shows that the area is an important part of a continuous green belt protecting the Tame Valley, Woodley and Haughton Green (Denton). The development would go right up close to the River Tame, leaving a relatively narrow green strip on the edge of Haughton Green.
Quorum appears to be propagating a pretence that the threatened area is not part of the Tame Valley. This is absurd: the land slopes down 30 metres to the river and is well known to be within the valley. The river valleys (Tame and Goyt) are protected by Stockport’s Unitary Development Plan as well as by their green belt designation.
Nature in abundance
Quorum’s submission on Biodiversity is seriously inadequate. It implies that the proposed site has no value for nature and biodiversity. In fact, the hay fields with their long grass shelter unusually large numbers of voles and mice which provide a rich source of food for birds of prey, notably barn owls (such as the one pictured locally) which are a beleaguered species. Other birds and animals are also present.
It is extraordinary that Quorum claims that planting trees around the new industrial units would achieve “biodiversity gain”, while ignoring the negative impact on wildlife from turning hedges, trees and fields into concrete and tarmac.
The development would go right up to Botany Mill Wood SBI (Site of Biological Importance) on the Woodley bank of the Tame. This is bound to harm the SBI both during construction and operation. On the other side of the Tame are two nature reserves. Inevitably the loss of such a large area of green space and the imposition of a massive logistics unit (according to the plan) will be harmful to wildlife on both sides of the river. Many species of birds are under pressure and need such habitats.
Stockport Council has development policies for protecting the natural environment, enhancing green infrastructure and protecting SBIs and nature reserves. The application compehensively breaches those policies.
Quorum’s plan is for most of the site to be taken up with warehousing (or logistics). This is the field where automation and robots are advancing fastest. The eventual aim is for warehouses to be almost devoid of humans. (See inside Ocado’s automated warehouse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJqsdprXF5c).
It is a feature of the current industrial scene that there is a shift from manufacturing to warehousing. Big new warehouses are likely to have state-of–the-art automation and fewer jobs than the developers claim. Further down the line there would be very few jobs.
SMBC’s Employment Land Review of 2018 says there is a need for only 4.8 hectares of extra land for industry and logistics in the borough. That is less than half the size of the proposal and can be found without building on green belt in the Tame Valley.
Trucks disturbing homes
We are told that the development has to be sited at Woodley, so that it can be close to the M60’s junction 25. Yet a third of the articulated trucks going to and from Bredbury Industrial Estate come down Ashton/Stockport Road from Denton past people’s homes.
One reason that trucks use the Denton route is because of a low bridge on Ashton Road next to Junction 25. The picture above (extracted from Elaine Pollitt’s post on Team Denton South facebook post) shows an artic turning around to avoid going under the bridge.
When the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proposed extending Bredbury Park Industrial Estate, it set a condition that the height of the bridge must be raised or a 4.4metre height limit must be placed on trucks using the site. Quorum appear to be seeking to evade the Spatial Framework’s condition by getting in first with an application to Stockport Council.
Quorum asserts that the bridge has little effect on the routing of HGVs. But it’s curious that figures hidden in Quorum’s own Transport Assessment show that one third of articulated lorries access the existing Industrial Estate from Denton rather than Junction 25, yet only one sixth of the somewhat smaller rigid lorries do so. If this difference is not because of the low bridge, Quorum should tell us what the reason is.
The development will result in more big lorries coming down Ashton/Stockport Road. Quorum’s plan provides 239 parking spaces for artic trailers, including 133 for the two units that would be built first. It’s reasonable to expect that a third of the extra articulated lorries will come past homes in Denton. This is not acceptable.
The Spatial Framework
Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework is a 17-year scheme to redraw and reduce the green belt in the region to provide sites for new housing and industry. The process has been slowed by disputes between the Mayor and Whitehall over Greater Manchester’s powers to change the green belt and the Government-imposed target for housing need as well as local opposition to loss of green belt.
The intended third and “final” version needs approval by councillors in Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs. If Stockport refuses to back this version, it will have to be redrawn again, this time for nine boroughs.
Meanwhile Stockport will have to embark on a struggle to defend its green belt from property developers in the absence of plans by the Council to meet its onerous house-building requirement, imposed by the Government.
