Fight to keep field goes on – after 30 years of success

COMMUNITY members who helped save a vital ‘green lung’ from development for 30 years have toasted their achievements – but the battle goes on.

The Horse’s Field, on Thornley Lane South on the border between Denton and Reddish, remains as it has because of the efforts of people who did not want to lose it.

Three decades of keeping it that way were marked by a ceremonial tree planting but the Friends of the Horse’s Field Association are under no illusions.

The fight goes on, even though it may soon be classed as green belt land.

Denton North East councillors with Civic Mayor Cllr Janet Cooper (fourth right) and consort Dennis Fitzpatrick with members of the Friends of the Horse’s Field Association

General Secretary Jan Bunner said: “30 years since Sue Doyle spearheaded the fight to stop development of the land is a big thing.

“Every time I pass it, I wonder what it might have been had development gone ahead.

“As an association and as residents, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic started, this has been a green lung in a heavily built-up area.

“And it’s said that green space maintains physical and mental health and wellbeing. We’ve seen a lot of people using the field for exercise over the last 18 months.”

“There have been scares. In 2015 and 2016, when the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was drawn up we were actually on the plan for development.

Mayor Cllr Janet Cooper plants the tree

“However, our councillors, the MP and the association wrote to Andy Burnham’s department explaining the situation, that we’re public open space, that a public inquiry in 1993 vetoed any building on the site.

“It was then taken off. We were really scared for a while but we managed to maintain what we have today.

“The area is also listed in the Places for Everyone document to be assigned as green belt land, which it isn’t at the moment.

“And even small green spaces are vitally important, not just for physical and mental health but also biodiversity.”

Ward Councillors, Brenda Warrington and Mike Smith at the ceremony

The Friends of the Horse’s Field Association was formed after Tameside Council wanted to sell the land in 1990.

After 700 people signed a petition and support was gained by then local councillors and then MP Andrew Bennett, in 1993 the authority decided to scrap the proposal and it was declared as public open space.

The Association’s achievements were marked with a planting ceremony attended by the area’s local councillors and Civic Mayor of Tameside, Cllr Janet Cooper.

One tree was planted but the hope is others will follow.

Jan added: “We originally wanted to do a big celebration but restrictions and everything meant we couldn’t but thankfully Tameside Council agreed for us to have a commemorative tree planted.

“And we were lucky in that it landed on the same weekend as the COP26 summit as we’re hoping to be even more environmentally friendly and get further planting in the future.

“I know planting a tree is only a very small contribution but it is something going towards helping the future of the planet.

“We’re in talks with City of Trees about future planting too.”

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