Unitary Development Plan Review 2001 to 2016

(An Input from Saddleworth Civic Trust)



The plan has fairly broad and general objectives. These are felt to be be relevant to the Saddleworth area as well as the rest of the Borough. The second two objectives, however, are probably the most relevant and important, particularly the aim to conserve and improve the physical environment.

In general we feel that more emphasis should be placed on the value of Saddleworth as a recreational area, not only for the people of Oldham MBC and the Manchester conurbation but on a wider basis. The opportunity offered by tourism in Saddleworth needs more recognition in the Plan as does the need for conservation.

The increasing development of Saddleworth as a residential area, the continued decline in manufacturing and the increase in employment outside the district places emphasis on the need for better public transport in and out of the districts, not just to the centre of Oldham but to all major regional locations.


Industry Business & Tourism

Considering the low unemployment rates in Saddleworth and the fact that many residents work outside of the district it is felt that the primary aim should be sustainability of employment levels in the district rather than growth. The decline of manufacturing looks likely to continue but this will probably be naturally offset by the growth in the service and tourist sectors. In the light of the above trends there seems little to be gained by the protection of PEZs and a mix of business and residential, particularly in the Saddleworth villages we feel should be encouraged. There should however be no sacrifice of the green belt as a consequent of economic activity.

Comments on key questions:

I1. Any additional land for employment in Saddleworth should be on brown field sites.

I2. This is already the situation in Saddleworth and infrastructure should support this fact in the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways.

I3. Certainly not in Saddleworth as this would be likely to place additional stress on the environment.

I4. PEZs in Saddleworth are no longer seen as particularly relevant in the light of industrial, business and employement trends in Saddleworth (see above). Mixed use development is seen as better matching the current needs.

I5. These need not be protected for industrial use for the reasons stated above, but the structures are important from a conservation point of view and should be carefully protected from unsympathetic development. Developments should be looked at on a case by case basis.

I6. The development and encouragement of tourism should be a major objective for Saddleworth. The opening of the Huddersfield Canal Presents a major opportunity. Infrastructure should be developed to support this. Particular attention should be paid to the conservation of the moorlands and Saddleworth valleys as areas of natural beauty, There should be strict control of developments outside of the conservation areas, equivalent to those in the Peak District National Park. A tourist development plan for Saddleworth should be drawn up including a valley by valley character appraisal and assessment of opportunity.



In recent years Saddleworth has been under intense pressure from housing developments. Many of these have been on greenfield sites within the villages or on their periphery. In addition to this there has been an increasing level of infill within the villages themselves. These developements have substantially impacted on the nature of the Saddleworth villages and valley hillsides. What were previously pennine villages, with primarily pennine vernacular and industrial architecture, have now, to a large degree, become sub-urban environments. Hillside hamlets and farmsteads are now in many cases surrounded by modern housing estates. Victorian gardens have given way to high density family dwellings. Grasscroft, Saddleworth Fold and Shaws hamlets are now lost in housing estates. The hillsides of Diggle, Dobcross and Uppermill have largely disappeared under a sea of red brick, yellow brick and artificial stone. No villages have escaped this pressure.

The growth in property values and the decline in industry has undoubtedly lead to many improvements in the Saddleworth environment. However, the character of the Saddleworth villages and historic buildings is under threat from inappropriate, unsympathetic and over-development; Saddleworth’s 500 or so listing buildings are a priceless asset severely endangered.

Hillside landscapes have also been transformed beyond recognition, with medieval enclosures giving way to sub-urban housing.

Housing policy in the future should at all cost protect the Saddleworth heritage with conservation issues being given pride of place in assessing future development proposals. New development should be restricted to brown field sites, over-development of existing buildings strongly resisted and further in-fill tightly controlled.

Comments on key questions:

H1. Growth in Saddleworth should be moderate and consistent with the changes away from industrial use to residential/recreational.

H2. Conservation issues should be at the fore with development restricted to brown field sites. Oldham should live up to its advertising slogan ‘Oldham a town in the Countryside’. Further sub-urban development should be discouraged. Good Practice Denshaw Vale. Worst practice Grotton Brickworks. Over-development of historic buildings should be strongly discouraged. In-fill tightly regulated.

H3. Housing density should reflect the nature of the location and site. Villages dense town housing of irregular design. No gardens or garden walls. Detached housing in reasonably large plots. Mixed housing/business quite acceptable and in cases desirable. Adequate car parking should be provided to meet the needs of residents as well as visitors.