The latest Spatial Framework’s proposals for building homes on green belt in Stockport was little changed from the previous version last year. The proposal for homes at Unity Mill, Woodley was dropped and homes on the Offerton High School site reduced from 250 to 185. Unchanged proposals were 1,700 homes at Heald Green/Stanley Green (but 350 of these already have planning permission); 750 homes at Woodford Aerodrome; 500 homes in High Lane and 240 at Hyde Bank, Romiley. All information is from Manchester Evening News which received leaked information.
The first public consultation on the GMSF in 2016 produced outrage. Some scaling back took place when revised proposals were published. A second public consultation on the Spatial Framework ended on 18th March 2019.
In Version 2 there were sites for 170,000-plus new homes in Greater Manchester without touching green belt. An estimated housing need for 201,000 homes was based on out-of-date inflated figures which the Government has imposed. Although the threat to green belt was halved in round two of the Spatial Framework, some very large developments remained.
Last year’s GMSF “allocations” in Stockport
34. Woodley: Bredbury Park Industrial Estate extension.
The proposed extension of the Bredbury Park industrial estate almost to the banks of the River Tame flouts the generally accepted need to protect river valleys from development (restated by the GMSF itself on page 135!).
Extending the industrial estate down the slope to the Tame would massively dominate the river and Hulme’s Wood and Haughton Dale nature reserves on the other side.
Woodley and Bredbury already have an excessive and unfair share of industrial sites, heavy traffic and congested motorway. Extending the industrial estate will:
- Destroy the peace and beauty of the Tame Valley.
- Pollute the valley’s air and water.
- Wreck wildlife habitats
- Bring yet more traffic into the area.
Extra traffic will be fed towards the illegally polluted Stockport Road West.
Local MPs William Wragg and Andrew Gwynne say the extra industrial units of the extended industrial estate won’t be needed – the Spatial Framework has an excess of commercial sites. Both MPs oppose the extension of the industrial estate.
35. Offerton 250 homes next to Castle Hill High School
Green belt next to the Poise Brook Valley Nature Reserve will lose protection. Two hundred and fifty homes and a new school are proposed for a site on the edge of Offerton, within the Goyt Valley Landscape Character Area.
The main existing building here is Castle Hill High School which has a fine field to the east. Lisburne School will relocate into the site, perhaps on the Castle Hill field. Other building would also be possible on the field.
Stockport Council says the 250 new homes will be to the west of Castle Hill School, where some existing structures will be demolished. The new homes will inevitably create extra traffic on badly congested Marple Road. The only public transport is buses.
Traffic from new homes will clog the access roads, The Fairway and Curzon Road. Fairway already carries traffic to two schools. Traffic for Lisburne School would be manageable if not accompanied by traffic from the new homes.
Loss of green belt protection for the east of the site threatens the peace of the adjoining nature reserves and Poise Brook Valley.
36. Woodley 250 of homes at Gravel Bank Road/Unity Mill.
Like the proposed extension of the Bredbury Park industrial estate, this proposal brings development into the heart of the Tame Valley. Two hundred and fifty homes are proposed, split between a restoration and conversion of Unity Mill and new building on an adjacent site next to the Peak Forest Canal which, at this point, runs parallel to the Tame.
The ruined Unity Mill is a focus of anti-social activity and needs to be restored. The building of new homes is inappropriate to the river valley and will generate traffic adding to congestion and illegal pollution further into Stockport.
37. Heald Green 850 homes (down from 2,000 previously) and 40. Stanley Green 850 homes (down from 3,700).
The new version of the Spatial Framework earmarks sites for 850 homes in Heald Green and 850 in Stanley Green nearby. Separately Cheshire East Council is planning 1,700 homes in a “Handforth Garden Village” on the other side of the A555, outside the Spatial Framework area.
So much green belt will be lost that the character of the area will change fundamentally. The threatened greenbelt acts as a buffer against noise and pollution from the A555 and A34.
There’s talk of a new railway station at Stanley Green and a “rapid transit” bus route. But it is clear that these three sites would add to the overloaded state of Stockport’s roads, leading to demands for yet more new roads (such as the greenbelt-destroying A6-M60 Bypass). The A34 is already illegally polluted.
