Here I am in the place I call home, Its green, rural and rugged. The stone cottages punctuate the great big green hills and I think in summer there are few places more beautiful.
So what is Saddleworth? It is a number of small villages built along the valley bottoms in the South Pennines all with rather strange sounding names. I live in a village called Diggle (names don’t come much more stranger than that).
So why do I think Saddleworth is so special.
I was brought up in a small mill town called Royton which was a place full of terraced houses, large cotton Mills and lots and lots of cobbled streets with lots and lots of people living on top of each other.
However my summers were spent in the Cotswolds at my Aunty and Uncles playing on the farm with my cousins. Even now I can still smell the fresh cut hay from when we used to help with the haymaking.
So when I got married as soon as we had the opportunity I moved to Saddleworth which was the closest thing to rural living I could afford without moving jobs.
I have lived here over 30 years so I must enjoy living here. We have raised a couple of kids who in turn have had families and are now trying to get on to the housing ladder in the area, which is becoming an almost impossible thing to do.
In the thirty years we have lived here it has changed immeasurably. New housing estates have been built and families have come and raised there kids just like we did but it’s getting harder and harder to do that.
Saddleworth as a whole is becoming more gentrified, we have coffee shops (and very good they are too). We have Gastro Pubs with fantastic food. But there is a downside to this.
House prices have risen above what an average family can afford and the Council want to build another 2000 houses in the area over the next twenty years all in the higher council tax bands to increase revenue.
You can imagine our narrow lanes and roads are already groaning under the strain of all the traffic and the doctors and schools are bursting at the seams.
It’s only when people start complaining about the issues the real problems start.
No one wants to change the charming olde worldliness of the area but everyone wants to park outside their own front doors.
They want public transport to be available when they want to use it but prefer using their own vehicles because it is more convenient.
People don’t want large scale developments of high cost housing but they don’t want affordable housing either because it might impact on the value of our properties.
So this is the dilemma of living in Rural England, we chose to live in the countryside because it offers us a lifestyle that we like and we don’t want it to change.
But everything changes with time and no doubt during the next twenty years we will have built over some very nice green hills and what attracted us to the area in the first place will be lost forever.
So here is my view, we need to build on land that has been built on before, brownfield sites and there are many all over Oldham. This is not me being a not in my backyard type, this is me not wanting what we have to be destroyed in the name of progress.
We do need affordable housing because I don’t want our villages to become old folks communities because families can’t afford to move here.
I want affordable housing to be built on brownfield sites rather than the half a Million Pound Houses that are currently being built on green fields.
Now is that a lot to ask!