Monday, 10 September 2012

Wigan Core Strategy - My Letter to Wigan Council

Ms. Gillian Bishop,
Corporate Director,
Places Directorate,
Wigan Council
Places Directorate,
PO Box 100, Wigan.
WN1 3DS

5th September 2012.

Dear  Gillian,

The Core Strategy – Housing Needs Shortfall

I have considered the options within my constituency put forward by the Council to meet the shortfall of land for new housing identified by the Planning Inspector and wish to make the following comments.

1) Landgate, Ashton :

An area of the land at Landgate Bryn is currently used as a playground site which is cherished by the local community. This playground area should therefore be excluded from any proposal for housing or indeed any other development.

2) Green Belt land around Wigan.

Included in this option is land South of Winstanley and South-East of Hawkley Hall and I have objection to the use of both areas of land because of their Green Belt status.

I support the Council’s overall presumption that exceptional circumstances for housing development in the Green belt do not exist at the current time. Exceptional circumstances cannot be demonstrated to justify housing development on Green Belt land when there are alternative sites without that protection. Development on Green Belt land must be seen as a last resort.

The Borough’s Green Belts were last defined in the Local Development Framework of 2006. I understand there is a general expectation that such policies will apply for a minimum of 25 years unless there is exceptional need to make amendment and that is not the case in respect of the Green Belt land South of Winstanley and South-East of Hawkley Hall.

Also, although there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development within The National Planning Policy Framework, the five purposes of the Green Belt remained unchanged and areas of land designated as part of the Green Belt are not overridden by this presumption.

The new Planning Minister Nick Bowles also confirmed in an interview on Newsnight on the 6th September 2012 that Green Belt protection was not changing as a result of any proposals that have been announced.

a) Land South of Winstanley:

I have already made representation on the reasons why the Green Belt Status at Junction 25 should not be removed to allow its use for employment purposes and much of that argument applies in relation to any housing development proposal.

The Green Belt Status was introduced on this site with a set of objectives. Those objectives are no less necessary today as they ever were.  The removal of the Green Belt at this site will cause harm.

i) Give rise to Urban Sprawl. Currently the Green Belt designation stops the sprawl of the existing settlements of Winstanley and Goose Green and the settlement of Ashton. To agree its removal would be to accept unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas.
ii) Encroachment of the Countryside. This site is the community’s green space. It is used and valued by the surrounding townships. It contributes to the health and wellbeing of the local community and its loss would be felt deeply and is unacceptable.
iii) Merging of neighbouring town. The gap between Wigan and Ashton is already narrow and this development would result in a reduction that would make it ineffective.
iv) Urban Regeneration. Urban renewal policies are given little chance to be effective if development is allowed on alternative green field sites in the Urban fringe.  It can be easier to start afresh on a green field site than to take the preferred sustainable development route and improve existing, albeit sometimes difficult sites, already allocated for development.

b) Land South East of Hawkley Hall:

As with land South of Winstanley the Green Belt status on land South East of Hawkley Hall was applied to prevent a set of circumstances that would be detrimental of the area should that status be removed.

i) Give rise to Urban Sprawl. Currently the green belt designation stops the sprawl of the existing settlements of Hawkley and Bryn/Ashton.  To agree its removal would be to accept unrestricted sprawl of these large built up areas
ii) Encroachment of the Countryside. As with the land South of Winstanley, this site too is the community’s green space. It is used and valued by the surrounding townships. It contributes to the health and wellbeing of the local community and its loss would be felt deeply and is unacceptable. The chipping away of our Countryside, which we believed was protected by its Green Belt status, is unacceptable.
iii) Merging of neighbouring towns. The divide between Hawkley and Bryn/Ashton is maintained by this green space. Development would result in a reduction that would make it far less effective particularly as the new development would encroach further towards Landgate leaving only an approximate 0.3k gap between the boundary of the proposed development and the edge of the Landgate community. This proposal should also be viewed in the context of the Council’s employment and housing development proposals of this area of Landgate that have already gone through consultation and are going through the current consultation on housing land shortfall.
iv) Urban Regeneration.The same urban regeneration points relate to this site as they do to the South of Winstanley site outlined above.

Whilst other concerns have been raised with me by constituents about possible housing development on these two sites, for example inadequate local services and the effect on the traffic infrastructure, the impact of the removal of Green Belt protection is in itself, I believe, sufficient reason to abandon these proposals.

It is important that the Council adopts a Core Strategy as a matter of urgency. Without an updated plan, when determining planning applications in the future, more weight will be put on the National Planning Policy Framework and its presumption in favour of development, because of a weakened existing development plan that has not been revised. This is not in the best interests of the community and I do hope this matter can be resolved as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Fovargue
Labour Member for Makerfield.

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