More than 1,200 new homes have been built across Wigan in the past year
An additional 1,276 new homes will have been built in the borough of Wigan over the last 12 months, according to the latest estimates by the council.
Around half of the new homes have been built on brownfield land, with the remaining residential developments on greenfield sites set aside for housing.
Leigh is expected to have the highest number of new homes completed in this financial year, followed by Golborne and Lowton, totalling 507 units altogether.
Abram and Platt Bridge, Standish, Tyldesley and Astley and Wigan North are each estimated to have had more than 100 new homes completed this year.
Around 279 affordable homes have been built, most of which will be rented.
Wigan’s annual housing requirement, which is calculated using a standard methodology set by central government, is currently 905 new homes a year.
But council bosses say the borough has been ‘playing catch-up’ after years of under-delivering, resulting in ‘significant pent-up demand’ for new housing.
Housing manager Lee Payne told a scrutiny committee on Wednesday (March 31) that the council must maintain this level of housebuilding to meet demand.
He said: “It’s clear that we need to maintain our delivery levels at or about where we’ve been for the last three years.
“The last three years we’ve exceeded and we’ve met that annual housing requirement.
“We need to keep that up and we need to continue to deliver at that kind of level.
“We’ve got a very strong focus on delivery of brownfield sites and stalled sites across the borough.
“That needs to continue as far as the schemes that we’re bringing forward.”
Councillors were told that 99 pc of the new homes completed this year meet the need for accommodation with three or fewer bedrooms in the borough.
Four residential developments have been completed directly by the council this year – in Golborne, Hindley, Bryn and Leigh – all of which are supported or specialist housing including bungalows and dementia-friendly apartments.
Work on a further seven council-housing schemes have already started or are about to start, creating an additional 239 residential units across the borough.
All of the new council homes are fossil-fuel free low carbon developments.
Golborne and Lowton West councillor Gena Merrett stressed the importance of bringing forward brownfield sites for development over greenfield land.
She said: “It is difficult in areas like mine where there’s been an awful lot of development on greenfield sites. I totally understand that these are safeguarded, but there’s a lot that’s gone on there.”
In the last financial year, it is estimated that 48.2 pc of new homes were built on brownfield land and 51.8 pc were built on previously undeveloped sites.
These greenfield sites are not protected green belt land, but land which has been earmarked for development in Wigan council’s five-year housing plan.
The council has also allocated brownfield land for housing, but Mr Payne explained that some sites are commercially unviable without support.
He said: “I think it’s fair to say that some of the more challenging sites to bring forward are the brownfield sites.
“The reason for that is just the additional cost and complications that often goes along with developing brownfield land, particularly in a borough like Wigan which has got and industrial past and a big coal mining past.
“It’s left a legacy of contaminated brownfield sites – some worse than others.
“Although obviously housing is a high value product, it’s often the case that some sites have got such significant problems that the costs of cleaning those sites up, then the costs of actually bringing the site forward, plus the construction, marketing and all the rest of that, as far as the developer is concerned, actually exceeds the value of the site itself.”
He added: “A related issue we often find with brownfield land is the often unachievable planning expectations of landowners, shall we say, who perhaps don’t appreciate some of the challenges and the costs associated with cleaning up the sites that they own. And that can be an impediment in bringing those sites forward and can often result in them being stalled.”
Wigan council has secured £11.7m so far from the government’s Brownfield Housing Fund, approximately 20 pc of Greater Manchester’s total allocation.
This money will be put towards the Countryside Properties scheme at North Leigh Park and the Jigsaw Homes affordable housing scheme at Frog Lane.
Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said the council has been trying to make the planning process more transparent and accessible.
She said: “Unfortunately, it’s a complex problem. There isn’t an easy magic bullet.
“But there’s quite a detailed strategy that sort of sits behind all of this that the team is actively bringing forward to try and get the switch from greenfield to brownfield.
“We have to in order to actually meet our housing requirement for future years.”
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