Town Hall protest to take place

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall
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A protest about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is set to take place at Wigan Town Hall this week.

Several residents’ groups will voice their concerns about the controversial housing and jobs plan before Wednesday’s full council meeting.

It remains to be seen whether the GMSF will be a topic of discussion during the meeting itself after it was left off the agenda for the first meeting of 2017. But a host of independent groups plan to make their voices heard as councillors arrive at the town hall.

Organiser Mark Bradley said there is a “growing feeling of discontent” about the GMSF’s first draft, currently subject to a public consultation.

Council leaders have previously called the plans “massive” for the borough, creating 15,000 jobs and 25,000 houses across several sites. However, the first draft has been criticised for proposing development on greenbelt land and concerns over infrastructure and pollution have also been raised.

Mr Bradley, a member and former chairman of Ukip Wigan, said the issues relating to the GMSF are bigger than party politics.

He said: “I have pulled together many of the independent groups and we intend to express our dissatisfaction prior to the next meeting of Wigan Council.

“(The GMSF) will destroy large amounts of our precious greenbelt.”

The borough’s three Labour MPs raised concerns about the plans during a Westminster Hall debate last year and Mr Bradley has invited them to join their protest.

The council’s Conservative opposition group has proposed an emergency motion.

so councillors can discuss the GMSF at Wednesday’s meeting after it was initially left off the agenda.

It is not known at this time whether it has been accepted as a late topic for debate.

Deputy leader of the council Coun David Molyneux revealed details of the borough’s GMSF development sites in October and has defended them amid criticism in recent months.

He said: “The spatial framework is a major opportunity for the borough. It will set out where we can locate sought-after employment land up to 2035 that will deliver thousands of jobs as well as much-needed homes, particularly for the younger generation.

“Around two thirds of new homes will be needed because of a big increase in households aged 65 and over. People are living longer and elderly people are choosing to live independently in their own homes for longer.

“That is why we must take the decisions to provide opportunities for the next generation, for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They deserve to have good employment opportunities and the chance to buy their own home right here in the borough.

“I completely understand residents are concerned about the impact on roads. That is why we say that this growth can only come if significant investment in our transport infrastructure is made and the council is committed to making this happen.”