Core Strategy building bid ready for councillors

Map of Pocket Nook Lane, Lowton, showing land proposed for potential future house building in the Core Strategy
Map of Pocket Nook Lane, Lowton, showing land proposed for potential future house building in the Core Strategy

WIGAN’S Green Belt has beaten a building threat, planners confirmed today.

And their master plan for the future development of the borough over the next 15 years - the controversial Core Strategy - also WON’T include Standish which was the scene of noisy demonstrations against inclusion earlier in the summer.

Instead the extra housing land demanded by Government inspector Kevin Ward who halted the public inquiry and demanded a partial re-draft will fall on three sites in Lowton/Golborne, as sources have long suggested.

Plus limited expansion on smaller plots on the ‘East/West Core’ already identified on the existing Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment agreed by the Inspector

More than 700 people had attended the round of consultation meetings with 6,100 making written representations ... one of the biggest in council history.

The Core Strategy required the council to identify enough housing land for private developers to bring forward 1,000 homes a year until 2026 to meet the borough’s projected population growth need.

But the Government halted the process in Wigan (and a number of other northern authorities) after identifying a shortfall and told it to find extra land to build the equivalent of 2,500 homes.

However, they also raised the ire of conservationists and countryside groups by insisting town hall planners include Wigan’s Green Belt land in the development appraisal - which meant that traditional leafy buffer zone areas such as that between Beech Hill and Standish or between Winstanley and Bryn also came into consideration.

Now planners confirm that the final draft recommendations going before the Cabinet next week, full Council in November and set to be re-tested at the reconvened public inquiry next January/February contain few, if any, surprises. Planners stressed that they were required by Inspector Mr Ward to include the ‘all-options’ in their consultation, which generated an unprecedented response.

But have now come to their conclusions after a careful and painstakingly analysis of the sustainability of the five different options.

Director of Economy Steve Normington said: “The options for releasing Green Belt land for housing were not favoured but were still consulted on since the Inspector expected that to happen.

“Following the consultation and the consideration of the options, it is still the view that there are no exceptional circumstances that can justify the release of this land for housing in and around Wigan or Leigh, because there are sufficient deliverable sites in the borough without the need to release Green Belt land.

“Land safeguarded for future development in the existing Unitary Development Plan should logically be considered before Green Belt as it’s very purpose is to enable Green Belt boundaries to remain unchanged in the longer term.”

Council Head of Planning and Transport Mike Worden said that compared to areas like Standish, the Golborne Lowton sites were “better served” by the roads network and public transport, along with more opportunities to improve them in the future.