SHOCK figures revealing that Wigan contains no fewer than 5,000 empty homes have angered protestors against plans to create thousands more houses.
Several parts of the borough have been earmarked for new housing and business developments, many on areas of green belt land, after Government inspectors forced the Council to find room in the borough for an extra 2,500 properties on its core planning strategy for the years ahead.
But statistics from the GMB union reveal more than 5,000 homes in Wigan are currently unoccupied.
A spokesman for the M6 South of Wigan Action Group, who are opposing plans to develop green belt land in Winstanley and Hawkley Hall, said: “These figures are shocking. It does not make sense that the council plans to build houses when we don’t need them and we have so many vacant already.
“It is clear that the core strategy plans need to be reconsidered. Apart from the unnecessary housing developments, these areas have been identified as air quality polluted zones yet they want to build on them.
“The green buffer should remain green to keep the boundaries between Wigan and Ashton-in-Makerfield apart.”
One resident of Hawkley Hall, near to where the Council proposes to build 1,000 houses, said the figures emphasise that plans to build new homes should be a last resort.
The unnamed resident, said: “Even if we were desperate for new homes these plans would not be the right thing to do.
“We don’t need any more houses and these precious areas of green belt should not be built on.
“There are so many reasons already why the council needs to reconsider, such as standards of living for current residents, effects on the environment, not to mention the traffic chaos the new developments would bring.”
But the Council finds itself between a rock and a hard place. It is under a legal obligation from central Government to earmark land for future development and its attempts to minimise the increase earlier this year simply resulted in an inspector’s edict ordering the authority to go back to the drawing board and increase the quota by 2,500.
A total of 5,006 properties in Wigan borough are currently vacant with union bosses calling for tougher sanctions for private sector landlords who are maintaining homes with no tenants.
Paul McCarthy, GMB Regional Secretary, said: “That there are 130,978 empty dwellings in the North West at a time when there is acute pressure on the housing market signals that there are not enough penalties against leaving a property vacant.”
Consultations between the council and residents of Hawkley Hall run until September 11. Any queries call the council’s planning department on 01942 489223.