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SPODDEN VALLEY: How may enfocing Rights of Way save lives?

Save Spodden Valley | 10.08.2005 12:14 | Ecology | Health | Social Struggles | World

The Woodlands Rd bridleway beside the former asbestos factory site in the Spodden Valley, Rochdale UK has been the subject of much media attention recently...


The whole of Woodlands Rd was closed by an Emergency Notice at the request of the developers in May- Re-opened by a unanimous vote of Rochdale Township and the recommendation of Rochdale MBC Highway’s Officer in June, blocked again by the developers for horses and wheelchair users in July- now it has finally been fully opened for all.

Spodden Valley campaigner Nigel Morrell, also speaking on behalf of local bridleway groups praised Rights of Way Officer Julie Simpson for her resolve in maintaining local peoples’ rights:

“Thanks must be given to our Council Officers for enforcing clear matters of law in a timely fashion. This is further proof that the issues of the Spodden Valley are starting to be taken very seriously”.

“The developers and landowners of the former asbestos site must realise that with ownership comes a grave responsibility for future decades of Rochdalians. If developers ‘play fast and loose’ with obvious matters, such as Rights of Way, then we lose trust and confidence in their attitudes to contamination and public health”


Local resident and campaigner Dave Phillips agreed with the need for access to the site to allow for open scrutiny of the developers:

“RMBC Head of Planning and Regulation Ken Smith said on BBC GMR radio that Woodlands Rd road must be kept open to allow for public vigilance of developers’ activity on the whole site. In the broadcast, heard throughout Greater Manchester, Mr Smith also suggested that the most contaminated areas of the site could be fenced off to reduce the risk of exposed asbestos being disturbed.”

“Ironically” says father of 2 young daughters Dave Phillips, “the only places on the site not fenced-off by the developers last year were the known asbestos tip sites around Woodlands Rd.”

Dave Phillips goes on to comment on the Council’s apparent commitment to create continuous wildlife corridors for the whole of the Spodden Valley in the blueprint for Rochdale- the draft Unitary Development Plan (UDP). This can be viewed at:

“As an amateur pilot, I have flown many times over the Spodden Valley. From the air you see just what a wonderful opportunity there is for a wildlife haven from Spotland Bridge through to Healey Dell. Our Town is also crying out for safe walking and cycling routes as ‘green corridors’ to link existing estates. An already crowded urban fringe needs such an amenity”

“Our Council recognises that the whole site is contaminated as a result of its past industrial legacy. Given the new information about just how contaminated the factory site could be- there is an even greater need make the Spodden Valley safe- for good”.

“As seen from the archived news reports, the last year has shown that the developers have made mistake over mistake about this development. There is too much at stake for our community for these cavalier attitudes to continue”.


Campaigners also believe that the ongoing reports may have a wider significance: Rochdale Online reporter Kirsy Rigg recently interviewed Michael Drogan, the Managing Director of MMC Developments, joint owners of the site with offshore company Rathbone Jersey Ltd.

The news report was headed using Mr Drogan’s direct reference to “gypsies”:

Local campaigner Su Wilson comments:

“other reporters have complained that enquires to MMC over the past 6 months were usually directed away from MMC to one of Countryside Properties’ Public Relations consultants. I understand that MMC and Countryside Properties have often made ‘no comment’ responses to reporters’ enquiries...”

“…Mr Drogan’s reference to ‘Gypsies’ may not have been condoned by Countryside Properties – as we imagine that a national company would take care about not making potentially unsubstantiated ‘off the cuff’ comments about ethnic groups protected under the Race Relations Act. Could the fact that Ms Rigg was able to speak directly to Mr Drogan indicate the start of a split in the relationship between MMC and Countryside Properties?”


Save Spodden Valley campaigner Jason Addy reflects on the way in which politicians from all parties have worked as a team to help address the complex problems in the Spodden Valley:

“As co-ordinator of a strictly apolitical environmental and public health campaign, I hold everyone to their pledge not to make the Spodden Valley a petty, party political issue. As I have said in the Council Chamber, a political rosette is no shield to asbestos cancer. No single party can take the credit, or be criticised, for ensuring safe decisions are made. Asbestos must transcend party politics because too many Rochdalians have, are and will die because of the exposure to asbestos dust and fibre. We are a town united in eliminating the risk of further cancer deaths from asbestos from the Spodden Valley”.

“The past few months have demonstrated this resolve: There has been a smooth transition from our Labour to Liberal Democrat MP in Rochdale. Asbestos and the Woodlands Rd bridleway were topics discussed in Paul Rowen’s first parliamentary surgery - and we have seen the results”

“Asbestos in the Spodden Valley was the topic of Paul Rowen’s Maiden Speech and the subject of an adjournment debate. Paul has proven to be a man of action. The adjournment debate was also an opportunity to show that neighbouring MP Jim Dobbin, whose constituents may also be affected by the Spodden Valley, can stand shoulder to shoulder to defend the health and safety of the whole community. Party politics doesn’t come into it and everybody appreciates that.”

In emphasising cross-party support Jason Addy goes on to say:

“Credit must go to many local councillors from all political parties…

…These ward councillors include - Ann Metcalf – has taken a keen interest and has given invaluable advice from the very beginning of the campaign- this was done at the height of her co-ordinating the Scout Moor Windfarm campaign.”

“I am sure that even the developers will agree that Tom Stott, a former TBA worker Chairs the TBA Working Party meetings with aplomb. Angie Robinson has pursued, together with other councillors, the important questions about open lorries taking asbestos factory rubble onto the streets of Rochdale”.

“Elwyn Watkins, Wera and William Hobhouse have always displayed commitment passion and energy on the issues of health and safety”.

“Councillors who were not officially part of the Working Party have attended and contributed to meetings –especially Alan Taylor, Paul Rowen- when Leader of the Council, and Ian Duckworth- somebody who has first-hand knowledge of just how dusty the TBA factory was in the late 1960’s”.


“This campaign and the important issues it raises quickly went past Township level: the health and safety issues are being debated in fully attended Rochdale Borough Council meetings”.

“There is a concerted lobbying campaign for the Office of Deputy Prime Minister and Government Office for the North West to ‘Call-In’ the planning application. MEPs are aware of the issues in Brussels, as is a committee of the United Nations International Labour Organisation.

So the report of unblocking a bridleway is yet another piece of a jigsaw that shows through teamwork, safe decisions can be made and rights enforced. The whole community will be judging what happens next”.

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