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Burnham For Mayor

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New housing proposals 'unfair and unsustainable'.

In a speech speech later this week, I will say Coalition planning policy risks causing "irreparable damage" to boroughs like Wigan.

Wigan Council has been ordered by a Planning Inspector - against its wishes - to bring forward new land for housing. In a strongly-worded letter of objection to the consultation, I have said the plans would result in the over-development of the Eastern half of the borough, overloading existing infrastructure.

The plans to open up valued green space in Lowton, Golborne, Leigh and Atherton are unacceptable. People would have a lower quality of life and would face intolerable levels of traffic congestion.

I have called for a rethink of plans for land use across the borough and for a new approach where the Council maximises housing on existing brownfield sites and shares the overall burden to a range of sites throughout the borough rather than concentrate on large-scale, single-site development.

The consultation on the plans ends on Tuesday 11 September. I am encouraging other residents on the east of the borough who share my concerns about over-development to write to register their objection to the plans in advance of Tuesday's deadline.

I accept that we need to build more homes. But it's got to be done in a way that's fair to existing residents, spreads the burden and doesn't overload existing infrastructure.

This flawed plan fails all these tests. It is unfair to people living in the east of the borough by depriving them of access to open green space and would lead to unsustainable levels of traffic.

It is a blueprint for total gridlock on our already-congested roads. The Council has been put in a difficult position. But it makes no sense at all to concentrate the building of houses in the area that is already the largest in the country without a railway station and where public transport simply isn't an option.

Later this week, delivering the keynote address to the North West Summit in Manchester, I will criticise recent statements on planning policy from the Prime Minister and Chancellor. The Conservatives have proposed opening up areas of Green Belt for building and restricting residents rights to object, citing China as a model of good practice.

I will fight these plans, arguing that they could cause most damage to areas like Wigan where land values are lower and where developers are keen to build starter homes.

A planning free-for-all is no substitute at all for a proper plan for growth.

It could cause irreparable damage to boroughs like Wigan. In former industrial areas, quality green space is often in short supply. It needs more protection, not less.

It's time to get very worried indeed when the Chancellor holds up China as an example of good planning policy. On the back of the success of London 2012, we need to be protecting space in every community for outdoor recreation rather than giving the green light for the bulldozers to move in.

Cameron needs to think again. There is plenty of brownfield land being hoarded by developers. The Government would do better to look at measures to stop this 'land-banking' rather than building on our Green Belt.