Save the Green Belt

The Tame Valley in Woodley is facing an urgent new threat to extend the Bredbury Industrial Estate across green belt (see picture) almost to the river.

Previously, the Industrial Estate extension had been proposed as part of Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework, with no final decision yet taken.

Now a developer Quorum has taken a short cut and submitted a planning application to Stockport Council outside the Spatial Framework. Objections to the application had to be submitted by October 24th. It’s possible the planning application may be discussed at the Werneth Area Committee on December 9th and then be decided by the Council’s Planning Committee in the new year.

Stockport Council’s Planning Department produced the original proposals for Stockport in the Spatial Framework. So Quorum will fancy its chances even though by law, green belt can only be built on if there are proven “exceptional circumstances”.

Reasons against

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 feasible next to Junction 23 of the M60 without destroying green belt. Alternatively, the proposed units could be built on more than one smaller sites. There are also proposals for very extensive industrial space elsewhere in Greater Manchester.

Ashton Road low bridge

Because Quorum’s case is so weak, the planning application resorts to evasion and inaccuracy. We are told that the development has to be sited at Woodley, so that it can be close to the M60. Yet we are not told that the largest HGVs will be unable to reach the site from Junction 25 because of the low railway bridge on Ashton Road next to J25.

It is shocking and alarming that Quorum thinks it can get away with submitting a Transport Assessment that makes no mention of the very well known problem with the low railway bridge. Already large numbers of HGVs have to access Bredbury Park Industrial Estate by driving through Denton from M60 J24.

The problem posed by the bridge is so significant that 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. This apparently cannot be done without rebuilding the bridge – a cost that clearly Quorum does not feel able to meet.

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 which are a beleaguered species, as well as foxes and badgers. The long long grass is ideal for ground-nesting birds such as sky larks. Roe deer are also in the vicinity.

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.

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 (eg page 51 of the Planning Statement). 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.

Jobs

An enormous Amazon-style warehouse dominates Quorum’s plan. Warehousing (or logistics) is 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.

Spatial Framework delayed

Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework is attempting to redraw and reduce the green belt in the region to provide sites for new housing and industry. The process is behind schedule, most recently because of lack of agreement between the Mayor and Whitehall over Greater Manchester’s powers to change to green belt,

The first public consultation in 2016 produced outrage. Some scaling back took place for revised proposals. A second public consultation on the Spatial Framework ended on 18th March 2019. A new version is now due to appear next year when it will be considered by local councils. there will then be a final round of consultation on the proposals.

There are sites for 170,000-plus new homes in Greater Manchester without touching green belt. An estimated housing need for 201,000 homes is based on out-of-date inflated figures. Although the threat to green belt was halved in round two of the Spatial Framework, some very large developments remain.

In Stockport borough, 3,700 homes would be built on green belt over the next 19 years. The A6-M60 Bypass plan is included in transport proposals.

The “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.

spatial framework bredbury industrial

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.

spatial framework offerton

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.

 

spatial framework unity mill woodley

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.

spatial framework heald green

spatial framework stanley green

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.

spatial framework high lane

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.

spatial framework romiley 2

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.

spatial framework woodford

 

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.

GMSF Apethorne

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”.

spatial framework a6-m60

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.

To achieve some of the numbers, the latest version of the Spatial Framework has an increased emphasis on high-density building on brownfield sites, particularly in Manchester but also in Stockport. A new “mayoral development corporation” will develop 3,000 homes in apartments in the west of Stockport town centre. Another 5,000 homes (needed by Stockport according to the out-of-date figures) have been offloaded on to other boroughs and the City of Manchester.
In Stockport in 2016, 12,000 homes were proposed for green belt. This number has now been reduced by two-thirds – balanced by a big increase in identified brownfield sites. Why weren’t those sites identified in 2016? The first version of Spatial Framework was a car crash. Should we have more trust this time around?