The consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework closed yesterday and I, along with many others, submitted my comments online.
My two main areas of objection relate to infrastructure and Green Belt, specifically that the current infrastructure in this area will not be able to cope with the increased number of residents, and that this land is Green Belt, and therefore should be protected.
I raised the issue of pre-existing high volume of traffic at peak times which brings the A579, A58 and A6 to a complete standstill on a daily basis, and frequently causes tailbacks on the M61 exit slip roads in the evening.
I raised the concerns of the residents of the existing housing estates off the A579, that any development of Hulton Park could see visitors using the surrounding roads for parking and as rat-runs.
Although not in my constituency, I also mentioned the problem with traffic on Park Road in Westhoughton, especially at the junction with Platt Lane. Any development at Hulton Park, be it housing or leisure could put extra pressure on these roads and cause significant traffic congestion.
Local services, such as schools and hospitals, are already struggling to cope with the current demand. If additional housing were to be created at Hulton Park, this would push these services further towards breaking point.
The closure of the A&E at the Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital, has already put pressure on the surrounding hospitals, including Bolton Royal Hospital, and the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) would result in further reductions in services provided by hospitals in Greater Manchester.
Under the STPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups are planning to make significant cuts to hospital services over the next 18 months, including:
- One in three A&Es being closed or downgraded.
- One in five hospitals expected to close consultant-led maternity services, forcing women in labour to travel further.
- More than half of hospitals intending to close or downgrade community hospitals.
- 46% of hospitals are planning an overall reduction in inpatient NHS beds.
- One quarter of hospitals anticipate making job cuts.
- Almost a quarter of hospitals intend to close inpatient paediatric departments.
New hospitals and schools will not be built to accommodate the proposed new 2700 households, and hospital services are likely to be reduced over the next 18 months, so all this development will do, is put further pressure on our already-overstretched services.
The Hulton Park site includes a Grade II listed park across most of its extent, and the Pretoria Pit Memorial, which cannot be moved. This area is of significant historic importance to the local community, and I believe that these specific features are protected under law.
In 2011, as part of the Local Development Framework consultations, the Planning Inspector came to a conclusion on the possibility of developing on this area of Green Belt land. In his report, he said: “No major change is proposed for Westhoughton, and so the Green Belt and Protected Open Land around the town will be retained. Any development on this open land would contravene national and local policies for its protection, and would undermine sound spatial strategy. This approach accords with the views of local residents who consider that development in the town has outstripped the infrastructure upon which it relies.”
There is no reason why this assessment should be disregarded now. I believe that this Green Belt land should be further safeguarded, as some Green Belt land was deleted at Cutacre to make way for economic developments. This was agreed under Policy OA4 of the Local Development Framework (2011).
This area of Green Belt in particular should not be built on, as an LUC Green Belt assessment, prepared alongside the GMSF Consultation Draft, found that it had strong ratings against each of the 5 purposes of Green Belt land. It also confirmed that Green Belt land should not be released unless there is no other land available to accommodate future development needs.
There are plenty of non-Green Belt areas that can be built on in Bolton, including brownfield sites, and disused housing, which could be restored. There are disused mills which could be turned into apartments, and even sites where mills have been demolished and the land has lain to waste for decades. These sites would be preferable to further deletion of Green Belt, which would go against the Local Development Framework of 2011 and the wishes of the local residents. Developers prefer Green Belt because it is cheaper to build there, but we should ensure that all possible brownfield sites are cleaned up and redeveloped before any Green Belt land is even considered as part of the Spatial Framework.