Park heritage plan must focus on promoting culture, protecting nature, and growing local economy

Liberal Democrat councillors have responded to a recent consultation on the draft heritage strategy for the South Pennines Park by calling for further measures to promote local culture, protect the natural and built environment, and grow the local economy in a sustainable way. The deadline for responses is 29 October.

The South Pennines Park covers 460 square miles, including the Saddleworth district and Shaw, and stretches between the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

In their response, the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group call for action to:

  • Promote local culture: The Liberal Democrats want to see recognition of the work of the Shaw and Crompton and Saddleworth Parish Councils in supporting traditional heritage activities (such as the annual rush cart festival, the ‘world-renowned’ brass band contests, and the celebration of Lancashire and Yorkshire Days) and a greater acknowledgement of the value of the Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill, with its ‘excellent and stimulating’ exhibits.

The Liberal Democrats also want to see established local arts and crafts centres or events for local artists and crafters to come together to collectively work, demonstrate (and pass on) their skills and market their products to the public.

They have also referenced the fact that Greenfield Station remains inaccessible for many people with disabilities or parents using pushchairs, meaning that many day-trippers still cannot access the beautiful Saddleworth villages or countryside by train.

  • Protect the environment: In their response, the Liberal Democrats call for the creation of ‘robust mechanisms’ involving multiple agencies working across local authority boundaries to address the continued and increasing threat to the natural and built environment resulting from climate change or human misbehaviour.

Risks cited include extreme weather events arising from global warming, such as drought, moorland fires and flooding; the pollution of local watercourses; the reckless use of portable barbecues on moorland, the shooting of birds of prey; and unregulated off-road motorcycling.

The Liberal Democrats are also greatly concerned at the threat posed to the Green Belt, protected open land and ancient and veteran woodlands by future housing and industrial development, particularly that proposed under the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Places for Everyone Plan.

  • Growing the Local Economy: In addition to more support for community artists and craftspeople, the Liberal Democrats want to see ‘Shop Local’ loyalty schemes to encourage local people and visitors to buy locally produced goods from locally owned (rather than national chain) stores and a network of artisan markets established to enable the sale of locally produced goods where producers cannot afford fixed premises.

Local farmers who wish to diversify may have accommodation to let to holidaymakers and may wish to combine this with ‘farm experiences’ for tourists. The Liberal Democrats suggest that some way should be found to advertise this provision at a low or nil cost outside of the usual Airbnb route, and that an effort must be made to ensure that it is sustainable.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Howard Sykes MBE said: “In our response, we focused on the need to protect the environment, whilst recognising the importance of promoting and celebrating our local heritage and growing our local economy sustainably to retain jobs and money in our local communities. It is my hope that some or all of our practical ideas can be incorporated into the final strategy and I very much look forward to reading it.”

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