Tram link and 12,000 new homes Re­vised mas­ter­plan out­lines vi­sion for town’s growth

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - NICK STATHAM

PLANS for a new tram link in Mid­dle­ton are on track. Af­ter years of lob­by­ing, the new line link­ing the town with Manch­ester city cen­tre has been in­cluded in the re­worked mas­ter­plan that will shape how the bor­ough de­vel­ops over the com­ing 20 years.

The Greater Manch­ester Spa­tial Frame­work in­cludes more than 12,000 new homes and nearly 1 mil­lion sq m of em­ploy­ment space - as well as ma­jor im­prove­ments to the road, rail and Metrolink net­works.

The plan was signed off by lo­cal lead­ers and mayor Andy Burn­ham on Mon­day and in­cludes plans to ex­tend the Metrolink tram line to Mid­dle­ton via the Bury line and the Bowker Vale tram stop.

Coun Allen Brett, leader of Rochdale coun­cil, said: “I am ab­so­lutely thrilled that we have been lis­tened to and Mid­dle­ton is to fi­nally get a tram line, be­cause, as it stands, the town does not have greater pub­lic trans­port op­tions. When you look at the cur­rent net­work it makes per­fect sense for Mid­dle­ton to be joined to it.

“In the long-term this will al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on al­ready con­gested roads, re­duce pol­lu­tion and make com­mut­ing into the city cen­tre for Mid­dle­ton’s res­i­dents much eas­ier than it is at present.”

Mid­dle­ton coun­cil­lor Phil Burke, the coun­cil’s trans­port spokesman, added: “Mid­dle­ton is a grow­ing town and it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar with peo­ple who work in the city cen­tre. That’s why it’s so im­por­tant to have good pub­lic trans­port con­nec­tions.”

The frame­work also in­cludes plans to cre­ate a new rail­way sta­tion at Slat­tocks, im­prove ac­cess from Lan­g­ley to the North­ern Gate­way, and work to Simis­ter is­land.

It also fea­tures the creation of a new ‘wedge’ of green­belt land around Thorn­ham Lane and Tan­dle Hill, 100,000 square me­tres of space for busi­nesses to op­er­ate from in Stake­hill busi­ness park and 900 new homes in the area.

The orig­i­nal blue­print for the spa­tial frame­work sparked con­tro­versy, largely over the amount of green belt land pro­posed to be sac­ri­ficed for new homes and busi­nesses.

When Mr Burn­ham was elected in May 2017 he told town hall chiefs to go back to the draw­ing board. The se­cond draft was ex­pected in June last year, but fore- casts sug­gest­ing the conur­ba­tion’s pop­u­la­tion would not grow as quickly as once thought and con­fu­sion over gov­ern­ment house­build­ing tar­gets led to it be­ing put back five times.

Rochdale bosses be­lieve they have ad­dressed the most con­tro­ver­sial as­pects of the orig­i­nal plan, while re­tain­ing a vi­sion that will see the bor­ough be­come a key player in Greater Manch­ester’s eco­nomic fu­ture.

The plan will still see 635 hectares of Rochdale’s green belt land sac­ri­ficed for de­vel­op­ment - down from the 787 hectares in­cluded in the orig­i­nal draft.

How­ever, due to chiefs putting 175 hectares of land into the green belt for the first time, in­clud­ing parts of the Roch Val­ley and Fir­grove Play­ing Fields - just shy of 60 per cent of the bor­ough would be re­tained as green belt once every­thing in­cluded in the plan is built.

That rep­re­sents a 2.9pc loss of green belt, as op­posed to the 4.6pc loss in the 2016 spa­tial frame­work plan, mean­ing Rochdale will have the high­est pro­por­tion of green belt of any of Greater Manch­ester’s bor­oughs.

Coun Brett said: “Rochdale is a hugely am­bi­tious bor­ough and we’re plan­ning for ma­jor growth in the fu­ture.

“By bring­ing thou­sands of new jobs and homes, as well as sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment, this plan will help us play an even big­ger role in Greater Manch­ester in the fu­ture and bring our pros­per­ity in line with other parts of the city re­gion.”

A drop in Rochdale’s pro­jected hous­ing need from 775 per year to 643 per year and iden­ti­fy­ing al­ter­na­tive sites for de­vel­op­ment have helped bosses slash the amount of the bor­ough’s green belt lost in the plan.

And they say that the three most con­tro­ver­sial de­vel­op­ments in the orig­i­nal plan - which ac­counted for around 90pc of ob­jec­tions - have now been taken out or changed to re­flect res­i­dents’ con­cerns.

The 2016 plan in­cluded the con­tro­ver­sial re­lease of green belt land around Junc­tion 20 of the M62 and the east of the A627(M) around Tan­dle Hill Coun­try Park for em­ploy­ment use, but this has now been with­drawn, although there will still be res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment to the north of the A627(M) spur road near Stake­hill.

Some 125 new homes will be built at the derelict Castle­ton sid­ings and this will also come with im­prove­ments to high­ways and a new cy­cle­way, as well as the ex­ten­sion of the East Lancs Rail­way into Hey­wood.

