Wigan Council Say Revised Housing Master Plan For The Borough "Strikes The Right Balance" On Greenbelt

Monday, January 7th, 2019 6:27am

By James Illingworth - Local Democracy Reporter

Sections of Wigan’s green belt previously earmarked for development have been cut from an updated housing and jobs masterplan for Greater Manchester.

The latest draft of the GM spatial framework will be launched on Monday following lengthy delays and will reveal major changes from the 2016 version.

The amount of green belt earmarked in the borough has been cut by more than half – reflecting a pattern across the city-region – although some controversial sites remain.

Council leader David Molyneux said the revised proposal ‘strikes the right balance’ between protecting green spaces and the borough’s need for 21,000 new homes and industrial sites to help grow the economy.

Among the plots cut from the original draft and set to remain as green belt is land at junction 26 of the M6 near Orrell, known as ‘The Bell’.

Another earmarked site that has proved contentious, land at junction 25 of the M6, remains in the latest draft – as it is a key part of the town hall’s industrial strategy – but has been reduced with associated plots in Winstanley and Bryn removed.

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

A further 55 hectares of green land will be designated as green belt – including the Hope Carr Nature Reserve at Leigh and land at Ince and Howe Bridge – offering it ‘further protection for future generations’, the town hall added.

Coun Molyneux said: “It is crucial for our future generations who will live in the borough that we get it right when it comes to creating good jobs and homes as well as the right infrastructure to ensure we have future prosperity.

“It is right that this revised plan takes into account public concerns raised in the first consultation about allocating land on the green belt.

“I believe this plan strikes the right balance between protection of our best green spaces with the need for new homes, infrastructure and employment land in Wigan borough.”

The wide-ranging blueprint set to be unveiled by the city region’s combined authority incorporates its clean-air strategy, improvements to transport and infrastructure and will for the first time include specific details on affordable housing and an emphasis on town centre living.

The spatial framework – outlining development in the region for the next two decades – will see around 21,000 homes built in the borough, part of more than 200,000 across GM, around 60pc of which will be built on brownfield land.

Allocated sites for green belt development in the borough include:

Land North of M6 Junction 25, for around 140,000 sqm of employment floorspace.
Land South of Pennington, Leigh, for around 160,000 sqm of employment floorspace (in the first draft it was proposed substantively for housing)
Land West of Gibfield, Atherton for 700 homes and around 45,500 sqm of employment floorspace, with a new road link to Junction 5 of the M61
Land North of Mosley Common, Tyldesley for 1,200 homes
A site at Pocket Nook, Lowton, is retained but is now largely for
around 600 homes (having previously been employment development)
Areas included in the original draft that have been removed from the revised version (in addition to the site off junction 26) include:

Land at Castlemere Close, Winstanley (formerly part of land at M6, junction 25)
Land South of M6 Junction 25, Bryn (formerly part of land at M6, junction 25)
Land North of New Springs, Wigan
Land at Liverpool Road, Hindley
Land at Cleworth Hall, Tyldesley
Land at Astley and Boothstown
Also part of the blueprint are proposals for a designated Wigan-Bolton ‘Growth Corridor’, that includes the previously identified road link between the M6 at Orrell and the M61 plus improvements on the Wigan/Atherton rail line.

Potential for several new train stations and the use of tram-trains on existing borough rail links are also being proposed as part of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) long-term plans which are expected to be incorporated into Monday’s announcement.

Coun Molyneux said: “The plan makes the most of our existing assets in the borough and focuses on making the best use of brownfield sites as well as regenerating all our town centres as places to live and protect our most valuable green spaces.

“The plan will also ensure that future development connects to public transport such as rail and the Leigh Guided Busway, reducing congestion and the need for commuting by car.

“It is vital that we get the right investment in our transport infrastructure which will support economic growth. I am working with TfGM and colleagues across Greater Manchester to secure this investment.”

Initially released in 2016, the first version of the GMSF attracted criticism across the city region for the extent of green belt earmarked for development.

And former borough MP, now GM mayor Andy Burnham – who took up the new role in 2017 – pledged a substantial re-write.

It has since been beset by delays as local authority leaders became locked in lengthy discussion with central government over population projections and whether new figures would impact on the level of housing required in the region.

The first draft sparked particular controversy in the borough as Coun Paul Kenny was sacked from his cabinet role in the ruling Labour Group for attending a meeting of anti-GMSF groups.

Coun Kenny, along with his wife, Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, and ward colleagues in Winstanley have regularly spoken out against the use of green belt at the junction 25 site.

A campaign group and petition were also launched over the proposals for ‘The Bell’ site which has been removed from the framework.

A consultation period on the revised draft starts on Monday, January 21 and ends on March 18.

After the consultation closes the comments will inform a new draft to be published for consultation in summer 2019.

It will then be submitted for independent examination prior to being adopted.

“It is important that people have their say on this revised draft plan whether they agree with its new direction or still have concerns,” Coun Molyneux added.

“We need to hear people’s views so that we can take this important process through to the next stage.

“We need a strategic plan so that we are in control of our destiny and development is made in the right places and in the right way.”

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