CAMPAIGNERS gathered in Manchester city centre to protest controversial plans to build thousands of homes in Bury, including many on greenbelt land.

Around 200 Bury residents were part of a 1,500 strong group who gathered in Albert Square on Saturday.

They were calling for an end to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) plan which will result in 12,500 new homes in the borough.

The first stage on consultation on the housing blueprint provoked more than 25,000 responses from angry residents, and city-region bosses will open the second stage of the consultation in September.

James Mason, who attended the protest with his group, Bury Folk Keep it Green, said: “It’s a difficult time of year for the whole thing because the consultation isn’t open yet, it’s in September, but we wanted to put a show on to remind the mayoral candidates of what they have pledged.”

Mayoral candidates including Labour’s Andy Burnham and Liberal Democrat Jane Brophy have pledged to abolish the spatial framework as part of their manifestos.

Mr Mason felt the plans for new homes on greenbelt land were a particular issue in Bury. He said: “The amount of land they want to take would mean 61 percent of all new houses [in Bury] would be built on greenbelt. Over the Manchester area it’s about 30 per cent. We don’t think it’s equitable.”

The Bury protesters also have fears about an increase in air pollution and a lack of infrastructure in the GMSF plans.

Mr Mason said: “They want to build homes without any sort of infrastructure. They should put more thought into it.”

He added that building up rather than out is the answer to make the best use of space.

Protester Kath Cameron from Walshaw also attended the Albert Square protest.

She said: “Compared to five years ago it takes another half an hour to get anywhere. There’s no school places, you can’t get doctors or dentist appointments. The infrastructure can’t cope with any more people or cars.”

Both Ms Cameron and Mr Mason addressed the problem of air pollution in Bury, arguing the spatial framework plans would do nothing to help.

The GMSF says “1,000 additional deaths each year are estimated to be due to air pollution” in Greater Manchester.

Protesters were scathing of the Bury Council’s response to the framework, feeling the council is pushing greenbelt land towards development.

Cllr Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for strategic housing and support services, said: “Bury Council has twice drawn up its own local plan since 2011.

“On both occasions, the plan was rejected by a government-appointed inspector, who said we had not set aside enough land for housing.

“This is why we are here now.

“This council’s policy has always been to promote the development of brownfield land first. It is evident there is simply not enough brownfield land.

“This means that, to meet the Government’s target, green belt land would need to be released. We have written to the secretary of state, Sajid Javed MP, seeking a meeting to discuss the house building target and methodology used.

“We are also aware of the significant pressures Bury faces on its transport network, highways, motorways and public transport and the need to address these pressures to meet current and future demand.”

Cllr Walmsley added that of the 20 per cent of greenbelt land in Bury due to be released, three-quarters will be used for the massive new Northern Gateway employment site.

She said: “In the meantime, we have begun work on a new Local Plan for Bury, to ensure that Bury’s Local Plan reflects national planning guidance and seeks to minimise the impact on Bury’s Green Belt.”

Lib Dem mayoral candidate Jane Brophy has this week withdrawn her support for the GMSF, after it was revealed the first consultation cost more than £90,000.

Cllr Brophy is now calling for the entire scheme to be scrapped following the revelations.

She said: “The consultation over the biggest planning issue since the Second World War has been an unmitigated disaster.  “Now we find out that it has been a costly disaster.  “The £90,000, spent mostly on outside PR consultants, is just the tip of the ice-berg.  “The figures we have do not include individual Council’s spending.  “When you factor in individual council’s spend — this figure could be in the hundreds of thousands.”

She also criticised Mr Burnham for “feigning concern” over the issue.