Turner Brothers site planning application rejected
Reporter: Laura Wild
Date online: 13 January 2011
A planning application to develop the former Turner Brothers site has been rejected.
Rochdale council announced today (Thursday 13 January 2011) that it has rejected an application made by owners, MMC estates.
MMC were given 28 days in December to prove they have the resources to develop the site.
The controversial application to build more than 600 homes on site in Spodden Valley has been on hold for six years.
The land was formerly home to the first then largest asbestos textile factory in the world, but a report with the planning application in 2004 stated: “Of particular note is the absence of any asbestos contamination.”
Campaigners have long argued against building on the site because of health fears.
Rochdale Borough Council’s Head of Planning and Regulation, Peter Rowlinson said: “The council has rejected MMC Estates’ initial planning application to develop the former Turner Brothers site because it did not provide enough detail about the way the council’s conditions for the safe and timely development of the site would be met.
“MMC Estates have the right to submit a further application and have indicated that they intend to do this.
“Whilst MMC Estates remain the owners and their aspirations have not changed, the refusal does provide the opportunity to take a fresh look at the site.”
The council stated that it is willing to work with any agency able to secure the safe and timely development of the site.
The leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Colin Lambert said: “The refusal of the long-running Turner Brothers planning application offers a new opportunity for us to move the site forward. I am pleased that we now have the ability to make a fresh start in securing the safe development of this site.”
Jason Addy, co-ordinator of the Save Spodden Valley campaign, said: “This is very welcome news that has significance far beyond Rochdale.
“The sound of those chainsaws destroying the woodland around Turners at dawn on that Saturday morning in May 2004 seemed to wake up our whole town. Too many had watched loved ones wither away from asbestos disease only to be told that “nobody knew the dangers back then” many who faced vague threats that they could lose their Turners pensions if they spoke out and those who were told that there was no asbestos contamination, were not prepared to be insulted and bullied anymore. They knew the dangers; they knew that huge amounts of asbestos were dumped on the site. The worm turned. After so much damage, disease and cover-up it was finally time to demand that people be put before profit. A once deferential mill town began to ask awkward questions that resulted in some shocking home truths.
“The past six and an half years have seen an incredible team effort from many people and organisations who have given their time freely to ensure that facts are known about the site so that safe decisions can be made. This is true testament to the spirit, persistence and tenacity of Rochdalians.
“This planning rejection isn't the end but it is a very important milestone. There is now an opportunity for a “Community Plan B” without Rochdale Council being shackled by this ridiculous planning application that has festered for far too long.
“There are many unresolved questions to be answered but hopefully the people of Rochdale will now be treated with more respect. Too many souls have been lost to asbestos disease as a result of past products and decisions made in the Spodden Valley.
“The Spodden Valley has paid a bitter price to society. Like its victims, it is time to let the Turners site rest in peace as a safe “green lung” for future generations”.
William Hobhouse, Chair of the TBA Working Party, said: “Six years ago, the developer said that the Turners site was safe for development, there was little or no asbestos to worry about, and that planning permission should be granted.
“It has taken six long years for local campaigners to persuade the Council that development of this brownfield asbestos site cannot be taken for granted. Planning permission has been refused because the developer declined to carry out full asbestos testing of the site to determine scientifically whether it is possible to build houses.
“This is the first clear decision of the Council to state that development at Turners will only happen if the planning applicant proves up front that it is safe to do so.
“May I pay tribute to all the members of the TBA Working Party who have campaigned to get safety to the top of the agenda. Their work has helped to ensure the health and safety of future Rochdale generations.”
MMC were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
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