Controversy as Russells wins approval for 265 Oldham homes

To cries of “shambles” and “kangaroo court” from the public gallery, Oldham’s planning committee has given consent to a controversial scheme by Russell Homes to build 265 houses and a link road off Knowls Lane.

At last night’s planning committee, well-attended by local residents, many of whom have been vehemently opposing the scheme, Oldham Council voted in line with officer recommendation to approve the scheme, despite initially refusing it at committee last year.

Russells is proposing to build a mix of houses on the undeveloped plot, which has been allocated for housing under Oldham’s Local Plan since 2006, albeit for 232 homes.

The 39-acre site in the Lees area of Oldham is primarily greenfield land and stretches from Knowls Lane to the south to mature woodland and Thornley Brook to the north.

Speaking against the development and representing local residents, Sue Hodgkiss said: “The developers have pointed out there has been no development in this ward for five to 10 years; there’s a good reason for that. The area is full and running out of space due to excessive development in the past. We realise Oldham has housing targets but we urge you to be strong and guided by your own common sense in realising this development is not suited for this site.

“It would harm the community and would change the characteristics of the villages of Lees, Springhead, and Grotton forever.”

Thomas Relph, planning and land manager at Russells Homes put forward the developer’s case.

“We support the officer’s view that there has been too little housing delivered over the last decade in Saddleworth and Lees, leaving a shortage of family and affordable housing.

“It is an objective of the council that everybody has a quality home to live in, and it is a requirement of Local Authorities to facilitate this by delivering sufficient housing across the borough. At present, the council are not able to provide this function and have a significant shortfall in their supply.”

Relph pointed out that even taking into account brownfield land, the council had less than three years’ supply of housing land, below the minimum requirement of five years. He added there was “considerable desire and demand” from local families and first-time buyers “within and outside the area” for the new homes.

The link road, he said, was adopted in Oldham Council’s development plan and would meet one of the council’s “long-term aspirations”. He also reiterated the fact the land was private, and not within the Green Belt.

Cllr Garth Harkness argued “nothing had been done” to address residents’ concerns over the link road and the additional traffic the development would create, and accused the developer of being “greedy” by building on more of the plot than he felt was necessary. Relph responded by citing research from “four transport engineers” who said it would provide a benefit to the area.

Following the cases for and against, an initial motion to refuse was defeated by five votes to three; with shouts from the chamber calling for a decision to be deferred, and a confused break where the process of putting forward a motion to approve was explained, another vote was held.

Commitee chair Cllr Clint Phythian, councillor for Royton North, initially announced the decision was unanimous to an incredulous response from other speakers. A final figure of the vote was not announced by the chairman, who simply said the application had been approved, before adjourning the meeting. The decision was greeted by a wave of heckles from the public gallery.

The application was approved subject to conditions. Overall, Russells is proposing up to 265 homes; the mix of size, type, and tenure will be determined via a reserved matters application but at present the developer is proposing 60 affordable homes, around 23% of the total.

According to planner Barton Willmore, the development will realise a number of economic benefits. These include a £37.4m investment in the construction phase, along with 150 construction jobs over seven years; more than £416,000 per year in council tax revenues; and a £1.3m new homes bonus.

The planner added the new link road, worth approximately £3.5m, would address “a known bottleneck within the local highway network” and would provide “enhanced connectivity between the north and south side of Thornley Brook valley”.

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Good news this! Another loss for the NIMBYs who have nothing better to do. Looking forward to seeing this development come forward

By Anon

No more homes in the North West please, were full


Oldham has a lower population than in 1900. It could hardly be described as ‘full’

By Hugh Oldham

The loss of a beautiful green space simply for profit overseen by those who fail to see or understand the consequences


According to a sign springhead is in Yorkshire??????

By polly

The un trained chair and his sidekick were labours Clint Phythian and his assistant was Abdul Malick who hadn’t a clue of how to chair a very Very serious controversial planning meeting , and there will be many more , only for the interference and honest guidance by officers of the council and one decision.

was 3 to 2 yet I counted about 6 labour Cllrs one Tory and two fib dems?

By Warren Bates.

A huge pat on the back for the fat cats at Russell Homes who drove this horrendous scheme through. Well done OMBC for being a complete shambles and not listening to your residents. I for one am getting sick and tired of the elected persons at all levels not listening to anything from their voters. One person complains about a chiming clock on the library in Delph it’s turned off and yet a huge housing scheme digging up ground for the next 7 years causing noise, nuisance, with poor existing infrastructure splutters through planning with hundreds of local objections and it’s passed? Seriously? My gast is well and truly flabbered. My plan is to withhold any Saddleworth Parish Council Precept included in my OMBC Council tax payment until they can prove to me what they do, what is their value? And to work out a suitable deduction for the Planning department on the basis of what do they do apart from approve these kind of unwelcome schemes all over this Borough. Their ability to identify suitable sites for housing or to knock back applications that use valuable open green space is severely limited. The big winner though is Russell Homes who obviously know their time and investment in this scheme is very lucrative for them otherwise why would they do it?

By Bernadette

Could I ask ANON why this is good news? Oldham is full of brown field sites which should be developed before any consideration is given to building on green field sites. Why is Oldham Council so intent on building on their green field land? Smacks of things going on behind closed doors!

By A Cynical

Throughout this process, there have been numerous reasons given as to why this scheme should be passed. During the meeting one such reason was put forward to the Cllrs who were voting. It went a little like this “Now remember Cllrs, this is a very important decision. If you make the decision to reject this scheme, the Government will make a new assessment and will likely approve it. If this is the case, OMBC will be fined by the Government thousands of pounds that OMBC can ill afford. So please consider this when voting, if YOU want to be responsible for such fines by the Government.”
Now, call me old-fashioned, but in any court I know, this is seen as coercion at best, at worst ….well you decide.
An honest decision based on fact? ….this most certainly was not.

