COUNCIL chiefs in Bury have narrowly backed a much-delayed masterplan for building new homes and creating jobs which will release thousands of acres of green belt land for housing and industry.

At a dramatic meeting of the full council, the Labour controlled council voted 26 to 24 in favour of backing the controversial Places For Everyone plan, which sets out a long term plan for what land in Bury can be freed up for different kinds of development over the next 16 years.

All opposition councillors voted against the plans, citing grave concerns about the release of 1,700 hectares of green belt areas for housing and industry in the Elton reservoir, Walshaw and Simister areas.

And 26 out of 27 Labour councillors voted in favour, with one, Karen Leach, who represents Radcliffe East, voting against, making the margin in favour the narrowest it could be.

Places For Everyone has been formed by nine out of the 10 Greater Manchester’s borough councils..

The document replaces the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which was abandoned last year after it failed to win the support of Stockport Council.

The plans for Bury, which remain similar to the previous draft of the GMSF, include a massive housing project at Elton reservoir where 3,500 homes are planned.

Key to that development would be a strategic north-south spine road connecting Bury and Bolton Road (A58) to Bury Road.

Another huge housing allocation is at Walshaw where the plans include 1,250 new homes.

A third housing allocation is in the Simister/Bowlee area where there is provision for 1,550 new homes.

The plan also includes the Northern Gateway employment site which will be created in the Pilsworth/Heywood area.

The plan claims that development could create up to 20,000 new jobs.

During a lengthy debate, Bury’s council leader, Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, proposed the plan.

He said: “Do we want to act responsibly and submit a plan or throw out those responsibilities and recklessly lurch this council towards a government power grab and a developer free for all.

“Do we want to play politics, deceive our residents, perpetuate lies, advocate for non-existent alternatives and play to a crowd.

“Or to be honest about the tough decisions that need to be made for the benefit of the borough.”

He said the plan would deliver green affordable homes and guarantee new infrastructure.

He said opposition calls for Bury to form its own local plan would be far worse in protecting the green belt.

He cited Stockport Council, which has abandoned the plan.

He said: “That is the route they have chosen. Can anyone say they are better off?

“Are they having parades in the street celebrating that the green belt is safe?

“No, they are now battling for where at least 5,000 extra homes will need to go on more green belt.”

Opposition Conservative leader, Cllr Nick Jones, said: “The planning is utterly humiliating for this borough.

“It makes depressing reading. I would like to thank the residents across this borough who came together to voice their views on this awful plan.

“The pressure group Bury Folk created a ground movement of more than 10,000 people which has challenged this shambolic Labour council.

“There are alternative approaches. Bury is lacking a local plan, nothing since 1997. The plan lacks vision for our borough.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Nick Powell, said: “This is the wrong plan.

“To propose destroying so much of our precious countryside on the basis of outdated figures is so wrong.

“Presently our six townships are surrounded by countryside which makes Bury such a great place to live.

“The plans proposes to take over 1,700 hectares of green belt and build on it.

“We don’t need to do this, there is enough brownfield land.

“Why has Labour put its hand up and said ‘build on our green belt’ when it simply does not need to.”

At the end of the debate Conservative Cllr Yvonne Wright was prevented from speaking by the Mayor Cllr Tim Pickstone as the debate had heard from four other Conservatives.

She was admonished by the Mayor for an outburst while voting when she shouted ‘Labour will never be forgiven’ for voting in favour of the plan.

Places For Everyone will now enter a period of public consultation from August 9.