Letter: Application to build on green belt in Heywood
Date published: 28 February 2018
Outline of the planned development
In Rochdale Borough Council’s Core Strategy of 2010, the Council, in partnership with a developer, proposed to build a road linking the M62 to Heywood Distribution Park across protected green belt with the loss of approx 50ha. This plan included a proposal to build over 500 homes plus many new industrial units.
After examining Rochdale Borough Council Core Strategy, it was dismissed by the National Planning Inspectorate citing that there was insufficient evidence to justify building on greenbelt.
Undaunted, Rochdale Borough Council submitted a successful application for funding from Highways England towards the cost of a new link road across the green belt joining Heywood Distribution Park to the M62.
So how does Rochdale Borough Council plan to use the funding secured from Highways England to build the road across protected green belt and thereby circumvent the decision made seven years ago by the National Planning Inspectorate?
The same developer that helped with the original plan has submitted a local planning application for almost the same proposal submitted by Rochdale Council seven years ago. This means that Rochdale Council will decide the matter themselves as local planning applications are dealt with by the local planning authority.
In response to a freedom of information request, Rochdale Council claimed that the council has no formal or informal agreement with the developer which helped them devise the Core Strategy Plan in 2010 and has just submitted a planning application along a similar plan.
In another twist, the funds secured by Rochdale Council from Highways England will be used to make junction improvements that the link road will provide. Yet Highways England is adamant that the funds allocated can only be given and used by Rochdale Council and not a private developer.
Constituents interested in protecting green belt need to be aware of what is happening as Rochdale Council is seemingly determined to circumvent the National Planning Inspectorate in order to get the link road that it cannot provide a convincing argument for.
The planning application includes a detailed financial analysis that allegedly shows the absolute necessity to build over 1,000 new homes in order to provide enough funds to construct the road, but curiously Rochdale Council steadfastly refuses to make this information public, citing that it contains proprietary competitive information thereby preventing the public from commenting upon it.
To protect green belt, the public should be privy to all the facts and Rochdale Council seem to be blocking public access to vital information. So where can the public go to ensure transparency and justice for future generations?
The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.