Step forward for plan

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PLANS for an ambitious project to transform a former industrial site has taken a massive step forward after conditional approval was granted.

Wigan Council’s planning committee said the Northleigh development, which will see 75 hectares of land between Westleigh and Hindley Green turned into around 1800 new homes, industrial units, parks and wildlife areas, could go ahead as long as a list of conditions were met.

The planners, who unanimously passed the motion, told the developers behind the proposals, North Leigh Park Group, they would also be subject to a Section 106 agreement which lays down criteria they must meet at every stage of the construction process in order to be allowed to continue.

The plans also include a new link road to Atherleigh Way, a wildlife corridor running throughout the site and a network of footpaths to promote cycling and walking, as well as the development of further nature habitats at Pickley Green to compensate for loss of habitat caused by the building works.

Town planner Paul Jarvis, who represented the developers, said: “This is a unique opportunity in a time of economic uncertainty and is crucial to the council’s regeneration plans.

“The development will allow people to access new work opportunities and the sort of jobs essential to a 21st century, knowledge-based economy, while the road will act as a vital trigger to unlocking the potential of the borough and a valuable commercial corridor.”

The plans drew strong criticism from residents, with 170 letters of objection being submitted to the council and Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue stepping in to express her concerns about the impact of the work.

Representatives from the Save Our Borough campaign were among those who spoke in opposition to the plans at Wigan town hall, saying the local infrastructure would be unable to cope with the increased population moving into the area and the project would lead to significant environmental damage.

There were also objections raised that the development could not go through as the plans for North Leigh were part of the Core Strategy, which has now been suspended, and that the case for making the site safe after its industrial use was inconsistent.

Speaker John Vickers said: “There is no definitive information available on the issue of sustainability, and despite being told that it will encourage cycling and walking the plans include more than 3,000 parking spaces, a huge amount of vehicles impacting on the local roads.

“During the course of the submissions we have gone from an orange pond so contaminated it was dangerous for anything dipping its toes in to only five per cent of material requiring removal, and from dangers in various sites to being able to build houses on the quarries.”

The proposals will now need to be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit for consideration, before a final delegated decision will be taken whether to grant planning permission.