Monday, 21 March 2011

Wigan's Draft Core Strategy and my response to proposals to remove Green Belt status located near to Jnc 25 M6.

My letter of objection to plans to remove Green Belt status from land located near Jnc 25, M6 is detailed below.

Ms. G. Bishop
Planning Policy,
Civic Buildings,
New Market Street,
WN1 1RP.

17th March 2011.

Dear Ms Bishop,

Wigan’s Draft Core Strategy (Proposed Submission version)

Further to my letter of the 3rd December 2010, I wish to object to that part of the Draft Core Strategy proposing to allow industrial and logistics development on land off junction 25 of the M6 motorway, South of Wigan.

I consider the Core Strategy is not legally compliant and is unsound because it is not justified or consistent with national policy.  I set out below my views in this respect:

1 – Not legally Compliant:

My concern in this respect relates to the poor notification of residents of the Council’s intentions. The junction 25 proposal was introduced to the Strategy at a late stage. Those who became aware of it were given short notice to submit their observations. Indeed, following my objection in this respect, the period was extended a little from the 30th of November 2010 to the end of December 2010.  Even so, of the considerable number of homes affected by these proposals estimated in the region of 9,000, only 500 homes received a consultation letter. This is my opinion falls short of what could reasonably be expected in these circumstances.

As the Member of Parliament for the area, I can confirm that the proposals only became apparent to a greater number of residents in November 2010.

This is when I was first contacted by constituents with their concerns. In addition to complaining about the proposals, constituents were and continue to feel strongly that the plan is being rushed and that they have not been given adequate time to organise their opposition to the plan.

2 -  Not Sound:

a) Not Justified:

Proposals in the Core Strategy must be founded on a robust and credible evidence base. With this part of the Strategy, the Council appears to be placing much store by a commissioned report from GVA aspects of which I believe to be flawed. For example, I do not understand on what basis the ratings given to measure the adverse impact of the Green Belt status removal  has been determined.

I am also concerned that there are no guarantees the schemes put forward will realise the development and achieve the objectives of the Local Authority. We could have a situation where the Green Belt Status is removed only to find the plans for development are not taken up as the Council would hope leaving the land vulnerable to alternative development. The credibility of the whole proposal is questionable.

In addition, there are other sites identified as suitable within the report. Indeed the junction 25 schemes are not the preferred option and therefore not the most appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives. 

b) Not Deliverable:

Within the proposal the Council assumes that traffic will follow a ‘route of choice’ that will mitigate, for the local area, the very obvious disadvantage with this site that junction 25 is not a two way junction. This is naive at best.

Whilst the Council would like to see the heavy northbound traffic that would be generated by this proposed development travelling southbound from junction 25 to junction 24 and turning round, there is absolutely no guarantee this will happen and indeed is often likely not to. The areas of Ashton, Bryn, Pemberton and Orrell will certainly be affected as northbound traffic seeks alternative (other than junction 25) access through the local community to the M6. Direct northbound access to the M6 via junction 24 will involve travel through Bryn/Ashton and direct northbound access to the M6 via junction 26 will involve travel through Pemberton and Orrell. I believe the traffic impact will be considerable and unacceptable.

The above argument is supported in the GVA document putting forward this site on the basis that ‘it is fairly close to rail links at Bryn Station’  Use of the A49 is therefore obviously envisaged .

I am also bemused to discover the Council advising on this issue that ‘the majority of commercial traffic is likely to travel southbound to access major commercial markets, including most of the north of England via the M62. The Midlands, the South East and east and south coast ports’. This is just an assumption with no credibility.

The Council advises that the traffic impacts arising will be given careful consideration at the planning application stage but we are being asked to approve the proposal on the basis of the traffic situation as it exists. Without the construction of a northbound access to the M6 at junction 25, which is cost prohibitive, this problem will not be resolved however much the Council may try by other means to reduce the impact.

The Council promotes this scheme and its plans to remove green belt protection on the basis of its attraction because of motorway access but that very argument is compromised because the convenient access is only for southbound vehicles and the local community will therefore suffer in traffic terms reducing the ‘benefits’ of this scheme.

In addition to the above points, residents have also raised with me their concerns about noise, air quality, visual impact and traffic congestion/nuisance the extent of which cannot be underestimated with a development of this size. Distribution centres usually operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week and safeguards can only reduce, not alleviate the adverse amenity impact and disturbance for nearby residents. The Council’s promises to protect the community from these effects are not achievable.

c) Inconsistent with National Policy:

The site currently has Green Belt status for a reason, to prevent urban sprawl by keeping the land permanently open. It is currently a necessary barrier between the areas of Bryn and Wigan and to approve its removal would be to accept unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas, neighbouring towns/areas merging into one another and encroachment into the community’s green space. Removal of the Green Belt status to provide a large new development area would not encourage the Council to recycle existing derelict and other urban land. These issues are of primary importance to the local community taking precedence over land use objectives.

This Green Belt status is valued by the community and they have demonstrated their total opposition to its removal. For the community, any benefits of the proposed development will certainly not outweigh the harm caused by the Green Bent status removal. The GVA document on the Green Belt issues acknowledges the damage that will occur as a result of the Green Belt status removal in this area. This, together with the traffic problems already identified plus the hostility of the community to this development means that the overall harm of the proposed development is not capable of being outweighed by other considerations. The ‘special circumstances’ criteria for the removal of Green Belt status is therefore not met.

I need also to raise the point of setting a precedent in relation to all Green Belt land adjoining/off the motorway network and devaluing Green Belt protection of such sites. If approval is given to remove the Green Belt status of this site, to allow employment opportunities, just because of its location then this puts all other similar sites at risk.

I do not believe changes can be made to make this aspect of the Core Strategy legally compliant or sound.   I consider GVA’s documents and advice to be questionable and the only course of action available would be the removal of the sites off junction 25 of the M6 motorway, South of Wigan as an option for industrial and logistics development.

I do wish to participate at the oral examination to represent the views of hundreds of constituents who have contacted me with their objections to this proposal.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Fovargue M.P.
Labour Member for Makerfield.


  1. If this goes ahead, the traffic on the A49 near Jct 25 will be, quite frankly horrendous!!

  2. Completely agree with all the objections Yvonne has submitted, and support any action that will stop this Green Belt Land from being Developed for Logestical Warehousing.