Tame Valley success

Warehouses will NOT be built on the Tame Valley at Woodley.  A public inquiry has rejected developer Quorum’s appeal against refusal of permission by Stockport Council’s Planning Committee. 

The Inspector in charge of the Inquiry, David Rose, concluded that the “Bredbury Gateway” plan would have caused such damage to the green belt and to the valley’s protected landscape that this could not be outweighed by the developers’ claim of Very Special Circumstances.

Stockport Planning Committee’s refusal of permission for the warehouses was by an overwhelming 9 votes to 3. The proposal would have extended Bredbury Industrial Estate almost to the river for the benefit of logistics firms moving goods in and out night and day on articulated lorries.  Councillors from all four political parties on the Planning Committee voted for refusal despite the Council’s planners having recommended approval.

Because of the Planning Committee’s decision, Council officers had to do a swift about-turn and resist Quorum’s proposal in the appeal.

The site at Woodley is protected as green belt and as part of the Tame Valley. To the north west it abuts Botany Mill Wood Site of Biological Importance and nature reserves on the other side of the Tame. To the south west, it borders housing.

The site is on the Stockport side of the River Tame, but the plan caused equal or greater outrage to residents of Tameside across the river, including Tameside Borough Council and Denton’s MP Andrew Gwynne.

In reaching his decision, Inspector David Rose agreed with Quorum that Stockport has a need for much more employment land but left it to Stockport Council to find that land in its forthcoming local plan and balance the need for employment against other needs for land.

Other aspects of the Inspector’s decision were disappointing. He accepted the developer’s case that the proposals would have brought needed local jobs (the impact of robots and automation was ignored); would have improved transport; and most absurdly would have benefited biodiversity (because of some linked improvements in Reddish Vale Country Park). He also bafflingly concluded that the site’s 24-hour noise would have been acceptable despite the closeness of local housing, and judged that the A6017 through Denton could have coped with the resulting extra traffic including articulated lorries. However, none of this was  enough to outweigh his overall decision that the proposal’s impact on the green belt and landscape was unacceptable.

This is a great success for the community campaign to preserve the Tame Valley. However, we must remain vigilant in case some more limited development plan for the valley surfaces in Stockport Council’s proposed Local Plan, when it is published, maybe later this year.

Time line

Developer Quorum submitted their thrid and final version of their planning application in December  2020 hot on the heels of Stockport councillors voting down the latest version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, including a Tame Valley scheme.

Quorum’s version three of their application to extend Bredbury Industrial Estate sought to make the scheme more acceptable by reducing the built area and increasing landscaping. However, it didn’t change the reality that the scheme would ruin the Tame Valley.

Quorum’s attempt to concrete over the valley was triggered by the first stage of the Spatial Framework back in 2016. Quorum instigated the inclusion of Woodley’s Tame Valley in the Spatial Framework.

Quorum submitted a planning application in August 2019. A revised application followed in January 2020. The current third version is at https://planning.stockport.gov.uk/PlanningData-live/; search for application 074399).

In the final version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, Stockport Council bent under pressure particularly from Tameside Council and pared back the loss of green belt in the Framework’s plan for the Tame Valley. Quorum’s application would have concreted over a larger area.

The Spatial Framework

Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework was a 17-year scheme across the city/region’s ten borough’s to designate sites for new housing and industry. Although most building would have been on brownfield land, the Framework became notorious for its proposed large-scale construction on green belt.

Following the Framework’s defeat in Stockport, the remaining nine boroughs are reviving the Framework with the new name Places For Everyone. Green belt will be again under threat in those boroughs (apart from Manchester). Arguably, they don’t need to build on green belt to meet Government house-building requirements – unlike Stockport where brownfield sites are hard to come by.

Stockport will have to embark on a struggle to defend its green belt from property developers. House-builders are able to push through greenbelt schemes if local authorities do not have plans in place to meet Government-imposed requirements for new homes. A Local Plan must be drawn up but finding sites for the 18,000 new homes required by the Government is impossible without using greenfield sites. Within the  Spatial Framework, 5,000 of these new homes were offloaded to Manchester and Salford, who have said they will not continue with this arrangement outside the Framework.

The first public consultation on the GMSF in 2016 produced outrage. Some scaling back of greenbelt loss took place when revised proposals were published. A second public consultation on the Spatial Framework ended on 18th March 2019.