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LEADING community figures have defended regeneration proposals for a large area of Hindley Green and Westleigh which are being opposed by residents.

The Northleigh Park Development, set out in the council’s Local Development Framework as a Key Strategic Site, proposes an extensive redevelopment stretching from the junction of Leigh Road and Atherton Road in Hindley Green to the Abbey Lane estate, including nearly 2,000 homes, industrial units and green spaces.

Site owners say the land requires urgent redevelopment due to the hazards posed to local residents by past mining activity, stating they have “growing concerns” for any members of the public accessing the site in its current state.

The site has previously been used both for opencast coal mining and for sandstone and clay quarrying, leaving shallow mine workings, mine shafts and colliery spoil tips across the area.

Developers also claim the site contains further dangers from years of illegal fly-tipping and land-filling.

In addition to providing around 1,800 new homes and a number of industrial units, the development also contains proposals for a number of green corridors and open spaces running through the area.

The site would also become part of the Greenheart network of open land maintained.

The plans are being contested by the Save Our Borough campaign formed by local residents, who say the plans are unnecessary, damaging to a number of significant wildlife habitats, and would place excessive strain on the local infrastructure.

However, a number of prominent Leigh residents and members of Wigan Council have come forward to contest the campaign’s objections and rally public support for the redevelopment work.

Council Head of Planning Mike Worden said: “The principal developer, North Leigh Park Group, is aware of the need to do this work as part of the overall development of the site.

“The developer, who has a track record in dealing with former mining sites, is working closely with the relevant agencies including the council’s Environmental Protection team.”

Andrew Darron, executive director at environmental regeneration charity Groundwork, said: “Wigan and Leigh’s Greenheart Regional Park is a remarkable environmental asset right on our doorstep. It provides space for local people to explore, to breathe, and to connect with nature, and is an excellent example of how, with the right intervention, post industrial land can become valuable, productive space once again.

“It is crucial that Leigh continues to regenerate itself, and that Greenheart is used to support this regeneration. However, any regeneration must be carefully planned, and must add value to the Greenheart legacy.”

Leigh Centurions CEO Trevor Barton also backed the proposals. He said: “The proposed regeneration of the site in North West Leigh is important on two levels: firstly, it deals with the contamination of Leigh’s toxic industrial past and secondly, it will create a thriving community of homes, commercial buildings and green spaces for generations to come.”