Battle lines were drawn as Wigan residents and politicians vowed to fight a planning blueprint that would strip their community of much of its greenbelt.
The Bell, the most attractive natural feature in Kitt Green, is under threat after it appeared on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
National legislation does occasionally allow for the deregulation of greenbelt. I disagree with that. This land is not just for us, it is for future generations tooCoun Paul Prescott
If the strategy were approved as it stands now, Wigan Council would be forced to allow the building of up to 170 homes and 150,000m sq of employment space on open land close to Latham Lane with a new road linking it to Orrell by creating a crossroads where Orrell Road meets the M6 and M58 junction 26 sliproad.
Some landowners have offered up their fields for development while the Morris family, who have owned a farm on Latham Lane for 80 years, want to stay put. But if The Bell is included in the strategy, they could be hit with a compulsory purchase order and several other homes would also be demolished to make room for the road and development too.
Almost 300 people squeezed into a public meeting at St Francis of Assisi CE Church in Kitt Green, to hear their MP Lisa Nandy and other local politicians line up to oppose the proposals.
The vicar Rev Denise Hayes acted as MC and herself urged people to write letters of protest, saying they were “far more important than any Christmas cards you might send this year.”
The residents have been here before: similar plans were tabled five years ago and the plan was thrown out after a torrent of objections.
Ms Nandy said there was a raft of reasons why the community should stand against the proposals once again including the significant loss of green belt; extra traffic problems; the removal of views from homes; air pollution (Wigan Council already risks being fined over air quality, Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue pointed out); and serious effects on wildlife.
One speaker said the extra homes would also impact on already over-stretched schools and GP surgeries; another pointed out that Spring Road is already prone to flooding, members of the Morris family being the only people to help rescue a stranded motorist recently when the fire brigade and council couldn’t be raised, and this would get worse with extra buildings nearby.
Several others doubted the employment value of building big warehouses on the land, and it was also cited that there were sufficient brownfield sites dotted around the borough for this green belt not to be needed.
Local councillor and chairman of Wigan Council’s planning committee Coun Paul Prescott said: “National legislation does occasionally allow for the deregulation of greenbelt. I disagree with that. This land is not just for us, it is for future generations too.
“It’s a bad idea and I will fight against this plan to the end, just as I did last time.”
Coun Stephen Murphy, who revealed that he will be directly affected by the new road, said that the traffic would be “horrendous” as the roads cannot cope with the traffic as it is.
After the meeting Ms Nandy said that what was said and the sheer number of people attending had left her even more convinced that they could win the campaign.