WILDLIFE campaigners have hit back at claims that a site earmarked for a massive redevelopment is a public health hazard which requires urgent attention.
The Northleigh site, situated between Hindley Green and Atherleigh Way, could be home to 1,800 houses and industrial units surrounded by green spaces.
Wigan Council says the current open land is contaminated from its former use as a mining site.
However, the Leigh Ornithological Society is the latest body to question the findings in the council’s Local Development Framework, saying the development is a popular space well used by local people and wildlife.
Society officers claim the development will cause widespread environmental damage and destroy valuable wildlife habitats home to hundreds of species, including one of Britain’s most critically endangered birds.
Leigh Ornithological Society conservation officer Roy Rhodes said: “If ever a site was not in need of comprehensive reclamation and remediation, Northleigh is it. The developers depicted what they termed a ‘blighted landscape’ with ‘fly-tipping, unstable ground and contaminated water’. In reality, such areas are very small and comprise less than three per cent of the 70-hectare site.
“Much of the site has already been subjected to successful reclamation and any disturbance of those areas could re-open and redistribute the contents of old tips. The developers’ sudden professed concern for public safety on site is preposterous, given the long history of free-ranging public access.”
A report prepared by the society suggests the council may have to prepare wildlife habitats off site if the plan goes through, which they claim will reduce greenspace in the area by as much as 75 per cent.
The report is also critical of the extent of the planned building works, suggesting the new main road will not be able to cope with the volume of traffic from the new houses and business sites.
The society says positioning of new roads in the development will cut across two major wildlife corridors on the site, and also objects to the likely loss of ponds and hedgerows.
Leigh Ornithological Society’s report states Northleigh is currently home to nine bird species on the UK Red List of endangered animals.
Planning applications for the site are expected to be submitted to Wigan Council within the next few months.