Anger at Green Belt plans bid

Blast - Rona Winkworth
Blast - Rona Winkworth

A MASSIVE warehousing plan for Wigan’s precious Green Belt could go ahead, despite a huge public outcry.

A large-scale consultation exercise into a proposal to open up land near Junction 25 of the M6 at Marus Bridge has generated more than 300 objections – and just NINE in favour.

But councillors are still being urged to approve the changes. The recommendation to effectively ride roughshod over public opinion was attacked today by a veteran Labour councillor for Winstanley.

Former Mayor Rona Winkworth blasted the scheme, and the decision to press on, with it despite the level of opposition.

She said: “If we go ahead with this, we appear to be going against the wishes of the local community.

“We ask for their opinion, and then when they give it we are being told to take a decision which is the opposite. Most of the objectors point to the amount of empty warehousing and industrial space across the borough.

“While this site would be attractive, because it is near the motorway, it is still in the Green Belt, and I think that should count for something.”

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The council wants to take more than 40 hectares – about 63 football pitches according to the objectors – out of the Green Belt.

It would pave the way for it to become a new job-boosting warehousing and industrial complex.

Because of the sensitive nature of the bid, it will have to go to Government and a public inquiry before final determination.

The radical scheme is part of the town hall’s new Core Strategy, currently winding through the council.

The warehousing plan was originally targeted at The Bell site, in Orrell, but this was overturned when more than 1,400 residents objected.

Marus Bridge protesters claim that the warehousing scheme will lead to an increase in traffic, congestion, noise, air and land pollution.

They are also concerned about the amount of brownfield land that is already available for redevelopment.

A spokesman for the council said that the Core Strategy was “Wigan Borough’s blueprint” for future development.

The document looks to 2026, and sets out how much new housing, employment and other development land is needed, and where in the borough this will be.

It also covers issues such as how the plan can help improve the borough’s town centres in the future, and how this can help to provide new community facilities.

National planning policy allows changes to the Green Belt in “exceptional circumstances”, where it can be demonstrated that the benefits clearly outweigh the harm that would be caused.

The spokesman said: “A large proportion of the borough’s existing employment accommodation is in poor condition, and not of the right type or specification to meet modern business needs.

“Furthermore, there is a lack of opportunity for high quality logistics development within the borough.

“In addition to poor accessibilty, these are key factors in the borough missing out on key investors in recent years, with B&M Bargains, Asda and Wolseley UK all considering, and then rejecting, Wigan as a destination in favour of Speke, Skelmersdale and Buckshaw respectively.”