Homes fight stepped up

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RESIDENTS are stepping up their efforts to ensure Green Belt land in Leigh is protected after areas in the borough were listed in Wigan Council’s Core Strategy as possible housing sites.

Land near Bedford High School and to the east of Hooten Gardens, near the Bridgewater Canal, has been earmarked as potential sites for future development after the government inspector assessing the Core Strategy documents said there was a significant shortfall in the amount of land allocated for housing.

Although the documents state it is extremely unlikely the sites will be used as they will be too small to meet the entire shortfall and the Council remains strongly opposed to building on Green Belt sites, the prospect of future construction on the two sites has provoked fury from locals.

Around 20 residents have formed the Butts Bridge campaign group to ensure the sites are protected, and are asking for the consultation on the housing options to be extended and for drop-in sessions to be arranged so residents can make their views known.

John Holmes, one of the Butts Bridge campaigners, said: “The overwhelming response here is one of anger because people feel the council are trying to slip it under the radar by not giving us a meeting or sending out letters.

“I’m worried that the sites will be built on eventually, because they are on the shortlist of options. Once they start building on Hooten Gardens there’s no reason to stop, and there’s more fields behind it.

“More and more people are using the towpath and walking their dogs along the canal and in those fields, and they remark on how beautiful the countryside here is. The whole area is a hidden gem and we need to preserve the Green Belt for future generations to enjoy.

“I also don’t understand why the council want to build more houses when there are hundreds of empty properties they could buy up and renovate, and there are also lots of brownfield sites that would look better if they were turned into housing.

“People are just shocked that the council would even think of building here.”

Fellow campaigner Andrea Rostron, who is also a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), says the site is also an important place for wildlife.

She said: “We’ve had peregrine falcons successfully raising their chicks here for years, and I often see them hunting over the fields and catching partridges.

“We’ve also got herons, kingfishers, little owls, cormorants, and lapwings breed successfully here while they’re declining. There’s also a very healthy hare population.

“In autumn and winter we also get a couple of hundred geese roosting in the fields, which is a spectacular sight. I am sure there are much better places to build than here.”

The Butts Bridge campaigners hope the consultation, which is currently set to close on September 11, will be extended for a few weeks, and that a drop-in meeting can be arranged. To view the housing proposals and comment on them, visit http://wigan-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/pp/core_strategy/csoash

For more information about the campaign, visit www.buttsbridge.com