Masterplan could finally get a town hall debate

Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Town Hall

A controversial major jobs and housing masterplan may be discussed by councillors next week despite being left off the full council agenda.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is conspicuous by its absence from the running order for the first town hall meeting of 2017.

A public consultation on the plans - which council chiefs say will be “massive” for the borough - has been extended until later this month.

Coun Mike Winstanley, leader of the opposition (pictured), said the GMSF is one of the biggest issues for the borough in recent decades, adding it was “strange” it was not on the agenda.

His Conservative group members therefore plan to propose an emergency motion in a bid for it to be discussed by the chamber next Wednesday.

He told the Evening Post: “I think the GMSF will be the biggest decision this council will face for the last 30 years.

“I have been inundated with people voicing their concerns about the plans and I find it very strange that it’s not on the agenda.

“I understand that the consultation is still ongoing having been extended, but that doesn’t mean councillors shouldn’t be able to discuss these potential major plans in their communities at this stage.”

The GMSF, details of which were revealed by town hall bosses late in 2016, proposes several development sites across the borough slated to bring 25,000 houses and 15,000 jobs as part of over-arching plans spread across Greater Manchester.

It has attracted criticism, however, from residents and borough MPs who have voiced concerns about its encroachment on to greenbelt land, environmental and infrastructure impacts plus fears over the way the consultation is being conducted.

One of the earmarked sites causing particular consternation is Pemberton’s only remaining piece of greenbelt known locally as The Bell.

There are propsals that planners be allowed to build up to 170 homes and thousands of square feet of commerical units on what is largely farmland.

Some landowners have shown a willingness to give up the land but the Morris family on Latham Lane, who have run a farm there for generations, want to stay put.

Last week they again played host to the traditional St Francis of Assisi nativity procession which uses the donkeys from Blackpool, who winter at their farm.

Large crowds gathered for the procession from church to stable and the usually festive mood was tempered by the feelings that all this could be lost should the framework be approved in its present form.

A large Save Our Greenbelt sign dominated the background of the nativity procession.

The agenda for next week’s meeting does not include the GMSF as one of its topics for discussion although the plans may come up when cabinet members are asked to update the chamber on their various portfolios.

However, Coun Winstanley has said if the issues are raised in this way it would not give opposition members chance to properly discuss residents’ concerns.

He said: “If the cabinet members speak on it we would not be able to respond in the same way as when an subject is raised as a separate motion. That is what we are proposing, so we can have the debate an issue like this deserves.”

During a Westminster debate in December, Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said the plans had caused a ‘feeding frenzy’ among developers who want to build on greenbelt.

Ms Fovargue and colleague Lisa Nandy MP chaired a public meeting in Kitt Green last month about the plans.

The case for backing the plans has been laid out by deputy council leader Coun David Molyneux (pictured) who insists tough decisions need to be made to ensure a “prosperous future” for the next generations of Wiganers.

The consultation period on the GMSF has been extended to January 16, visit: www.wigan.gov.uk/gmsf