Councillors claim communities will disappear

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COUNCILLORS have criticised plans to build on the green belt currently separating two Wigan communities.

And in their final submission as part of the Core Strategy consultation, they today insisted that allowing home builders onto previously sacrosanct open land would harm urban development.

They were hitting out after the council’s revised draft plan - ordered by the Government after they decided it needed to find new space for 2,500 homes by 2026 - proposed potentially removing the long term green belt protection from open land which currently defines the boundaries between one of Europe’s biggest private housing estates in Winstanley/Hawkley Hall and the conurbation of Ashton/ Bryn.

They will later present the submission as evidence to the reconvened Strategy public inquiry which will sit again in February.

In a submission to Wigan’s Places Director Gillian Bishop, councillors Paul Kenny, Clive Morgan and Rona Winkworth state that it is essential that a Core Strategy for the Borough is adopted. Not to do so will leave the council subject to speculative planning applications and with little influence in adopting improvements to infrastructure and planned regeneration.

In their submission they say: “There is a strong policy presumption against new development in the green belt and to remove this status would not accord with the Draft Core Strategy and we note that if the council were to progress this option then it would not be able to adopt the strategy, which is a perverse position for the council.

“We don’t accept that any exceptional circumstances exist at the present time to remove green belt status when there is sufficient safeguarded land identified within the existing development plan for the borough.”

They claim that removing green belt status for the land would cause “demonstrable harm” by giving rise to urban sprawl.

The statement continues: “The sites are the community’s green space and they are used and valued by the surrounding townships, contributing to the health and wellbeing of the local community and the loss would be felt deeply and is unacceptable.

“The gap between Wigan and Ashton is already narrow and the proposals would result in a reduction that would make it ineffective. While urban renewal policies are given little chance to be effective if development is allowed on alternative green field sites in the urban fringe. 

“It can be easier to start afresh on a green field site than to take the preferred sustainable development route and improve existing, albeit sometimes difficult sites, already allocated for development.”

Coun Paul Kenny said: “While I accept that the council has been forced by the Government appointed inspector to consider all available options, the fact remains there is a strong policy presumption against development in the green belt. The council has confirmed that sufficient safeguarded land exists to meet this shortfall identified by the inspector.”