Monday, 21 January 2013
Why I'm backing residents fight to protect our open space
In July 2012, Government appointed Planning Inspector, Kevin Ward, surprised observers when he suspended his examination of the Wigan Core Strategy because he concluded that insufficient land had been identified for the Borough’s housing needs to 2026.
Wigan Council’s submission to the planning inspector states that there is capacity on safeguarded land at Golborne and Lowton for over 2,650 new homes, of which it could be expected that around 2,350 homes could be built by 2026. The capacity takes into account the 600 homes proposed for the East Lancashire Road corridor by the council during the examination and allowed for by the inspector in determining the extent of the shortfall. Therefore, with 600 discounted, the contribution that Golborne and Lowton can make to the shortfall is an enormous 1,750 homes.
I acknowledge that the Council has been obliged to carry out this further consultation and that it does not represent its preferred position, but I find the options agreed by the Council to open up huge swathes of valued green space in Lowton, Golborne, Leigh and Atherton to be completely unacceptable.
My principle objection is that the logic of the alternative options that have been presented, and the commentary that introduces them, points to an unbalanced approach to land use across the borough with the potential for the heavy over-development of the eastern half of the borough. Concentrating a number of large-scale, single-site developments in this area where public transport is simply not an option for many will have a major detrimental impact on the quality of life of local people.
I would also point the Council to the poor transport connections servicing Leigh and existing permissions for housing at North Leigh and Bickershaw South.
It makes no sense at all to have strategy to concentrate the building of new homes houses in the parts of our borough that are the poorest serviced by public transport. Leigh is one of the largest towns in England without a railway station and already our roads are heavily congested. Planning new major development in the East, on top of existing plans at North Leigh and Bickershaw South, would be a recipe for total gridlock.
I will argue for an entirely different approach at the evidence hearings in March.
I believe it would be much fairer to all residents in the borough to look to meet the requirement for new housing by seeking to share the burden across all the communities of the borough, prioritising the use of existing brown-field sites and making better use of vacant land and properties in our town centres. Future development has to be done in a way that is fair to existing residents, spreads the burden and does not overload existing public infrastructure. As far as I can see, the proposals fail these tests.
In Lowton and Golborne, the proposed development of land threatens to overwhelm existing infrastructure, including adding unacceptable pressure to an already struggling sewerage system. It is not good enough to point to vague plans of a railway at Golborne. In my view, any development is a non-starter without a firm plan to make this a reality. Any planning application must contain a mandatory integrated public transport plan with significant investment. Without this provision, the proposal will bring local roads to a standstill.
Lowton East Ward Councillor, Pam Gilligan has taken the fight direct to Council leader, Lord Peter Smith.
Cllr Gilligan said, “This is an issue that transcends political lines in Lowton. I have met with Peter Smith to raise my objections on behalf of the local community. Lowton cannot and should not be the sacrificial lamb at the altar of housing development so I am delighted that Andy Burnham MP is leading the fight against this unacceptable proposal.”