The availability of affordable housing is seen as desirable as it is felt that it will contribute to the sustainability of community life. However mechanisms for ensuring this are problematic. It seems questionable whether attempts to hold pricing below the market value in the private sector will work. A major concern is that enforcing artificial pricing on new developements will lead to inferior quality housing. Whatever mechanisms are adopted, these must ensure quality standards are maintained at high levels in terms of design, features and materials. Housing associations may help address this problem.



The geographically dispersed nature of Saddleworth means that everyone in the district requires transport. Car ownership and dependency is high and the use of cars is encouraged by mediocre public transport. More emphasis should be placed on the developement of good public transport in Saddleworth, not only for the benefit of residents but also visitors to the district. At the same time, the essential nature of the car for many Saddleworth residents should be recognising. Parking charges in local village centres is an example of misguided policy, penalising local shoppers and discouraging visitors.

Comments on key questions:

T1. Traffic congestion is not really a problem in Saddleworth and no special measures are seen here. The large amount of travel by Saddleworth people to towns such as Oldham, Manchester, Ashton as well as Yorkshire towns and communting to these destinations should be recognised and road and public transport policy reflect this fact. The development of tourism should also be taken into account. Specific measures to be considered should be the extension of Metrolink to Saddleworth via Ashton and the opening of a railway station at Diggle. Possible future use of the disused railway lines in Saddleworth for future public transport use should be considered.

T2. Building on disused railway links should strongly be discouraged (see above).

T3. The frequency of public transport also needs to be addressed particularly its increased availability at weekends.

T4. The need for car parking in the villages and at local beauty spots should be recognised. Consideration should be given to removing parking restrictions in the villages, particularly, in Delph and Uppermill High Street. This combined with 20 mph speed limits would curtail the speed of through traffic without the need for undesirable urban intrusions such as speed bumps, chicanes and bollards. Disc parking schemes would be a better approach than parking charges. Park and ride schemes and better parking facilities at Greenfield Station are vital, possibly with Chapel Street being closed to through traffic at weekends and used for parking.


Natural Resources

Saddleworth’s natural resources of wind, water, minerals, and possible forestation should not be seen primarily in economic terms but as attributes of the landscape in need of sustainable management.

The nineteenth century upland reservoirs on the whole contribute positively to the landscape. There is little potential here however for further development without major landscape impact.

Wind turbines in exposed areas would have a dramatic impact on the landscape and destroy the value of the wilderness that is a major feature of the moorland environment.

Careful tree planting for longer term tree cover should be encouraged where farm land is increasingly under used. This should be in sympathy with the landscape (see Section on Land Resources). Non-indigenous conifer plantations are not felt to be appropriate and impact negatively on the character of the saddleworth landscape. (e.g Saddleworth golf club plantation).

N1. The present policy of strict control of mineral extraction should continue. No further extraction sites are thought to be required except perhaps for small scale quarrying of native (gritstone) building material for local building and restoration purposes. Such schemes which will not result in large holes for filling and will become part of the histoiric landscape with time.

N2. Filling of any mineral workings, quarries, etc. with "landfill" is deplored. Hopefully by the end of the present site(s) life a more ecologically sound means of waste disposal can be availbale, i.e. carefully recycling of sorted materials and heat/power generating incineration in an industrial situation.

True hardcore/builders waste, if it is totally inert, can be used in areas requiring filling anywhere in the Borough.

N3. Renewable energy developments, of the types so far identified are alien to the Saddleworth area. Energy crops would detract from the higher moorland scenery; energy derived from animal waste is unreliable and set in the context of a declining farm animal population is unrealistic. Hydro schemes require considerable water flow whereas most of the Saddleworth obvious water resources are static.

N4. Yes.

N5. Very important. The Saddleworth area is increasingly the main area of habitat diversity (flora and fauna). Identification of sites of special interest should preclude any development proposal and legislation put in place to safeguard them.

Ponds and mill lodges, rather than being drained, and used as car parks after filling, should be conserved and retained as pond/wet areas with a sympathetic management regime firmly in place.


Land Resources

The pennine landscape of Saddleworth is one of its greatest assets. The Saddleworth villages are late eighteenth and nineteenth century creations and the built heritage in general spans a period of a little over 350 years. The landscape on the other hand is the creation of man from the late saxon times. The Saddleworth hillsides, valleys and moorlands contain many mesolithic sites as well as bronze age and roman remains.

In addition to their historic significance, the natural history of the Saddleworth hillsides and moorland is also varied and of great interest.

The Saddleworth landscape needs greater protection. Field boundaries, water meadows, ancient rights of way, sunken lanes, medieval millstones, eighteenth century mill pond sites are all in danger and have suffered damage from landfill and the JCB. The recent tipping of canal dredgings on the medieval water meadow in Uppermill is an example of distruction of the historic landscape and ecology.

