Knowls Lane planning development statement from Debbie Abrahams MP
I met with some residents in the vicinity of Knowls Lane last Friday (12th July 2019) evening and many raised concerns about the Planning Committee meeting on 1st July, where a planning application for Knowls Lane was considered. I have seen some video clips of the committee hearing, but as I was in Parliament at the time I was not present at the meeting. I can confirm that, as last year, I do not support this development.
A number of constituents have contacted me about the decision made to approve the development by the planning committee. Firstly, although I have no decision making powers in the local planning system and am not a formal consultee in any planning matters, I was most disappointed that this planning application was re-submitted by Russell Homes.
I understand that many local residents see this development as controversial given that 48% of earmarked land is OPOL. In addition, residents have raised concerns about the loss of local wild life and the impact of additional traffic on the local environment and health. I share these concerns.
Given that national Government policy is demanding Oldham build large numbers of housing through an arbitrary housing delivery test, which fails to reflect projected housing need, it is highly relevant to the Knowls Lane and other developments across Oldham and Saddleworth. The Government is forcing Oldham Council to use data projecting population growth which is over 5 years old. Based on the most recent test, Oldham only met 64% of its required housing and the Government has threatened to put housing development directly into the hands of the developers should this continue, removing any democratic accountability.
On top of this, it is entirely regrettable that the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework fails to assume brownfield sites will be developed first and have cut funding to decontaminate brownfield sites. This is the reality facing many local areas and it’s imperative we put pressure on the Government to amend their NPPF guidance. As such, I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire calling on him to change these planning guidelines and provide funding to remediate brownfield sites, as a Labour Government will do. I invite constituents to also raise their concerns with Secretary Brokenshire.
Residents can raise complaints regarding the planning committee decision and how the meeting was conducted with Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive of Oldham Council or Cllr Sean Fielding, the Leader of Oldham Council. I have also met with the Leader of the Council this week to raise the concerns I have heard from residents.
I agree with the concerns that residents have raised – it is important that we protect open space as it provides health benefits and supports our eco system, which as most people appreciate is under a real and significant threat. I will be working with local colleagues and groups to do all I can to protect OPOL land like Knowls Lane.