Row over Northern Roots project

Reporter: Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 23 July 2021

Councillors have clashed over the Northern Roots project which would see a huge 160 acre eco park created in Oldham.

New Conservative councillor Sahr Abid told a meeting of the full council that the town hall was not listening to residents over the plans.

The Northern Roots project would see land at Snipe Clough become the UK’s largest urban farm, and would include a visitor centre, education and youth centre, market garden, swimming pond and a bike hub and trails facility.

It will be one of four projects in the town partly funded by money received from the government; more than £10.7m from the Future High Streets Fund and £24.4m from the Towns Fund.

Medlock Vale councillor Abid said: “As Oldham grows, develops and changes, we as councillors must remember to listen to our communities and bring them with us.

“Unfortunately I fear that this council is failing to listen to its residents when it comes to the Northern Roots project.

“When I look at the board of directors I only see two experts, one in the field of enterprise and the other in wildlife.

“Most of the board is made up by Labour councillors and a council officer. 

“This imbalance does not inspire me or residents with  the confidence that these projects will face the level of scrutiny and oversight that they need if we are to avoid them failing. 

“Indeed one project director alone cost taxpayers over £66k in 2020.”

She added: “Whilst this project sounds like an exciting and ambitious prospect we must ask ourselves is this something our town needs?

“From the nurse to the humble taxi driver we have all been affected by a pandemic many people in Oldham are completely unaware of this project and how it will benefit them, what will taxpayers get from this project?“

However, council leader Arooj Shah described the criticism from the Tories as ‘ill informed’.

“I leave it to colleagues to point out how ridiculous it is to be celebrating the Conservative government’s generosity when we’ve lost 230 million every year because of austerity,” she said.

The Northern Roots plan was a ‘fantastic ambitious project’ she added. 

“There will be another round of consultation in the summer and I hope as many people as possible will get involved.

“These projects aren’t about building shiny buildings, they’re about changing the direction of our tow so that it’s one where people can live good lives, earn a decent wage and get on in life.”

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