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Objector wanted developer to build Diggle hydroelectric power plant
Wednesday 24th October 2018 @ 09:37 by Lauren Entwistle
Mossley & Saddleworth News

An objector to a new housing plan wanted the developer to build a ‘micro’ hydroelectric power plant in an old culvert to generate electricity for a village.

The innovative vision for Diggle, in the district of Saddleworth, was outlined at a meeting of Oldham’s planning committee.

Members were discussing a proposal to demolish an industrial mill which partially dates from the Victorian era to make way for 13 houses.

The Harrop Court mill complex sits in the green belt, but the developer argued it would be a chance to improve the landscape by removing the ‘sorry looking’ industrial estate.

However, eight objections were lodged over the plans, with resident Jonathan Stocker arguing it needed to provide ‘exceptional benefit’ to the site’s neighbours.

This, he told the committee, could be achieved by using new technology to produce renewable energy.

“The residents of Harrop Court agree that the mill site should be redeveloped and that housing should be the best option for this site,” he said.

However he said that he did not believe the development met the council’s accessibility criteria.

He suggested that to get special dispensation, the application could redevelop the culvert running under the mill to create a ‘micro hydroelectric power plant’.

“I would consider that to be an exceptional benefit,” Mr Stocker said.

“The residents do want that mill to be developed, personally I think there are a lot of opportunities to set up a showcase development in Saddleworth, using things like sustainable technology, such as hydroelectric plants.

“The actual infrastructure is already there, that used to be a water mill. Why don’t we redevelop it to bring a modern type of water mill generating electricity to the local community?”

Committee chair Coun Steven Bashforth commented that it ‘sounds like a great idea’.

Planning officer Hannah Lucitt told members that the impact on the green belt, in terms of the size of the site, would be a decrease from the quite ‘substantial’ buildings currently in place.

She said: “The proposal would also have a positive visual impact on the green belt in terms of you’d be able to see through the less built up development on site.”

She added it had been demonstrated that the site was no longer viable for employment use.

Michael Brown, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the plan was to replace the large, and partly derelict industrial estate, with a ‘relatively small’ housing estate.

“The residential scheme has been well thought out and has been designed to maintain the character of this area of Diggle,” he said.

He added they were also enabling improvements along the road, including widening it, and would be adding plants and trees to try and return the site to a ‘semi-rural’ setting.

They considered they were only improving highways safety, and would be restoring the culvert to encourage wildlife and improve the ecology.

“We see this application as a chance to take a sorry looking industrial site which is clearly in the wrong location and remove it from the green belt,” he concluded.

Officers had recommended the application for approval, provided the developer pay £113,694 towards the provision or improvement of existing public space.

This would be specifically used to improvements to play, footpath, pond and woodland infrastructure at Wood Lane.

Saddleworth North ward Coun Garth Harkness said: “On balance it’s better than what we’ve got there already.”

But Shaw Coun Hazel Gloster raised concerns about the impact the extra traffic would have on the local area, given that the road into the site was unadopted.

“We do want houses building but we should make sure that they are accessible and people aren’t actually driving up dirt tracks to a £200,000 house or however much they’ve paid for it,” she said.

The council’s traffic officer said the proposal actually improved highway safety.

But Saddleworth Coun John Hudson, the only member to vote against the plans, said they were a ‘sad bunch’ if they weren’t able to stipulate that the road should be maintained to a good standard.

“I think we should be more responsible, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, if we want to build in these places I think we should be solving the problems at this stage now and saying to residents alright, it might take a bit more time,” he said.

“I don’t see why it takes so long to get those agreements and assure those residents that the road would be looked after and that it would resurfaced.

“I’ve been up there more times than I’ve had hot dinners, and let me tell you, that isn’t a good road to start with.”

However, the rest of the committee agreed to approve the outline application, which will come back to planners in future with a detailed proposal for the layout.