Braying for Wigan donkey plan to be rejected

A new protest walk is to take place around a Wigan community's last piece of green belt amid continuing fears it could be built on.

Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 2:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 2:22 pm
the bell greenbelt development campaigners

There was uproar when the area in Pemberton known as The Bell appeared on the new Greater Manchester Spatial Framework - a blueprint for housing and business development for years to come drawn up by council leaders.

It proposes that planners allow the building of up to 170 homes and thousands of square feet of commercial units on what is largely farmland.

A new road would also be likely, turning the Orrell Road/M6 slip road into a crossroads.

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Supporters of such schemes say that there are simply not enough brownfield sites in the borough to cope with the necessary house-building to give everyone a roof over their heads.

And there is extra pressure on local authorities to welcome new investors because by 2020 they will need to rely far more on business rates than before.

New Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he wants to see green belt avoided wherever possible and sent it back for a re-draft.

That was due to be published in June but it has now been delayed until July and some sources say it could even be September before it sees light of day. That said, few people are expecting The Bell - and another controversial site at Land Gate where a speculative 1,600-job logistics hub planning application was submitted only weeks ago - not to appear again.

Gillian Morris, whose farm on Latham Lane, Kitt Green, would be engulfed by the aforementioned homes and businesses, is completely against the scheme.

Her family has worked the land there for generations, famously winters the Blackpool beach donkeys, and she says she has no intention of selling up.

They have been at the forefront of protests in the past - including a packed out public meeting at St Francis of Assisi church with local MPs and councillors 18 months ago - and organised a protest walk around the boundary of the threatened site last year.

Now she has planned another one.

She said: “The intention for holding it in June was because it would be a reminder just before the new draft framework came out of just how high feelings still are and that the objections have not gone away.

“Now it turns out that it could be several months more before it does, but we have decided to press ahead with it.

“It will start at 1pm from the farm, head onto Spring Road, up Gathurst Road, down Ormskirk Road to City Road and along Bell Lane back to the farm.

“We will be handing out protest car stickers along the way.

“For those who would struggle to make the full journey we would be quite happy if they joined us for just a bit of the way and then get a lift.”

The publication of the second draft will be followed by a 12-week consultation.

On the delay Mr Burnham said: “The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is vital for the success of our city region and represents our best chance to solve the housing crisis.

“It will be a bold, ambitious plan to ensure that we have the right homes and jobs in the right places, and the transport connections and infrastructure to support developments.

“So we need to make sure that this plan is as good as it can be before we ask Greater Manchester people what they think of it.

“Therefore we’ve revised the timetable for publication to do the additional work necessary to set out a clear vision for the future.

“This also demonstrates to the public that we are taking account of the issues raised during the recent local elections.”