A ‘vital’ local shop and community hub have been given a stay of execution after town hall chiefs rejected plans to replace them with affordable homes.
More than 400 people had signed a petition against the proposals to knock down shops on Ambleside Parade in Stalybridge, as part of a scheme to redevelop the area of the Ridge Hill estate.
Councillors opposing the plans said loss of the shops would be ‘another crucial blow to local people’.
Jigsaw Homes is in the process of demolishing four blocks of maisonettes on Rydal Walk and Ambleside Parade and was seeking permission for a new 24-home estate.
All of the four, three and two-bedroom houses would have been designated as affordable.
If approved it would have seen the loss of Waz’s convenience store and newsagents which has been serving the area for more than 13 years, as well as the Ridge Hill Big Local Hub.
Recommending it be refused, the council’s development manager, Martyn Leigh, told the committee there were ‘serious issues’ with the application.
“What we’re saying is it’s not the right scheme,” he said.
“It is considered that insufficient information has been provided by the applicant to justify permanent loss of the retail units on the site.”
Objecting to the plans, Councillor Jan Jackson told the meeting that life expectancy on the estate is five years lower than other areas of Tameside.
“Although we agree with the change that’s needed at Rydal Walk it must not be at a cost of losing all the shops and particularly the convenience store and the Big Local Hub, which lies at the heart of this community and provides vital services required by this deprived community,” she said.
Coun Jackson added that the hub performs a crucial community role delivering holiday clubs, citizens advice, youth activities and identifying families in need.
Fellow ward representative Coun Adrian Pearce added: “We would support affordable housing, but we don’t support the loss of services and facilities from an area that has lost untold services over the past 20 years and this is something that we can’t tolerate.
“Losing the shop would be another crucial blow to local people.
“This application simply isn’t quite good enough.”
Speaking on behalf of Jigsaw Homes, Peter Bacon told the committee that tackling anti-social behaviour had been part of the decision to redevelop the site.
“The proposed new homes will be a significant enhancement on the poor quality of the previous units that have already been demolished, and the existing units that are to be demolished,” he said.
The parade of shops already has planning approval for demolition, under an application passed by officers in 2018.
Mr Bacon added that there were ‘minor tweaks’ that could be made to make the application acceptable to the planning department.
Another advocate for Jigsaw Homes said that times had ‘moved on’ from when the estate was built and people were ‘reliant on local shops’ without fridge-freezers to store food.
“Nowadays people tend to shop for the longer term, you do a weekly shop, you buy for a few days at a time,” he said.
“There’s also a Tesco and Aldi in Stalybridge with much cheaper prices, there’s home delivery services operated by supermarkets.
“Post office facilities are online, direct debits are online.”
Committee member Coun Doreen Dickinson responded: “I understand what you’re saying about shopping and how it’s altered, but nobody runs a shop at a loss so this shop must be busy otherwise he wouldn’t keep it open.”
The meeting heard that objections had also been raised by the highways engineer regarding layout, and officers had concerns about access for pedestrians – particularly with mobility issues.
Coun Vincent Ricci added: “I don’t think it’s minor tweaks, because it’s over those minor tweaks that our officers have recommended it be refused.”
Councillors unanimously voted to reject the application.
Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in Tameside, Oldham or Rochdale? Let us know by emailing email@example.com , calling us on 0161 621 6515 , tweeting us @rev962 or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.