CAMPAIGNERS have delivered a 530-name petition urging Tameside Council to buy back a plot of land in Ashton which is earmarked for housing.
Save the Backfield Facebook group wants the 0.9-acre site at Grove Street, Waterloo, returned to residents as a children’s play area and public open space as it was designated in 1980.
As soon as developer Darson Homes decided not to build on Backfield – they had planning permission for five detached houses – and sell on the land, residents launched the petition which was signed by 530 residents in the space of the last week.
They are calling on Councillor Brenda Warrington, Tameside Council’s executive leader, and Steven Pleasant, Tameside Council chief executive, to use their powers to re-purchase the land.
But they say time is of the essence as the land is due to auctioned within days by Edward Mellor with bidding opening on November 3 and closing 24 hours later with offers opening at £270,000.
This land, known to residents as ‘Backfield’, is integral to the design of the neighbourhood.
It was designated a children’s play area when the Leech Homes Estate was built in 1980. There is no road access to Backfield which can only be reached on foot, by a series of public footpaths making it the perfect place for generations of children to play in a safe environment close to home.
Backfield which is earmarked for homes
Residents were happy to fund this piece of land in the purchase price of their house as Tameside Council had made it a condition of planning permission that it was to be a ‘kickabout’ area. This is how it was described in the original estate plans.
But in 2017 Tameside Council sold the land to Darson Homes of Halifax and planning permission granted in December 2018 despite strong opposition from residents and a covenant being placed on the land.
They claimed it is impossible to safely build five detached houses on a piece of land with no road access and which is crossed by two very well used public footpaths.
Once the development is completed, they claimed Grove Street will effectively be joined with Lindisfarne Road making it a through road. Traffic will then be able to travel directly from Lord Sheldon Way to Newmarket Road, making it a ‘rat-run’.
David and Susan Broadbent, who delivered the petition along with Waterloo councillor Lee Huntbach, set up the Facebook group almost four years ago to oppose development of the green space.
This is the third petition which has been organised in that period with two submitted to Tameside Council and one to the Secretary of State for Housing.
The group has also applied for the land to become an asset of community value which would give residents the first opportunity to buy it.
The application will not be processed in time to delay the auction, but David is hoping by making the application it may dissuade potential buyers from bidding.
“We have battled for the last four years and it is a matter which has provoked very strong feelings. All we want is to be treated fairly,” he said.
A Tameside Council spokesperson said: “We understand the strength of feeling among some members of the local community about the land remaining undeveloped.
“However, the council does not have the necessary resources to buy back the land and, additionally, even if we did have the resources the purchase would not meet the test of value for money – the council has no operational or other need for this land so it is likely that our external auditors would regard the transaction as unlawful.
“The issue has been fully investigated by the ombudsman who says the council has dealt with the matter properly.
“Our approach of selling unused land and assets is necessary to help support and fund our capital programme and particularly fund much needed facilities for the borough.”