Several hundred Tameside residents marched in solidarity to demonstrate against plans to build up to 840 new houses on green belt land.
Under proposals outlined in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), 655 houses are targeted for construction on green field sites either side of Lees Road, obstructing views of the historic Hartshead Pike monument.
A further 185 houses are to be developed on the site of the former Hartshead High School, including the adjacent playing fields, which are currently used by local children for sports and community activities.
The march was organised by the Hartshead Residents’ Group and Hartshead Estate Home Watch to oppose the proposals and to protest against Tameside Council’s plans to develop new housing at the cost of valuable green belt land and public recreation spaces.
These proposals run counter to a Conservative manifesto pledge all green belt land would remain safe until 2020, and that brownfield development would be the government’s priority.
Countryside campaigners elsewhere in the country have mounted similar protests. And the Campaign to Protect Rural England recently identified a rise of more than 280,000 in the number of new homes planned for green belt sites once identified as “absolutely sacrosanct”.
With approval from Greater Manchester Police – who later congratulated marshals and protestors for their efforts and excellent coordination – the march began on the playing fields, before moving down Lees Road and onto the second green belt site, which adjoins Hartshead Estate.
Mark Harrop, Deputy Chairman of Hartshead Home Watch, said: “I and the other organisers are extremely pleased with today’s turnout, which demonstrates just how strongly the community feels about these proposals
“The Tameside Authorities and the GMSF need to realise that they need to reconsider plans if they want our support,” added Harrop.
“If the government intends to make a U-turn on its promises, then local residents will continue to band together to make a difference.”