By David

Oldham has few desirable areas. Most of Saddleworth, Lees, parts of Shaw and Royton and North Chadderton south of Broadway. The rest is desperate. The demarcation in Oldham is startling, even between Royton and the town centre, literally a mile apart.

By Elephant

About time some affordable houses were built ,the Nimby brigade should get real and realise they don’t live on hallowed land!

By Phil

The residents have been well and truly shafted by the greed of OMBC and the developers.
Typically there has been no consideration to the ianenities, infrastrucrure, and certainly no consideration into the supply of water to service these”proposed” properties.
Considering when we have two weeks or more sunshine there is a hose pipe ban, I don’t see anyone building more reservoirs it’s a bloody disgrace.
Then consider the heating and lighting for these proposed properties, whether is this coming from and at what cost. The government says it want’s zero carbon output by 2050 ,what a load of absolute you know what. It’s fantastic that the UK is making this statement about reducing its carbon output dare they say eliminating by 2050. What about the rest of the world, the majority could not care less, the reality is it’s just a diversion to increase taxes one way or another.
Tax the motorist that’s the easy way and boy doesn’t government know that one, they talk about automobile emissions in London and introduce the ULEZ zones and charge you a king’s ransom for the privilege of driving their congested roads and it’s coming to a town near you. The reality is there is more pollutants produced by central heating boilers in London than automobiles so don’t be surprised when that googlie comes your way. Hey and don’t be surprised either ” when your council tax has gone up by £50/ week because of your central heating and it goes on and on.

By Mike Jackson

I wonder how much it takes to bribe a council official ?

By Mmm

Anyone who considers this “good news” obviously doesn’t live in the area or is having their pocket lined. The only reason for a link road is to facilitate the housing estate. No one wants it apart from those who will benefit financially. NOT ONE RESIDENT. One of the voting councillors expressed a conflict of interest after the representative from Russell Homes mentioned a company the councillor was associated with. However, the Chair deemed he did not need to leave the chamber. The voting was a shambles. The Chair should not be in post as he clearly did not have a clue as to proceedings and protocol and was clearly in cahoots with the chief planning officer who he chatted nonchalantly with during all arguments against the new build and link road and who was clearly seen laughing after the planning was approved amidst cries of outrage from the local residents. This was a serious meeting and it was treated with contempt by The Chair and the chief planning officer. The councillors who did vote for approval of the scheme carefully kept their arms low so as to not be identified as positively voting for the approval and indeed, some of the councillors were silent throughout, clearly had no clue and were coerced by threats of “government fines” if they didn’t approve the scheme. Clear coercion. The whole meeting was clearly a done deal and not one single resident’s argument was listened to. The representative from Russell Homes made a speedy exit. Shame on the members of the Planning Committee who voted for this appalling scheme to go ahead and shame on the Chair. Interestingly none, bar one councillor (who voted against the scheme) live in the area. A sad, sad, disastrous day for democracy.

By Renny Krupinski

Funny how the supporter who calls this dreadful development “good news” wishes to remain anonymous. A bit like political protesters who cover faces to avoid identification. All those opposed were proud to be seen and named.

By LInda Murphy

Affordable homes are one thing – but over 200 of these houses are luxury homes! The way that the planning office and then latterly the shambolic meeting this week have been handled is disgraceful at best and unlawful at worst. Many of the experienced committee members were absent, there were 30-40% new ones there who were unsure what was happening and the chair incompetent. I’ve played the video at work and the whole thing is an embarrassment to Oldhamers and funny to outsiders. I’d suggest your journalists do some serious digging around this and similar stories….there’s a whole world of ducking and diving going on that is very highly questionable.

By Frustrated

Not sure on the housing development, but link road been needed for years.
Rhodes hill too narrow, and always congestion and difficulty turning at county end.

By D.Newman.

I agree, it was a shambolic Council meeting and given the questioning of the vote I would like to know whether there has been any scrutiny of the process to ensure it was carried out correctly? Can anyone confirm whether there are any means of further challenge to this decision?

By Bryan Elson

This has been a very long fought out battle between developers and local residents and no matter what was said about the meeting the vote was to approve the development. It had been stated in some of the comments that ALL local residents object to this development. This is not true, many residents have no objections what so ever and a lot of local businesses welcome it. A vote has been passed and approved. That should be the end of it, there would not be all this commotion if it had gone in favour of the objectors !!! Get a life and move on.

By Mr D Ralph

I have read with interest the comments posted. I to have watched the video of the planning meeting. In my opinion the planning officer put forward a very good case for approval, he answered all questions put to him by the objectors and had evidence to back up his answers , he was respectful to them all. Yes the chair did need to request advice regarding the procedure of the vote but he followed the advice given and the vote was cast and the development approved. Maybe, just maybe the meeting was adjourned for a few minutes due to the shouting and heckling of the objectors

By Jeanette

now that Russell Homes scheme has been passed, we now see that the stonebreaks development group have put in a plan to build 200 plus houses on the other side of the valley when is oldham council going to say that there is to much building in springhead and ask the question about facilities, doctors, schools and the ruination of green fields and space for people to enjoy when this usage of green fields for greedy house builders and greedy councils going to stop. july 12 at 10;20 pm by mb.

By Anonymous

Oldham Council say land at Knowls Lane is privately owned.
Doesn’t the Oldham Council own part of this area?
If so has a vested interest in approving Russel Homes application .

By B Elson

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