Farmers won’t budge over greenbelt plan

One of the Morris donkeys at The Bell

One of the Morris donkeys at The Bell

Wigan farmers plan to make a stand against any plans to build on their greenbelt land.

The recently published draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework - a blueprint recommending where councils should allow house and business-building - and one area identified in Wigan is land at Kitt Green.

There are proposals to build 170 houses and 150,000m sq of employment space, but Gillian Morris, whose Latham House Farm right in the middle of the site says she has no intention of selling up.

She said: “We have been to one of the town hall’s consultation meetings and they did not rule out compulsory purchase orders. We have always said we want to keep the land because it has been in the family for three generations and we want to hand it over to our children. We understand other landowners nearby are willing to sell but from day one we’ve stated we’re happy to stay.”

The farm, run by Mrs Morris and husband Jimmy, homes donkeys used at Blackpool beach in the summer months as well as other farm animals. The pair and other residents have formed The Bell Greenbelt Development Group to oppose the plans. Mrs Morris added: “We’ve got a lot of people who are backing us on this. They feel strongly about land being taken out of greenbelt. We just don’t know if we’re going to be forced out or not.”

The GMSF, which is currently subject to a public consultation, proposes to create 25,000 houses across the borough and 15,000 jobs by 2035.

Mike Worden, assistant director for planning and transport, said: “There is a long way to go on finalising which areas should be released from the Green Belt as part of the GMSF process. At this stage we are seeking the views of the public on the proposals. We are talking to some landowners on the sites, and over the next few months will have more detailed conversations with more of the landowners across the borough. It will be necessary for us to assess fully how each site can be brought forward and what hurdles have to be overcome to enable that to happen. Compulsory purchase powers exist to help deliver any planning scheme if they are necessary, but only as a last resort.”

A series of drop-in sessions is being held for the public to find out more about the plan and to share their views. The remaining ones are: The Grange Centre, Winstanley, November 24 4pm to 8pm; and the Turnpike Centre, Leigh, December 8 3pm to 7pm. To take part in the consultation, which runs to December 23, visit: www.wigan.gov.uk/gmsf