A countryside character appraisal exercise would be welcomed for Saddleworth to focus attention on the special features of the landscape. Wind farms for example would have a dramatic and negative impact on the historic scenery of Saddleworth’s upland areas as well as possibly the moorland ecology.

L1. No, Oldham is not full. There is still additional capacity, but the UDP should identify sites where inappropriate development would have the most damaging effect. i.e. the urban fringe (the most accessible greenfield areas).

L2. Industrial sites within the green belt should should be designated to allow flexibility in their redevelopment.

L4. Protection and conservation rather than enhancement. i.e. no psudo country park transplants/urbanization. Diversification of farming methods and produce from the traditional dairy herds to sheep and livery stables has to be accepted as an econoimic reality. Some forestation of underused farmland would be acceptable, provided this was done in a way that would compliment the existing landscape, and some types of arable cropping, or short term biomass, if it was part of a renewable energy project. Farm buildings should remain intact as far as possible and receive better protection for their historic value (see section on built heritage later). Once converted to residential use, they are lost for ever to agriculture. However this may be preferable in some cases to seeing the buildings lost through decay.


Shopping & Town & District Centres

Saddleworth is a large geographic area and the needs of shoppers in Saddleworth are presently met by the retail centres in Oldham, Manchester, Rochdale, Ashton, Huddersfield and other local towns. Supermarkets in Oldham and elsewhere conveniently fulfill the needs of those Saddleworth residents with cars. For older residents and those dependent on public transport however this situation is not very satisfactory and there is more dependency on local shops. For this reason and the need to sustain the village communities it is vital that the retail activity in the villages is protected. Village shops add character to the area, and are a pleasant attraction to visitors from towns, suffering from Arndaleitis.

Comments on key questions:

S2. The balance now is in favour of town centre shopping (including retail sites on the periphery of the town eg Tesco, Elk Mill etc) rather than the Saddleworth villages and the retail activity in villages like Delph is endangered. Measures to encourage trading in the villages should be encouraged. A more extensive market in Uppermill would be desirable and possibly market days in other villages.

S3. A supermarket in Saddleworth is a contentious issue. Oldham has plentiful supermarkrets. A better approach might be to ask/approach the existing supermarkets in Oldham to provide transport and deliveries for Saddleworth (and other) customers (free of charge).

S4. See above.


Recreation and Open Space

Saddleworth valleys should be evaluated for their potential as Recreational Open space and for general recreational use. e.g. visitor facilities, footpaths etc. However areas in Saddleworth should be maintained for their innate natural beauty, not developed as countryside parks (e.g Strinesdale) or theme parks (e.g sensory garden at Brownhill) Sightseers and visitors should be able to pursue individual interests (e.g. walking, bird watching, photography, sailing etc) with minimal impact on the environment.

Consideration should be given to to the designation of the village square in Uppermill, Dobcross, Delph and possibly Denshaw as town greens with the protection this affords for local use and the prevention of encroachment (e.g. the beer garden at Uppermill).

Footpaths. Must be preserved and should not be diverted because of their historic significance. A definitive footpath map should be produced and sold at a reasonable cost to the public.

Comments on key questions:

R2. All new housing development should make a financial contribution to the improvement of recreational facilities.

R3. We value the open space highly and feel that it should be protected as the lungs of Oldham to which the visitors can escape from the urban environment to enjoy not only recreational facilities but the heritage of Saddleworth.

R4. The area adjacent to the Saddleworth Pool could be better used to provide a larger indoor sports facilities. The old Meausurements site on Dobcross New Road and the Andrew Mill site in Greenfield could also be considered for indoor sports facilities. The Churchill Playing Field is under used (largely because of unsatisfactory drainage). The satelite centre could be developed as a Council run indoor and outdoor sports complex and the temporary parking area for the wade lock restoration possibly converted into a permaneny car park.


Built Heritage and the Design of New Developments

The Issues Paper draws attention to the strong local identity of Saddleworth and built style. This is seen as seriously under threat in the following ways:

a) Creeping urbanisation. Large areas of Saddleworth to the south and west have been the subject of large scale development. Specifically extensive areas around Stonebreaks, Grotton, Austerlands, Grasscroft, Greenfield, Uppermill and Diggle are now entirely sub-urban in nature. Such developments pay little repect to Saddleworth’s characteristic mix of nineteenth century pennine villages and older scattered hillside settlements. The only recent development we would commend for its sensitivity is that at Denshaw Vale where a serious attempt has been made to blend materials and layout in with the local vernacular building style. Elsewhere overcrowded housing estates, with a bland uniformity and regularity predominate, invariably constructed from non-local materials (brick, artificial or non-pennine stone, and roofing material).

