Councillors reject Joining Jack plans

Jack Johnson with parents Alex and Andy
Jack Johnson with parents Alex and Andy

WIGAN councillors have rejected a planning bid for a purpose built house to aid youngster Jack Johnson.

The Johnson family had hoped to develop land on Leyland Mill Farm because of its location close to Wigan Infirmary, planning documents revealed.

But local authority officers said the new build would breach regulations because it is on green belt land.

And at a planning committee meeting held today (Tuesday), councillors backed officers as all 11 rejected the proposals.

Seven-year-old Jack suffers from the incurable condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and is the figurehead of the Joining Jack charity which raises funds for research into the condition.

The plans were for “a mixed one and two storey dwelling” which would have met Jack’s “personal needs...and will permit a level of independence for him as he grows up.”

The application was submitted by parents Alex and former Wigan Warriors star Andy, who were both present at the meeting, for land separate to the farm building on Hall Lane.

But, according to council documents, nine neighbouring properties had submitted letters of objection to the council, some of whom also attended today.

They cited access, parking and congestion issues among their concerns.

And building on green belt land requires “very special circumstances” which “have not been demonstrated in this instance to outweigh the identified harm to the green belt” the report added.

The Johnson’s proposals stated their current property is not suitable for Jack’s needs “while the proposed property will be designed specifically for this purpose.”

Adding: “There will be minimal impact on the openness of the green belt and the location will provide a stimulating environment for Jack to continue his interests in ornithology and photography.”

In conclusion, officers identified that the application is a sensitive one given that “the Johnson family have strong Wigan links.”

But despite taking the needs of the Johnson family into consideration, officers recommended to the committee that the “proposed dwelling would result in poor outlook from neighbouring properties and their gardens and significantly fail to enhance or preserve the historic character of the Wigan Lane conservation area.”

Further adding: “It would represent inappropriate development...including conflict with the green belt objectives.”

Officer Graham Dickman told the meeting today: “The issues are very clear-cut in planning policy terms,this does not represent appropriate development,”

Councillors on the committee also voiced their concerns.

Coun Janice Sharratt said: “We can’t base our decision on the needs of a disabled child we have to consider the green belt issue.”

Coun Stephen Hellier added: “We are the guardians of the green belt in Wigan and we must consider precedence in this case. I will support the refusal.”

After all 11 councillors on the committtee rejected the proposals, chair Coun Paul Prescott expressed his sympathy to the family but added that “green belt policy cannot be ignored.”