Mark Robin­son, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of econ­omy at Rochdale coun­cil, said: “If we are to at­tract busi­nesses into Rochdale we have to have a hous­ing of­fer to at­tract those busi­nesses as well. We can’t just have the em­ploy­ment (de­vel­op­ment) we have to have the hous­ing of­fer that at­tract the em­ploy­ees for those busi­nesses as well.”

Other ma­jor sites in­clude Trows Farm, Castle­ton, where there are pro­pos­als for 360 new homes south of Crown Busi­ness Park and a new pri­mary school.

How­ever, hous­ing is just one strand in the plan to trans­form the bor­ough be­tween now, 2038 and be­yond.

Coun­cil bosses are de­ter­mined that Rochdale will play a ma­jor role in Greater Manch­ester’s fu­ture econ­omy - and that means cre­at­ing around 20,000 new jobs. Cur­rently the bor­ough’s em­ploy­ment rate, at 68.5pc, is 4.5pc below the city re­gion av­er­age and 6.5pc below the na­tional av­er­age.

Coun Brett says the plan gives the bor­ough ‘a on­cein-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress these chal­lenges and trans­form our econ­omy, while still re­main­ing the green­est bor­ough in Greater Manch­ester’.

There are three ma­jor em­ploy­ment sites in­cluded in the plan. The first is The North­ern Gate­way, which will utilise land be­tween junc­tions 18 and 19 of the M62 mo­tor­way, close to Hey­wood Dis­tri­bu­tion Park. This will in­clude 600,000 square me­tres of new em­ploy­ment space.

The joint-site, which in­cludes land in Bury, was in the pre­vi­ous spa­tial frame­work plan, and coun­cil chiefs say re­search they have car­ried out sug­gests the land is ‘ex­tremely at­trac­tive’ for em­ploy­ment use. How­ever, the site has now been ear-marked for ‘high end’ ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Mr Robin­son says the area has been recog­nised by the gov­ern­ment as an area of ‘in­ter­na­tional sig­nif­i­cance’ for in­ward in­vest­ment in ‘UK Plc’.

He added: “Our as­pi­ra­tion is to de­velop an Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Park (AMP). We’ve done work with col­leagues in Sh­effield and Rother­ham around work they are do­ing with Boe­ing and var­i­ous other com­pa­nies. We’re look­ing at an AMP linked to uni­ver­si­ties to re­ally put this part of Greater Manch­ester on the map.”

Their plan also still in­cludes plans to ex­pand Kingsway Busi­ness Park on the south side of the M62, which will be linked to by a new ac­cess road from Junc­tion 21. This will pro­vided more than 130 sq m of new em­ploy­ment land as well as 182 ex­tra homes.

The other big em­ploy­ment site is at Stake­hill, al­beit this has been scaled back from the 2016 blue­print. This will pro­vide 100,000 sq m of space for busi­nesses to op­er­ate from, and there will also be 900 new homes in the area.

The pro­pos­als in­clude ad­di­tional school places at Thorn­ham St John Pri­mary School and a new green belt ‘wedge’ around Thorn­ham Lane and Tan­dle Hill that was pre­vi­ously ear­marked for de­vel­op­ment.

Mr Robin­son said: “This plan re­ally is about sig­nif­i­cantly boost­ing the lo­cal eco­nomic out­put of the bor­ough. We need to plan for the hous­ing growth, but more im­por­tantly we need to find jobs for our ex­ist­ing and fu­ture res­i­dents to ac­cess the spa­tial frame­work is about de­liv­er­ing those jobs and homes.”

Link­ing all this to­gether will be an im­proved trans­port in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing a new M62 Junc­tion 18a at Birch Ser­vices and im­prove­ments to Simis­ter is­land and a ‘rapid tran­sit route’ link­ing the North­ern Gate­way with Manch­ester city cen­tre.

There are also pro­pos­als to im­prove ac­cess from Lan­g­ley to the North­ern Gate­way at Hey­wood and Pilsworth site, via cy­cle­ways, foot­paths and a pos­si­ble new bus route.

This would mean res­i­dents would not have to use the M62 which cur­rently acts as a bar­rier, de­spite the prox­im­ity of the two sites.

There are also pro­pos­als to im­prove the Calder Val­ley rail line, a new rail­way sta­tion at Slat­tocks and a di­rect Rochdale to Pic­cadilly Metrolink ser­vice, as well as ex­tend­ing the tram line to Mid­dle­ton.

Fur­ther plans in­clude in­creas­ing the fre­quency of the Rochdale-to-Old­ham tram so that one ser­vice can branch off on to the main rail line and con­tinue via on to Castle­ton and Hey­wood via Rochdale train sta­tion.

The plan will now go out to con­sul­ta­tion for eight weeks from Jan­uary 21. Visit rochdale.gov.uk/spa­tial­frame­work

Res­i­dents can also ac­cess the con­sul­ta­tion in li­braries across the bor­ough and a drop-in ses­sion will also be tak­ing place at Mid­dle­ton Arena on Mon­day, Fe­bru­ary 11, from 4pm to 7pm.

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Stake­hill Busi­ness Park will get an­other 100,000 sq m of busi­ness space, with 900 new homes nearby

‘When you look at the cur­rent net­work it makes per­fect sense for Mid­dle­ton to be joined to it’ says coun­cil leader Allen Brett

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