A mixed reaction to new planning rules

Sandyforth, Winstanley, former opencast site
Sandyforth, Winstanley, former opencast site

WIGAN would now be home to the biggest tip in the region under the Government’s controversial new planning laws.

Former Makerfield MP and Labour Government high flyer Ian McCartney has condemned the changes and believes that the new ‘presumption in favour of development’ will weaken community defence of remaining open spaces from unwanted destruction.

And there are warnings that the revisions could make the battle to save greenbelt land around M6 Junction 25 from warehousing even more difficult.

However a spokesman for the Federation of Master Builders said the announcement will help to kick start the economic recovery by leading to a building and construction boom creating thousands of new jobs.

Council head of planning Mike Worden said: “The publication of the National Planning Policy Framework was long awaited and the final version includes some fundamental changes from the draft consulted on last year. It strikes a balance between growth and protection. The system remains plan-led and we have consulted on our Core Strategy which we want to see lead the growth and regeneration of our borough.”

Former Cabinet Minister in the Blair Government Mr McCartney, who retired from Parliament in 2010, says that helping to defeat an application to “restore” the cavernous failed opencast mine at Sandyforth by turning it into a tip for the whole of Greater Manchester was one of his proudest accomplishments.

He now believes that it would have been much more difficult to have stopped the huge hole from becoming a massive landfill scheme for decades if the Coalition’s new development blueprint had been in place.

The former planning guidance which strengthened council policy also helped to save the Wigan Flashes from becoming a giant legal rubbish dump for Greater Manchester County.

It is now a site of scientific interest, while also recognised as one of the north’s most important wetland nature reserves.

He said: “These new planning laws with their presumption in favour of development would have been an absolute disaster for a place like Wigan in the past and leave me very fearful for the future. They gave us a defence about the ability to utilise local circumstances and that is now lost to us.”

However, the Federation of Master Builders is calling for Wigan Council to adopt a “responsible approach” on planning reform.

Spokesman Brian Berry said that it was good that the Government stuck to its guns and carried out its intended reforms to the planning system.

He said: “Over the next five years the gap between demand for housing and the increase in housing supply is going to grow by more than half a million.

“It will be the young in our society who are going to suffer unless we can build new homes for them to live in.

“This is a step in the right direction but in order to build more homes local planning authorities must allocate sufficient financially viable land for the construction of new homes.

“Local authorities, local communities and interest groups need to take a more responsible approach to planning, and to permit the introduction of a system that provides sufficient land to satisfy the needs of our growing population.”