Angry locals seek to block plan to plunder green belt

Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Forvargue address a packed meeting about The Bell under threat from developers

Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Forvargue address a packed meeting about The Bell under threat from developers

A church was filled to overflowing as hundreds of residents voiced their angry protest over development plans for their precious open spaces.

The draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework - a document mapping out areas which would in future be suitable for new homes and businesses - has identified green belt land at Kitt Green known as The Bell.

There are proposals to build 170 houses and 150,000m sq of employment space after some, but not all, of the landowners there offered up the fields for consideration and already some developers have expressed an interest.

Residents have been here before: similar plans were tabled five years ago, there was a torrent of objections and the plan was thrown out.

But the locals have found themselves back at square one now and feelings were high as Wigan and Makerfield MPs Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue hosted a public meeting at St Francis of Assisi CE Church on City Road. Such was the interest that the start had to be delayed as residents queued to squeeze in.

The most passionate speech came from farmer Gillian Morris who is refusing to sell up her land which sits in the middle of the development site on Latham Lane. She said her family had been there for generations and wanted her children to carry on the tradition.

Ms Nandy said there was a raft of reasons why the community should stand against the proposals including the significant loss of green belt; extra traffic problems when local roads were already struggling to cope; the removal of views from existing homes; air pollution (Ms Fovargue pointed out that Greater Manchester is already breaching its air quality levels and the council will be fined for it if it continues or gets worse); serious effects on wildlife.

One speaker said that the extra homes would also impact on already over-stretched schools and doctors’ surgeries; another pointed out that Spring Road is already prone to flooding in bad weather, members of the Morris family being the only people to help rescue a stranded motorist recently when the fire brigade and council couldn’t be raised, and this would get worse with extra buildings on the site.

Several others doubted the employment value of building ugly big warehouses on the land. and it was also cited that there were sufficient brownfield sites dotted around the borough for this green belt not to be needed.

Everyone attending - upwards of 300 - were exhorted by the MPs to write individual letters of protest.