By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
A DECISION on controversial plans to build 195 homes on a former school site has been deferred after councillors were unhappy with the ‘insulting’ amount of new play space offered.
Last November, Tameside Council narrowly approved plans to build houses on the site of the former Hartshead High Secondary School, Ashton.There had been dozens of objections over concerns local children would have ‘nowhere to kick a ball’ if the old school playing field off Greenhurst Road was developed.
Residents argued Ashton Hurst is one of the only wards in Tameside without its own public park, so the playing field is invaluable to neighbours who would be left without a nearby free alternative if it was lost.
A detailed reserved matters application went back to the planning committee on Wednesday, December 18 asking for final sign off on building 195 homes on the site.
The plans included a new play area with equipment, such as swings, a climbing structure and a ‘wobble dish’ on a strip of land running alongside Lees Road.
However, opponents argued it does not include a kickabout area and is “not meaningful to the needs of the community”.
At the meeting, Councillor Leigh Drennan and retired police officer Eric Clegg both spoke against the development.
Mr Clegg said: “The main objection is the insulting amount of play space proposed when compared to the loss of an entire school field – the community recreation area used for generations.
“The Hurst ward is the only ward in Tameside without a public park.
“The artistic graphics in the revised layout paint a good picture but the proposed play area is nothing more than a trim trail with limited appeal and use. It will fit in my garden with ease.”He added that residents had no free informal space to “kick a ball about or throw a frisbee”.
Cllr Drennan said although the site appeared to be surrounded with green space, this included a private golf course, a protected nature reserve and a cemetery.
“The space is a sliver of leftover land and clearly an afterthought despite this committee setting out clearly your expectations that local residents would be reasonably compensated,” he said.
“What my ward is being asked to sacrifice and what is being offered in exchange isn’t acceptable.”
The development by Taylor Wimpey Manchester would see six one-bedroom apartments, six two-bed, 148 three-bed and 35 four-bed dwellings.
Of these, 15 per cent – 30 of the dwellings – would be provided on an ‘affordable’ basis.
All the properties would have off-street private parking.
Agent Louisa Fielden told the meeting it was an “attractive and well-developed scheme” which would result in significant social, environmental and economic benefits.
“The proposed play was developed from the trim trail that was initially consulted on to a more traditional play area in the west of the site,” she added.
“The on-site open space is well proportioned to the scale of the development.”
Steven Kirkham, principal planning officer said: “The provision of the play area has been met with approval from the green spaces manager, this will compliment incidental areas of open space throughout the site, in addition to improved connections to Knott Hill reservoir.
“Usually, play areas would only be provided on developments of above 286 dwellings, but provision of this facility is above usual policy requirements.”
He added the development would provide ‘much needed housing’.
Approximately £170,000 is also being secured for off-site public open space contributions via a Section 106 agreement, which is currently at draft stage.
But Cllr Mike Glover said: “It concerns me that there isn’t a kickabout area”, and Cllr Vimal Choksi added: “It is a small space.”
A majority of councillors on the committee moved to reject the application over the size of the play area.
However, after legal advice they revised this to defer a decision to allow conversations between planning officers and the developer to be carried out, which they hoped would see the amount of space increased.