Liberal Democrats vow to protect green, open spaces

Saddleworth Liberal Democrats are campaigning for local footpaths and green spaces to be kept open and accessible to all.  The recent lockdown measures have again shown how vital it is for everyone to have local green spaces, and the benefits these places have on mental and physical health.  Whether a local park, playing field, the open countryside, or just a little corner of greenery, access and enjoyment is important to all, especially those in poorer households and areas, who usually have less green space nearby – some of the people we must protect the most.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness said: “I am very pleased that my campaigning with local people to restore the bridges around Diggle, Dobcross and Uppermill has worked, and we will soon be able to return to what have been very popular routes around our villages.  What could be better than walking – for our health and for the environment?”

“The recent removal of a bridge carrying the bridleway over Church Road in Uppermill is something we shall be keeping our eye on,” said local campaigner Mick Scholes. “We understand money is very tight, and the council is quite rightly looking for outside funding to help, but one of the other local paths between Spring St and Bridge St was closed several years ago, and locals are still campaigning for it to be re-opened – we need to keep these issue alive to see progress.”

Parish and Borough Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani added: “The fight to keep Thornley Brook & Ashbrook Valley as a local green space for the benefit for all goes on, and now even more of the open space in Springhead and Grotton is threatened by the proposed development at Stonebreaks. The community has come together to fight these applications, and I have been proud to do whatever I can to support them. 

“The Knowls Lane planning meeting was a shambles, and it is unsurprising to see that a judicial review has been granted for next month. The works of residents in establishing the Ancient Woodland on the Knowls Lane site will hopefully help make the difference.”

Fundraising for the cost of the lawyers the community needs to fight the developers is ongoing, and all donations are welcome via the website

And all three Liberal Democrats voiced concern over the idea of closing Dovestone.  The recent one-off “spike” in visitor numbers due to the relaxing of lockdown measures should not result in a knee-jerk reaction that is to the detriment of all.

“In April last year I called for enforcement and hefty £1000 fines for BBQs and this was shortly followed by support from Saddleworth Parish Council and councillors with a call to action. Whilst I would like to see penalties being more than the current £100 I was very pleased for Saddleworth when the Public Spaces Prevention Order that I had asked for was created for Dovestone, but it needs enforcing, and that is the key to keeping the area open to all.  We need a police presence on sunny summer days to boost the much-appreciated volunteer effort.” said Garth Harkness.

Mick Scholes added: “I have been dealing, face-to-face, with anti-social behaviour at Dovestone for years, and it is a very small minority who cause trouble – and the anti-social behaviour comes from across the spectrum of society.  Those who suggest that somehow it is ‘outsiders’ coming into the area that are the root of the problem, or that trouble is only caused by young people do not know what they are talking about.  Some of the worst abuse I have experienced is from middle-aged men from Saddleworth who don’t accept that the rules apply to them.”

“The problems at Dovestone are not a recent thing, and I understand people’s concerns,” said Councillor Al-Hamdani. “We have the tools in place to make progress, and we want to keep the area open. To help that, we need to ensure that the rules are applied fairly, and to everyone. Recent events should not be an excuse for closing a much-used local area, an action that would have a disproportionate effect on those in poorer areas and for households who don’t have access to their own garden. These people need a green space, and we must do what needs to be done to deliver that.”

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