Anger at Green Belt home plans

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FURIOUS residents have slammed plans by Wigan Council to build thousands of new homes in Leigh, including on Green Belt land.

The council’s Core Strategy, which aims to set out how the local authority is going to meet the borough’s housing needs into the future, proposed building houses at sites across the town, including releasing safeguarded land off Pocket Nook Lane in Lowton and Rothwell’s Farm and Stone Cross Lane in Golborne for development.

However, the council has now revealed further land could also be released for building after the government inspector leading a consultation into the Core Strategy said there was a shortfall of land provided in the original document and space had to be found for around 2,500 homes.

In response to this, two sites of Green Belt land near Bedford High School and off Hootens Lane have been identified as an option for future building.

In addition, the report proposes adding safeguarded land at Coldalhurst Lane in Astley to the list of sites for potential future development, together with around 60 hectares of land south of Atherton.

Although the council report clearly states the Leigh land would require exceptional circumstances to be built on as it is not big enough to meet the housing land shortfall on its own and is not a preferred option, the inclusion of the Green Belt sites in the consultation has provoked anger from residents.

Local enviromental campaigner Peter Bowdler said: “My main concern is where traffic from an estate of that size is going to go. The Hootens Lane estate will have to go on to Warrington Road which is a nightmare in the morning now, and a lot more traffic in front of Bedford High School will put our kids’ safety at risk.

“We just have not got the infrastructure to cope with it. I also don’t understand why they want to build more and more new houses when there are hundreds of empty houses and thousands of feet of industrial space which no one wants, so why not use some of that rather than just consuming more and more land?”

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “The Green Belt is for everyone to enjoy, not those people who are lucky enough to live adjacent to it, and if it goes, it will be gone forever.

When the consultation closes, if there have been very few responses, the independent inspector will no doubt assume that no-one cares about the Green Belt in Leigh, and it will be an easy target.

“The so-called consultation being conducted is woefully inadequate. It has consisted of sending a vague letter to a handful of residents who live adjacent to the sites, and putting up those tiny notices close to the sites for the public to see. This lack of publicity means that the majority of people are not even aware of the proposals, let alone the consultation.”

The council consultation on the Core Strategy land shortfall closes on September 11. To view the proposals or comment, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/Services/Planning/Policies/DevelopmentFramework or visit Leigh Library to see the documents.