HANDS off our open space - that was the stark warning from demonstrators campaigning against a “devastating attack” on land in Hindley Green.
The ‘Save Our Borough’ group used the penultimate day of the Wigan Core Strategy public inquiry to warn of the damaging effect that a massive new housing plan would have on the quality of life of existing residents.
It was the latest salvo in their year long battle against the Northleigh Regeneration scheme which could eventually encompass as many as 1000 new homes along with industrial units on former colliery areas which has regenerated over the decades as a green buffer zone between communities.
They are concerned that some of the land will be re-classified from green belt to brown land which will make it considerably easier for developers to win planning permission.
Government planning inspector Kevin Ward is expected to report back by Easter on whether the council’s strategy is sound or must go back before councillors and planners for more reconsideration.
In a submission to the inquiry long standing environmental campaigner John Vickers told the inquiry being held at Wigan Investment Centre that there were no key benefits with the project
And he accused the council of attempting to hide a scheme of ‘great magnitude’ under the smokescreen of a wide ranging public inquiry in an attempt to water down opposition. Speaking on behalf of Save Our Borough, Mr Vickers said that there was no provision in the Core Strategy for a housing development on the site for a massive as 1000 homes and as such it must not be included in the final framework document.
Mr Vickers claimed: “There are no key benefits for such a large development.
“The surrounding areas are already saturated with unused industrial units that are left empty to become unattractive and depreciate.
“The area has many empty properties either for sale or for rent and many of these are on two of the latest developments in the area Gadbury Fold and Abram’s Park Lane Abram, so why do the council insist we need more houses if all these properties are available? This development would have a devastating effect on the green and open space.
“Residents in surrounding areas have used this space for recreation for 40 years and more and the area is overflowing with a wide variety of thriving plant and wildlife.
“There are many beautiful varieties of plant life in the area as well as butterflies, insects and birds.
“While residents use this site for many recreational activities, walking, exercising dogs, horse riding and even just relaxing are devastated to think that this beautiful area could be destroyed.
“The government make statements about people being too busy spending too much time indoors, yet councils want to remove what little spaces there are left to utilise for such activities.
“This area offers tranquillity and peace to all its users in an area where there are little of these places left to enjoy.”
Save Our Borough say that the surrounding areas of the development are already so built up” that removing and develop more land taking away soft open drainage ground will also increase the flooding risks in the area.
Transport implications of such a development, they say, would be “phenomenal” because the existing infra structure can’t cope with the existing level of traffic.
Cars and lorries are currently backed up for a mile or more to the traffic lights at Smiths Lane, the Inspector heard, at rush hour because it is already one of the busiest routes in the borough.
They told Government Inspector Mr Ward that existing empty factory unit space like the giant former Ingersoll Rand compressor complex off Swan Lane in Hindley Green or the former Turner Brothers site of Leigh Road should be put back into productive use, before more open land is swallowed up for development.