- Part of the Stanley Green proposal has recently been approved by a Government Inspector separately from the Spacial Framework. The Seashell Trust applied to build 350 homes on land it owns adjacent to its special school in Heald Green. Stockport Council’s Planning Committee rejected the application, but was overruled on appeal.
38. High Lane 500 homes (down from 4,000).
A proposal for 500 new homes is split either side of High Lane/A6 to the west of the Windlehurst Lane junction. High Lane is already heavily congested. The new homes would be near to a section of the A6 that breaks legal limits for air pollution. Air pollution was measured BEFORE the A6 received extra traffic from the opening of the Airport Road A555 last autumn. The proposal indicates that Stockport and Greater Manchester Councils have no serious interest to reduc dangerous levels of pollution.
39. Romiley 250 homes on Hyde Bank Meadows.
The site consists of two fields of pasture called Hyde Bank Meadows and a much-appreciated public park Tangshutt Fields. The 250 homes could be built throughout this site. According to SMBC, the three football pitches currently on Tangshutt Fields would have to remain on the site, but not necessarily where they are now – so the park could be entirely vaporized. Conceivably, the pitches could become all-weather (non-grass).
The whole site is in the Goyt Valley Landscape Character Area and 220 metres from the Goyt (at the nearest point), so it should remain green belt! The development would harm the Tangshutt Local Nature Reserve immediately to the west. The new homes would generate excessive traffic down Gotherage Lane to Compstall Road, which already has congestion problems. Compstall Road is a continuation of Bent’s Lane, which seizes up during the morning peak. Local MP William Wragg has started an online petition to protect Hyde Bank Meadows and Tangshutt Fields.
41. Woodford Aerodrome 750 homes (reduced from 2,400).
A proposal for 750 new homes at the former Woodford Aerodrome adds to the 1,000 homes already built on the former aerodrome as “Woodford Garden Village”. Green belt protection has already been lifted from part of the former aerodrome over the border in Cheshire East, which is being held in reserve for future development.
44 “South of Hyde” 440 new homes just over the Stockport border in Tameside
Fine fields either side of A560 Stockport Road would be lost in Gee Cross. The fields are excellent wildlife habitat. As a result, very little green space will be left between Woodley and Gee Cross. Green belt was intended to prevent such “urban sprawl”. The new homes will send traffic down the congested A560 to the illegally polluted Stockport Road West, Bredbury.
The A6-M60 Bypass is included on the map of Stockport developments, page 302 (below) and referred to on page 190, Highway Infrastructure Developments Policy GM-C 6. It’s covered by Question 124 on Stockport transport strategy (at the end of the Stockport questions).
The proposed greenbelt-destroying A6-M60 Bypass is included in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. It is presented as a potential development beyond 2025. That is the year when the Government’s next five-year road-funding allocations will start. Greater Manchester council leaders have set a target of no more growth in road traffic. That will be impossible to achieve if new roads are built and road space expanded. The A6-M60 Bypass is referred to on page 190 of the Spatial Framework under Highway Infrastructure Developments Policy GM-C 6. It is also shown on the map of proposed Stockport developments on page 302. In the consultation, comment on “10 A connected Greater Manchester”.
The numbers game
It is estimated that the latest version of the Spatial Framework has halved the greenbelt land take throughout Greater Manchester proposed by the first version in 2016. As well as a reduction in green belt building, there is a reduction in total homes proposed on all sites, from 227,000 in 2016 to 201,000. This reflects a modest reduction in the estimated extra homes needed for Greater Manchester up until 2037 – but the figures are out of date! If the latest official figures were used, estimated extra housing need would be only 145,000 with no loss of green belt.
In a chaotic argument over the numbers, the Government have denied that they are imposing the out-of-date target of 201,000 homes. However, this denial is contradicted by information coming from the Government’s own housing officials. They have even financially penalised Greater Manchester for aiming for 201,000 homes rather than a higher figure! While Mayor Andy Burnham says he would have liked a lower figure with less building on green belt, many leaders of Greater Manchester’s boroughs seem to favour the 201,000 figure in any case.
- Follow Save Woodley and Bredbury Greenbelt facebook page.