Fury over housing plans that campaigners say ‘threaten the whole identity’ of Greater Manchester village

Documents show houses could now be built in existing football pitches, with campaigners saying it seems a land swap is being looked at to change where homes and sports facilities will be located.
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Housing plans that ‘threaten the whole identity’ of a Rochdale village have sparked outrage among green belt campaigners.

Proposals for 450 new ‘family homes’ in Norden and Bamford have long been included in Places for Everyone (PfE) – the region’s controversial joint development plan, now awaiting government sign-off.

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But it has since emerged that the developer is considering a scheme that departs from what is now set out in the masterplan.

This has sparked fury among local campaigners, who are vowing to fight the changes.

What has been proposed for the area and why is it controversial?

While land between Norden Road and Jowkin Lane is earmarked for development, the blueprint also stipulates that the area’s sports pitches and facilities should be ‘retained and significantly enhanced’ as part of a ‘high quality, integrated development’.

PfE is a long-term plan for Greater Manchester – bar Stockport – which sets out the kind of development that takes place in nine boroughs up to 2037.

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The plan is the result of a process that began as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) in 2014, and has been shaped by the feedback received from residents, businesses and the developers during previous consultations.

Property giant Peel last year launched a consultation on plans for a ‘sports hub’ at the Rochdale site, declaring that recreation lay ‘at the heart’ of its ambitions for the area.

An aerial view of the Bamford/Norden Places for Everyone site. Credit: Peel L&PAn aerial view of the Bamford/Norden Places for Everyone site. Credit: Peel L&P
An aerial view of the Bamford/Norden Places for Everyone site. Credit: Peel L&P

However, documents seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service(LDRS) show that houses could now be built on existing football pitches in the areas.

Campaign group Bamford Green Belt Action Group (BGBAG) understands the possibility of a ‘land swap’ – which would see new pitches and the proposed hub moved to land behind the cricket club – has been discussed by Peel and Rochdale Council.

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While the council has declined to comment, Peel says it is ‘ in the process of designing scheme options which will be the subject of a further public consultation when appropriate’.

What has the local campaign group said?

A spokesperson for BGBAG says locals feel ‘betrayed’ and will fight any land swap ‘every inch of the way’.

They said: “It’s typical of this council to enter underhand discussions with Peel, most local residents have no idea plans are afoot to build executive homes on these fields.

The campaign group’s map of how the proposed housing site in Bamford could be developed. Credit: Bamford Green Belt Action GroupThe campaign group’s map of how the proposed housing site in Bamford could be developed. Credit: Bamford Green Belt Action Group
The campaign group’s map of how the proposed housing site in Bamford could be developed. Credit: Bamford Green Belt Action Group

“The PfE consultation clearly showed no development on this prime area of the green belt which is publicly accessible for all.”

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The group is currently preparing submissions for the public examination of PfE pencilled in for later in the year.

What have local politicians said?

Ward councillors also say they are ‘very disappointed that these discussions have gone on without their knowledge or involvement’.

Bamford councillor Pat Sullivan said: “The ‘land swap’ would mean an access road across Bamford Green.

“Friends of Bamford and the Greenbelt Action Group have worked hard over the past years to ensure that our only remaining green spaces are enhanced and protected for the use of future generations. This action threatens the whole identity of Bamford and undermines the democratic inspection process which is currently in place.”

What has Peel said?

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Jonathan England, development director for Peel Land and Property, points to the fact the PfE plan requires development of the site to deliver an enhanced sports provision.

He said: “As Peel L&P have a major land interest at this site, we are in the process of looking at the options for delivering these policy requirements and creating a new sports hub that delivers the most benefits for the local community.

“To do this, we undertook a sports and recreation focussed public consultation (in October 2021), had discussions with the relevant stakeholders (including Rochdale Borough Council) and completed the necessary technical surveys.”

Mr England added: “We are currently in the process of designing scheme options which will be the subject of a further public consultation when appropriate.”

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