OMBC activities are also not beyond criticism. The ubiquitous use of bollards (for which there is abolutely no-historic precendent in Saddleworth), concrete curb-stones, artificial paving materials, a reluctance to re-use existing or reclaimed local stone in preference to new and non-indigenous materials, and in general, a lack of distinction between the street furniture, signs and designs applied in Oldham town centre and that in the Saddleworth villages, have all lead to a marked erosion of village character.

b) The Issues Paper draws attention to the threat to listed buildings through improvement works. We believe the extent of this problem in Saddleworth is not fully appreciated. About 500 of OMB’s listed buildings are in Saddleworth as are twenty one of its conservation areas. Many more buildings of historical and architectural interest exist on the Saddleworth hillsides and do not fall in either of these categories and receive little statutary protection. Increasing wealth and property values have lead to an escalation in the pace of building alterations and development.

Present controls to protect this historical legacy are felt to be woefully inadequte. The consequences of this lack of control are now increasingly becoming apparent. Many of the presently listed building will undoubtedly be delisted through damage and over-development at the next revision of the list. To quote some specific examples. Whickins farmhouse, Uppermill (LB 365) demolished and rebuilt; Pack Horse Slack Barn (LB 210) converted to dwelling with addition of large number of inappropriate windows and resulting irreversible damage to fabric; Coatman Heights farmhouse (18th century) recently demolished and rebuilt; Lower Slack farmhouse and Barn (LB 397) recent demolition and rebuilding of one bay of building. These are extreme examples, apparently all carried out with full consent. Many more examples could be cited of less dramatic, but nevertheless damaging alterations, that have caused irreversable damage to the fabric of many historic buildings and erosion of theirt intrinsic character.

The replacement of eighteenth and nineteenth century windows with new units is now almost universal. Rarely has there been any attempt at repair of existing historic fabric and only occasionally an attempt to replace in matching style and materials. The few examples of original fenestration that are left are apparently unrecorded and unprotected.

Much tighter controls are required if our rich heritage of vernacular buildings is to survive. Government and English Heritage guidelines should be strictly applied.

c) As indicate above many historic buildings, as well as historic landscape features (e.g stone enclosure walls, historic markers, sunken lanes, gateposts etc.) are unprotected because they do not fall within conservation areas, which are largely village or hamlet based, or have not been considered to merit listed status. Urgent attention is required to protect this part of the historical environment. Probably more extensive listing is required as well as a widening of conservation area coverage. We would like to see the sort of protection offered by National Park status extended to most of Saddleworth.

B1. Individualistic new development designs of better quality and of a locally distinctive nature are to be encouraged. Sub-urbanisation should be resisted. Space around buildings should be given proper treatment. e.g large gardens for detached proiperties, no individual gardens for village centre houses.

B2. Clearly building standards are important but great care should be taken in trying to uniformly apply twenty century building regulations to the restoration of historic properties. Much damage to character has occurred in this way. Many old vernacular buildings are inherently energy efficient.

B3. We are concerned that the built heritage in Saddleworth is not being adequately valued and protected.

B4. Of course the retention of historic buildings (and other historic fabric e.g. street layouts, street furniture, paving and road surfaces, signs, shopfronts) has a positive impact on the quality of life and the borough’s image and identity. Policy should permit the reuse of historic buildings for housing or retail if industrial use is no longer viable. Historic buildings should not be allowed to fall into decay by owners or developers. e.g. Buckley New Mill, Uppermill; Roundthorn Manor House.


Community Facilities

In many areas of Saddleworth there is a shortage of school places. Consideration should be given to the need for local residents to send their children to local schools. We would encourage the use of school buildings for community use outside of school hours.

C1. We appreciate the difficulties posed in accommoding gypsies. It is difficult to identify an area in Saddleworth that would be suitable for use as a gypsie site because of the shortage of greenfield sites and and the pressure on other land for development. Environmental impact would have to be very carefully considered and assessed in going forward with any such schemes, as would the demand on local facilities such as schools.

C2. New development should take into account the number of school places available, which has become a major problem in many areas. Instead of allowing developers to build ‘carte blanche’ a monetary charge should be made on new developments to cover the provison of extra educational facilities.

C3. See the reply to question R4.



May 2000


Mike Buckley,
10 The Square,
Yorks. OL3 5AA.


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