Ashton MP joins ‘human chain’ green land protest
Date published: 02 August 2019
Angela Rayner MP was among a group of determined campaigners who were prepared to form a ‘human chain’ to block the building of homes on ‘beloved green space’ in Ashton.
Around 30 members from the ‘Save the Backfield’ group, as well as councillors from the Ashton Waterloo ward, staged a protest at the site off Grove Street and Lindisfarne Road on Monday.
A planning application for five, four-bedroom homes on the land by Darson Homes Ltd was controversially approved by Tameside council last December.
The protest’s aim was to stop contractors cutting down trees during the bird nesting season, which runs until August, and from starting work before planning conditions have been signed off by the town hall.
However contractors did not turn up, and the developer says that he has ‘no intention’ of starting building work yet.
Residents say the land, which is known locally as ‘the backfield’, is protected green space, and was left as a deliberate feature of the estate when it built in 1981 as a place for children to play and for recreation.
The land was sold by Tameside council to a private developer in 2017, to the dismay of more than 500 residents who petitioned against it.
They attempted to take the planning application to a public inquiry, but this was denied by the Secretary of State.
Despite the permission for the development, and the sale of the land, they are still hoping it can be returned to the community by the council.
Angela Rayner MP is backing the campaigners, saying they needed to ‘keep on fighting’.
“I want to thank everyone who puts so much effort into trying to save this much loved and valuable community space,” she said.
“It’s so important to maintain green spaces for our children to play on and to increase community wellbeing.
“It can seem like a daunting task when you have to fight bureaucracy to protect the things you care about but you can win.
“You have the support of the ward councillors and you have my support.”
Addressing the protest in Ashton, she said: “If we do see any contractors here I’m happy to stand in front of them so they can’t go and get through me – and we’ll continue to do that.”
Councillor Vimal Choksi also attended the protest alongside ward members Pauline Hollinshead and Green councillor Lee Huntbach.
“We have pledged to support the residents, we understand their frustration and their views about how it will affect the character and amenity space that everyone should be able to enjoy,” he said.
Coun Choksi told the Local Democracy Reporting Service they are seeking legal opinions from Tameside council about any covenants that exist on the land.
And they will assist residents if the rights of the covenants need to be established in civil court.
The land had been sold by Tameside council for around £160,000 at auction, Coun Choksi added.
“The residents’ view is that this land should be returned to the residents, but the battle is very much around how do we do that,” he said.
“But from the council’s position, it’s been sold and it’s in private ownership at this time.”
Dr Kahlid Dar, from the developer Darsons Homes, said: “We have correspondence with local MP and councillor and going to meet them in near future.
“I am still awaiting for soil reports and road layout with drainage plans by engineer to be approved by highway department. Then we will apply for Grove Street road access.
“I will insure that we have no intention to start building work yet.”
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