Diggle Community Association’s fight to prevent Diggle Village Green from being developed for housing has received a boost, thanks to the support of award-winning journalist and popular television presenter John Stapleton.
The Green, a small plot just opposite Diggle Chippy, has been a recreational space for residents since the 1920s and the focus for community events but has now been identified as a development opportunity by its current owners. First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) wants to build two new houses on the site, arguing that more affordable housing is needed across the Borough.
The DCA has campaigned vigorously against FCHO’s plans and have applied to have the land registered officially as a village green. When he became aware of the threat to the green John, who grew up on Spurn Lane in Diggle, said: ‘The application to apply for village green status has my whole-hearted support. Like members of generation after generation I loved playing in that area and feel strongly that it should be kept green’. John has fond recollections of the annual bonfire-night celebrations on the green. These events were typical of the valuable role the land played in the past in fostering a sense of community in the village, a role it continues to play through its informal use and as the setting for the annual Christingle service and Christmas light switch-on, which are now held there.
Oldham Metropolitan Borough’s Commons Registration Committee will decide on whether the land can be registered in October. Although the DCA has always agreed there is a need for more affordable housing in the village, it argues that this is not an appropriate site as development here would lead to the loss of valuable green space in the heart of the village, a recreational amenity and a vital part of the village’s heritage and community identity.
FCHO, meanwhile, have effectively implied, in recent statements concerning the land, that Diggle village doesn’t exist and is not a meaningful community. These astonishing and absurd claims are part of tortuous legal arguments, in which lawyers acting for FCHO state there is no ‘entity known to law as Diggle’ and that the village is ‘not a cohesive entity that would be understood by those living in the area as their “neighbourhood”’ in their objection to the village green application. When informed of FCHO’s claims John Stapleton remarked: ’As for claims that Diggle isn’t really a village well that is, frankly, just plain ludicrous’.
FCHO have tried to justify such assertions on the grounds that only people from a small part of the village ever use the land, but a survey conducted in December demonstrated that residents from all over Diggle identify themselves as users of it. Such remarks by the developers are the latest indication of the apparent indifference to local opinion shown by FCHO, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of Diggle residents regard the Village Green as a recreational and amenity space for the whole village.