Campaigners fighting fresh plan to build on ancient woodland

Date published: 17 May 2019

Campaigners are gearing up to fight fresh plans to build on an ancient woodland.

Members of the Save Ashdene Woodland group were jubilant when proposals for four new homes were withdrawn last year amid strong opposition from residents in Healey, Rochdale.

But ward councillor Kieran Heakin’s warning they may not have heard the end of the matter has proven well founded. Now applicant Janet Pink has submitted fresh plans.

The new proposal – which involves the removal of six protected trees – is for a single four-bedroom house to be built on the site off Whitworth Road.

However, a document submitted with the application says the home’s proposed location is in ‘an area where trees of lesser amenity value are situated’.

A replanting scheme is also included in the plans.

But Kate Robinson, co-ordinator for Save Ashdene Woodland, believes the application – while significantly scaled down – could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and that more may follow.

She said: “We have been trying to establish the fact that this will be it – there will only be one house.”

There were 120 objections to the previous proposal – many relating to the potential loss of wildlife – and nearly 40 have so far been received by Rochdale council this time around.

Ms Robinson, of Whitworth Road, said the site was well-used for recreation by residents and important to their wellbeing.

“It’s ancient woodland of high amenity value, that’s the message we want to get across,” she said.

“It’s not just a couple of trees, it’s the whole site, there must be 300 trees on there and the local community really values it as a wildlife habitat.

“Not only that, it’s the carbon it absorbs, all these things are so relevant – why would we want to lose that when it’s adjacent to quite a busy main road?”

She continued: “I’m not against development per se, I know housing is needed, but why would you chop ancient trees down with Tree Preservation Orders on them. It doesn’t go along with national thinking, it’s crazy.”

“There are so many trees, if they were to get rid of those it would completely change the landscape.”

But it’s the fear that one house could be merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is residents’ overriding anxiety.

“Once they’ve got planning permission for one it sets a precedent for further development – that’s what we are afraid of,” said Ms Robinson.

Mrs Pink has been contacted for comment via her agent.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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