OPPOSITION leaders and campaigners have slammed a set of regional development plans which will transform the face of Bury.

The latest draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) was released yesterday, with 12 per cent of the borough’s green belt being marked for development.

A large portion of this land will form part of the Northern Gateway industrial site around Whitefield, Pilsworth and Heywood, which could potentially create 25,000 jobs, while controversial plans to build thousands of homes in Walshaw and around Elton Reservoir, remain in place.

The GMSF was first drafted in 2016, before Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham ordered a “radical rewrite” of the plans.

The revised masterplan sets out Greater Manchester’s vision for jobs, homes and the environment until 2037.

However, opposition leaders and campaigners from across Bury remain unhappy about the amount of green belt land still included in the latest plans.

Bury’s Conservative leader James Daly labelled the proposals "unacceptable" and claimed they would "hit communities for generations and wipe out much-loved green space".

He added: "The plans for Elton Reservoir and Walshaw will see an increase in congestion, air pollution and deprive residents of much-loved countryside and open spaces.

“I am not convinced vague assurances that developers will meet the cost of the various huge infrastructure projects identified in the plan are at all credible or realistic and once the green belt protection is removed these sites are particularly vulnerable to even more inappropriate planning applications in the future.”

Cllr Daly added that he believed the level of proposed development in the Northern Gateway was "extraordinary" and would impact dramatically on parts of Prestwich and Whitefield

He said: “Communities in our borough will be changed forever and I fear we will see the countryside being concreted over to provide hugely expensive larger houses whilst doing nothing to provide the affordable starter homes which are needed.

“The Labour Party in Bury has produced a plan for our area which will benefit the developer but not hardworking local residents who will be the ones struggling on congested and polluted roads and struggling to find a school place for their children.

“Why in Bury are we losing 12 per cent of our green belt when across Greater Manchester the average is closer to 4 per cent? Why have other Greater Manchester authorities been able to reduce housing allocation on individual sites by thousands but Bury has not?”

Those in opposition to the plans also pointed to the example of neighbouring Bolton, which has ensured that no green belt land will be used to build homes in the borough, instead choosing to prioritse land in and around the town centre.

Bury’s Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone, described the plan as "a disgrace" and accused Bury Council of having "failed to listen to its own residents".

He added: “While other boroughs like Bolton have maintained all future housing growth in the town centre, Bury Council seems determined to bulldoze over whole swathes of countryside.

“Across Greater Manchester only 4.1 per cent of green belt land is lost, in Bury it is a shocking 12 per cent and in Prestwich and Whitefield it is more like 40 per cent lost.

“Village communities like Simister and Bowlee will be changed for ever, as will areas near Elton Reservoir and Walshaw, with a ridiculous and unnecessary level of housebuilding in the green belt.

“Nobody explains how an extra 9,500 houses worth of people will somehow fit on the Metrolink or down the A56. There are vague plans for a new motorway junction at Birch services, even through everyone knows that area of motorway is already full to capacity.

“We do need new houses, almost certainly not 201,000, but we do need more houses that people can afford. But we also need countryside."

While the plans to build 3,500 homes on green belt farmland close to Elton Reservoir remain in place, the site no longer includes land north of Bury and Bolton Road as the 2016 plans did.

The proposals include provision for affordable housing and would be supported by a new tram station with park and ride facilities and a cycle hub in the Warth area, as well as a major new spine road linking Bury and Bolton Road to Bury Road, in Radcliffe.

A further link road would then be created from the spine road to Spring Lane in Radcliffe via the former Coney Green High School site.

Up to 1,250 homes have also been earmarked for land on either side of Walshaw Road, stretching from Dow Lane to Scobell Street in Tottington.

The plans include affordable housing provision, and a new through road would have to be built to offer an alternative to the narrow roads around Church Street, Bank Street and High Street.

A new local centre, including shops, would also be included, as well as an investment in infrastructure in the area.

Meanwhile, a "broad mix" of 140 homes, including provision for affordable housing, have also been earmarked for the former site of Seedfield High School, in Parkinson Street.

However, under the latest set of plans, previously proposed housing sites at Holcombe Brook and Baldingstone have been completely removed from the revised plan as has the employment centre of Gin Hall.

When the initial draft was released two years ago, residents joined the Bury Folk Keep it Green group and took part in protests against the plans.

Of the latest proposals, the group's founder, James Mason, said: “There has been no radical rewrite as Andy Burnham promised. They have wasted the past two years. They have not done anything different to Bury apart from a few token gestures.

“The roads already cannot cope. We are the biggest commuting town in the borough and everyone has to get to the motorway somehow. It will only get worse.”

He added that the group would be holding a public meeting to discuss the proposals at the Elizabethan Suite in Bury Town Hall from 7pm on Wednesday, January 23.

Meanwhile, Colette Jones, from the Radcliffe and Redvales Flood Action Group, accused the council of "putting economics before safety".

An eight-week consultation on the document will begin on January 21 and, in the meantime, Bury Council says it will write to all 84,000 households in the borough to inform residents of the new plans and what impact they will have in their immediate area.