PLANS for major new developments to be built on green belt land across the borough have been branded "a disgrace".

It was revealed last week that 12,000 new houses have been earmarked for Bury, as well as commercial projects creating 25,000 new jobs, under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Residents and councillors have reacted with shock to the proposals, many of which would require vast swathes of green belt land to be made available, and have raised concerns over how the borough's infrastructure will cope.

Among the projects under consideration from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority are a major employment site on almost 500 hectares of green belt near Pilsworth and 3,500 homes around Elton Reservoir.

Cllr Tim Pickstone, Bury Liberal Democrats leader, said: "It is a disgrace that Greater Manchester Council Leaders are proposing such a massive loss of our precious green belt land.

"Green belt was introduced to make sure that cities grow in a manageable way, with green spaces protected. If this goes ahead in Bury there will be continuous urban development without gaps from Manchester city centre right up to Heywood, merging together Prestwich, Middleton, Heywood and Whitefield.

"Plans to build a 'Trafford Park' sized 'northern gateway' on the M62 are deeply flawed. We all know that our roads, motorways and public transport cannot cope now, never mind with this massive over-development.

"Everyone agrees that we do need more houses, and we do need more jobs. But the way to do this is to build on existing 'brownfield' sites, and in town and city centres. Not only does this protect our precious countryside, but it is also more sustainable with less car journeys created.

"These plans must be stopped. Once our countryside is destroyed there is no going back."

Town hall chiefs said that brownfield sites will be the first choice for building, but that developers could not be forced to build on those sites.

Cllr Iain Gartside, Bury Conservatives leader, said: "We are very conscious that massive swathes of Bury's beautiful green belt have been built on over the years.

"We feel that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework could rapidly increase the pace at which the remaining green belt is developed.

"Having talked to residents, we feel the vast majority of people in Bury want to leave the green belt alone and they are always giving examples of brownfield sites that could be developed instead.

"I acknowledge that the Labour group has said that brownfield sites will be prioritised where possible, but they may not be able to do that.

"We will have to wait and see the exact details of the plans when they are released and I would encourage residents to take a full part in the consultation process.

"One of the major concerns is Bury's infrastructure and whether it can cope with thousands of new homes.

"After the floods we have seen through this year, not just at Christmas, United Utilities have said that the sewage system in Bury is unable to cope with the high levels of rainfall we have had.

"I think a lot of residents are extremely concerned about how Bury would cope with 12,000 extra homes."

Bury Council will be holding a drop-in session at the Elizabethan Suite from noon to 7pm on November 21, where the plans will be on show.

Barbara Davis, aged 79, is worried about development around her home near Elton Reservoir.

She said: "It is a sad situation because there are so many buildings that they could renovate or knock down instead of building on open land.

"Anything we can do as local residents to stop them building here should be done.

"I have been in this house since 1962 and we have fought developers before and won. Everyone was up in arms when they tried to build on the green belt before and I hope they are again now."

Derrick Cawston, of Bury and Bolton Road, said: "The reality is that you have to build homes. I think we might have to accept that the days of protecting green belt land are probably over.

"I think the main impact for me would probably be that the road is going to be a lot busier."

A Grindsbrook Road resident, who asked to remain anonymous, added: "I'm not happy about it at all. I have lived here for 35 years and the view we have from our house is fantastic.

"The traffic is already awful, so having another 3,500 homes in the area is going to make it that much worse."