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The Alternative? 5 Oaken Clough Terrace

5 Oaken Clough Terrace, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, was bought by Mrs. Burlinson in the early 1990s as a means of continuing a conservation project which started in the nearby house where she lived with her husband. With the two houses acquired, she first built a large pond to host the great crested newt, a protected species from the Salamandridae family. This led, according to the information from the Medlock and Tame Valley Association Conservation website, “to the area's listing as a Site of Biological Importance in 2004” (

In 5 Oaken Clough Terrace, Mrs. Burlinson aimed to recreate the optimal environment for a wide variety of wildlife to exist and develop. In order to continue the conservation project, Mrs. Burlinson handed over responsibility for the garden and continuing her work to the Medlock and Tame Valley Conservation Association (MTVCA), a registered charity, which is now headquartered in 5 Oaken Clough Terrace.

The Association was founded in 1971 by like-minded conservationists to protect the Medlock and Tame Valleys. Today, the Association is still actively working to preserve the surrounding natural and historical environments. Together with other Councillors and officials from Oldham, Tameside, Stockport and Manchester, the Association was included in the Joint Valley Committee, which was set up in 1974 by the Greater Manchester Council to monitor the management of the two river valleys. The Medlock and Tame Joint Valley Committee was abolished in 1995 - with responsibility of monitoring the area of the river within its boundaries reverting to each authority. Currently, the Association works with local Leisure Officers, Rangers, Wardens and Voluntary Wardens.

The MTVCA relies on donations via websites such as ‘’ and the ‘’. The members of the Association are also actively involved in the organisation of fundraising events. A membership fee is charged as the main contribution to the financial sustainability of MCTVA.  Whilst dependent on external funds, the socio-environmental projects developed in the house do not have an end date but are a series of ongoing activities. In 2011, for example, the Association secured the funding necessary to develop solar water heating, a solar reflector, a Stirling engine and photovoltaic cells.

The numerous initiatives developed by the Association aim not only to prevent the decline of 5 Oaken Clough Terrace, but also to experiment with alternative and sustainable methods of energy production. In the cellar of the house, for example, an alternative energy workshop has been established. In this space, multiple aims are met; on the one hand, providing a practical demonstration of alternative energy production techniques as an educational resource, and on the other, the ultimate goal of supplying some of the energy for the rest of the house. 

The Association stresses the importance of maintaining and conserving, but also of innovating and demonstrating to explore sustainable options in the Medlock and Tame Valley area. The combination of socio-technical activities prioritises urban sustainability through the transformation of buildings, pieces of land and people’s behaviours to have a more engaged and active community. For example, the installation of solar panels, the creation of a small scale portable wind turbine to recharge AA batteries and the creation of a solar water heating system aim to supply some of the energy to the building but also to strengthen social cohesion. Residents from the nearby houses are also invited to participate in the regular meetings and to reproduce similar activities in their houses. An educational remit is also illustrated, with projects intended to engage with families who live nearby to demonstrate and inform them on the benefits of converting to the use of renewable energy systems. In the newsletter published in April 2011, the Association links the importance of having alternative systems of energy production such as wind power, solar power and hydropower to the creation of a safer environment and of a better quality of life.

An Alternative?

The Association aspires to develop independently innovative community actions at 5 Oaken Clough Terrace and in its surroundings. The Association seeks to self-finance its projects through, for example,  the payment of an annual membership fee. Additionally, the energy produced in the house through experimental and demonstrative practices decreases the Association’s carbon emissions and offers a degree of independence from the national system. The community group has the desire to control and be responsible for the conservation and maintenance of:

the environment in the Medlock and Tame Valleys and the surrounding districts, both urban and rural […], flora and fauna […] of structures of architectural or archaeological interest and the prevention of litter, pollution and damage to amenities in the Medlock and Tame Valleys [...], of the house and garage at No. 5 Oaken Clough Terrace [and] of the land associated with No. 5 Oaken Clough Terrace as a wildlife garden.


The development, on a small scale, of community projects goes hand in hand with the development of sustainable policies and agendas on a bigger scale. The Association hopes that

If we all express our concern about current policies that affect our world, then politicians seeking election will have to take note and make these issues priorities in their future manifestos.


While on a wider level the Association urges the intervention of the Government to use their resources for the development of more sustainable cities, on a more local level, MTVCA seeks to build an active community which approaches urban sustainability differently.

In this small corner of England we can make a difference, to protect and provide habitat and an environment where the fauna and flora of the Medlock and Tame Valleys can thrive and multiply for future generations to enjoy.

This example of community-led projects show the aspiration for the creation of greener futures for cities and an improved quality of life for the local residents of the area around Medlock and Tame Valley, giving shape to an innovative and engaging new urban space in Greater Manchester. 

Find out more:
Sources:  Publicly available information online. This profile has been written drawing on work carried out through the EPSRC funded ‘Urban Retrofit’ project.

What’s ‘The Alternative?’

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

Disclaimer: The article has been put together using publicly available information and online sources as part of a larger ongoing research project. The author has no responsibility for the content or accuracy of those sites.


Image of "Larval Great Crested Newt Close Up" by Sam Dredge via Flickr.
Image of "Great Crested Newt" by Mike Richardson and Sarah Winch via Flickr.