Cash cuts and chaos fears

Standish residents
Standish residents

WIGAN will be subjected to a nightmare planning free-for-all if the Core Strategy is not adopted, council officers are warning.

The local authority’s plan to meet the borough’s housing needs until 2026 has been scrutinised by a government-appointed inspector, who proposes building 1,000 houses each on sites in Standish, Lowton and Golborne.

The plans have caused widespread anger among residents and councillors in the areas affected, with complaints about traffic problems and the stress of expanded populations on local services.

But council officers attending a scrutiny committee warned the borough faces a serious funding shortfall if the strategy is found to be unsound – potentially costing Wigan large amounts of development money.

Director of planning Mike Worden said: “The risks of not having a housing plan are huge. Without a Core Strategy we cannot bid for the Community Infrastructure Levy, which will severely hinder our approach to Section 106 funding, and we will lose some of our affordable housing funding too.

“Development proposals will not go away and without a strategy it will be a free-for-all. This is not something the council officers feel we can professionally recommend.”

The council has already taken expert legal advice on the Inspector’s recommendations, which also warned that defying them could lead to the entire Core Strategy’s being declared unsound.

Despite objections to some of the content of the report and the proposals for future house building, councillors said working with planners to mitigate any effects of development would be better than having no framework for considering planning applications.

Conservative councillor James Grundy, for Lowton East ward, said: “Let’s be clear, no strategy does not mean no house-building. No-one wants houses on their doorsteps, but we have got to seriously consider if the risks outweigh the rewards if we reject the Core Strategy.”

Labour councillor Lol Hunt, for Wigan Central ward, said: “The key word here is management of developments on behalf of the borough.

“If we do not do that the free market will do it for us. If we decided to fight it we would be doing so with taxpayers’ money.

“If the infrastructure is not there we can refuse the planning applications, and we have to balance things to get the best possible outcome.”

Council officers will now write to the inspector asking for clarification on his findings, before the final report on the Core Strategy is submitted in July.