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Blackpools Beach Donkey's Are Staying At Their Winter Home In Wigan

A controversial green belt development plan for Wigan has been scrapped – securing the winter home of Blackpool beach’s donkeys.

Campaigner Gillian Morris says she is ‘ecstatic’ land known as The Bell, which includes her farm, is no longer earmarked.

The latest draft of the city-region’s housing and jobs blueprint, the GM spatial framework (GMSF), was unveiled on Monday.

A first version, released in 2016, earmarked the land off junction 26 of the M6 near Orrell for housing and industrial development, sparking a community backlash.

But it has been removed from the latest version with Mrs Morris jubilant the farm’s donkey lodgers ‘have got a home for years to come’ and residents will not lose their valued green space.

The animals spend the winter months at Latham House Farm before returning to Blackpool for the summer season.

Mrs Morris, whose family has spearheaded efforts to prevent development on the green belt site, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are ecstatic. It’s been a long time coming.

“It’s a nice way to start the new year, that’s for sure. We were concerned that things had gone quiet (with the new draft of the spatial framework) and there have been a lot of delays with it.

“We’ve tried to keep it at the forefront of everyone’s minds (since 2016).”

The first draft of the planning blueprint earmarked the site near to the junction of the M58 and M6 for around 170 houses and 150,000 sq m of employment space.

The revised version has cut the number of green belt used in the borough by more than half but some sites remain, including a vast industrial plot on land at junction 25 of the M6 near Winstanley and Bryn.

Council leader David Molyneux said ‘issues with deliverability’ had been identified with the plans for The Bell and that the town hall has listened to feedback from residents.

“It’s right that we’ve taken it out,” he added.

For Mrs Morris, it means the farm’s future is secured for her children and a line is drawn over a stressful period for the family and other campaigners, who have received support from local MPs Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue.

“It has brought the community together, the group had more than 600 members and we’ve done different things – like organising campaign walks – to keep people aware,” she said.

The reduction of the borough’s green belt is 1.8 per cent in the updated draft, compared with 4.8pc in the 2016 version. This represents 192 hectares, instead of 490.

Across GM, the spatial framework outlines plans for more than 200,000 homes for the next two decades, 21,400 of which will be in Wigan.

It will go out to public consultation later this month.

Coun Molyneux said the GMSF now ‘strikes the right balance’ between protecting green spaces and the borough’s need for new homes and land for economic growth.

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