Block of 100pc affordable flats likened to ‘Strangeways’ given approval despite neighbours’ objections

Plans to build a three-storey block of affordable flats which was likened to Strangeways prison have been given the green light despite neighbours’ concerns.

A developer had applied to Oldham council to construct the apartments on land which had been the site of the Former High Barn Resource Centre in Royton, which was demolished in 2018.

Under the plans by Lancet Homes, there would be 30 flats as part of the affordable housing scheme, to be managed by First Choice Homes Oldham.

There would be 30 parking spaces provided on the site off High Barn Street for residents.

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Recommending approval, case officer Matthew Taylor told a planning meeting that access had been moved onto Shaw Street rather than High Barn Street.

“I can confirm that the accommodation that is being provided meets the national housing space standards,” he added.

According to the committee report there had been two objections lodged, however on the planning portal there were 12 objections and one supporting comment.

An objector, Geoff Oliver, spoke on behalf of nearby residential development Spindle Court, made up of a series of bungalows for elderly people.

He said they fear the apartment block will ‘tower’ over them. “It would be the highest structure around,” Mr Oliver added.

The affordable homes would be managed by First Choice Homes Oldham
(Image: Lancet Homes)

“Its basic appearance is also of concern. Its slab-like construction with bars across the Juliet balconies makes us wonder if this building is an annexe of Strangeways.

“The bars give a cell-like appearance across each balcony.”

He said the building would reduce the amount of light coming into Spindle Court during the winter, and raised concerns that a number of new developments in Royton would increase traffic pressure on High Barn Street.

“We believe that Royton is actually becoming overdeveloped,” Mr Oliver said.

“We’re not actually against future development of this site but this building is unsightly, too big, incorrectly positioned and inappropriate for the area.”

Coun Steve Bashforth, representing the Royton South ward, said that while he thought the principle of the scheme is ‘great’, he ‘fundamentally disagrees with the quality of the design’.

“I think it’s an appalling design,” he added. “I think the design is absolutely overwhelming on that site, so my concerns are focused on the design, and the effect it would have.

“I think it may well be as tall as the town hall. I don’t believe that it’s sympathetic with the area.

“Those images do remind me of the old warehouse buildings that used to be on that site.

“The Juliet balconies do give a more foreboding image of that building.”

He asked the committee to either reject the application or demand the developer goes back to the drawing board to redesign it.

However highways officer Wendy Moorhouse said it was a ‘very sustainable location’.

“The provision of 30 spaces for 30 apartments is perfectly fine,” she added.

“I’m not concerned that because of this development there will be a lot of on-street parking that will cause congestion.”

Tom Whitehead, speaking on behalf of the applicant said: “As well as providing 100 per cent affordable housing all homes on the ground floor will be wheelchair accessible.

“We hear Mr Oliver’s comments and we understand the concerns but they have been considered.”

He said the proposed building would be located nearly 80 feet away from Spindle Court.

“The development will provide a high quality residential development,” he added, telling the committee that the flats would be split between affordable rent and buy-to-rent.

“None of us want to cause a problem in terms of the local highway and parking.”

Committee member Coun Barbara Brownridge said: “If we wanted to refuse this on design grounds I think we’d be really struggling to justify that.

“It’s an extremely sustainable location, it’s 100pc affordable – the benefits are stark.”

She moved that they approve the application, which was supported by a majority of councillors, with one vote against and two abstentions.

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham