Fears allayed for anxious landowners

Coun James Grundy at the site of the controversial plans
Coun James Grundy at the site of the controversial plans

Borough landowners who fear that their land could be bought against their will and flattened to make way for houses and factories, have been told that decisions could be made “case by case”.

Farmers and private landowners at Pocket Nook Lane in Lowton and a site south of Pennington have been up in arms after reportedly being told at a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework consultation meeting that they will be bought out by compulsory purchase orders if they refuse to sell their plots.

The concerns were voiced by Lowton East Conservative councillor James Grundy at a “question time” session with Mayor of Greater Manchester and former Leigh MP Andy Burnham.

He said: “We want to know why the council are threatening local landowners with compulsory purchases if they are not willing to sell to developers.

“We are really concerned about that. We want assurance that compulsory purchasing powers will not be used to force out local landowners.”

Andy Burnham responded quickly to the question, saying that he did not feel it was “right” for people to be forced to sell their land against their wishes.

“I don’t think people should have moral pressure forced upon them,” he said. “If they don’t want to sell, they don’t want to sell.

“If that views comes through the consultation, it should be listened to. It’s not a false consultation, I want to stress this to everyone. It’s not about ‘we are going through the motions’.

“I think it needs to be looked at case by case. Some people can own ransom strips or small bits.

“If someone has land that’s part of a site that has been identified and they are adamant they don’t want to sell, I don’t think it can be right then that pressure is forced upon them because of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.”

Coun Grundy said that although he feels “heartened” that landowners may not be forced to sell up and move on, he feels that the oversight of residents’ wishes could result in an “undeliverable” plan.

“Landowners were not consulted,” he said. “They found out about this via social media. There was no direct communication.

“We are not happy that the suggestion is if you don’t play ball we will just seize your land.

“But it is heartening to hear that the authorities seems to have backed away from that.

“But why are we putting forward plans for land that isn’t available?

“How has this plan come so far without forward thinking on it?

“We are putting forward a plan when we haven’t even spoken to each other about it, how is it deliverable at all?”

More than 2,100 people have already had their say on Greater Manchester’s Plan for homes, jobs and the environment, with dozens of residents and partners attending engagement events.

The consultation for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework opened last month and runs until March 18.