Plans to build thousands of new homes on Bury's green belt areas have been met with strong opposition.
Over the next 17 years, Bury council has proposed that more than 6,000 homes are built as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
Many of these homes are earmarked for green belt land and Labour-run Bury council faces opposition to the proposals from other parties on the council and a pressure group, The Friends of Bury Folk, who have more than 9,000 members.
But the town hall said it had 'no option other than to release green belt land to meet housing need'.
The largest housing developments are earmarked for Elton reservoir, with 3,500 new homes, land close to Simister and Bowlee where there is provision for 1,350 properties and Walshaw with 1,250 homes.
The plan includes the Northern Gateway employment site which is planned to create up to 20,000 new jobs.
This site, which sits in both Bury and Rochdale boroughs north of the M62 and east of the M66, will be the largest new employment site in the North of England and it will be home to advanced manufacturing companies, logistics and other manufacturing.
The GMSF proposes a net reduction of the green belt in Bury by 520 hectares. The Town Hall confirmed that is nine per cent of the total green belt land in Bury and 25 per cent less green belt lost compared to the 2019 draft.
Bury has to build only 75 per cent of the housing target figure set by government and they chose the sites listed as 'they connect well with the existing urban area and because they are large enough for developer to fund the roads, Metrolink stop, schools and other infrastructure needed'.
The council said existing planning permissions and ‘brownfield’ sites will provide enough land for around 4,000 new homes, but there remains a shortfall to reach the target set by government.
Bury council leader Eamonn O’Brien said: "Two previous rounds of consultation on the GMSF have taken place and now it is time to submit our final draft to the government.
"This is Bury’s opportunity, with our Greater Manchester neighbours, to create the right long-term plan for our future prosperity.
"We have listened to the many views local people, businesses and community organisations gave to us last year on the GMSF and we have made significant changes as a result.
"Because this is a Greater Manchester plan we have been able to negotiate for other parts of the conurbation to take 2,500 of Bury’s housing target.
"That means the amount of green belt land we propose to release has been reduced from 12 per cent to 9 per cent and we are able to ensure that any development must deliver the significant improvements in local community infrastructure, including road links, a new tram stop and several new schools before they can be approved.
"However, it is simply not possible to build the numbers of new homes that we have to plan for, or to provide a game-changing employment site like Northern Gateway, without releasing some of the green belt.”
Conservative leader on Bury Council, Coun Nick Jones said his group were vehemently opposed to the GMSF as it stands.
He said: "Labour’s GMSF plan is bad for Bury, and we will vote against it to protect our green spaces.
"We want to see a Bury where our green spaces are protected, and we regenerate our brownfield sites to build new houses instead.
"We want to see a Bury where we uplift our communities without losing what we hold dear.
"But we can’t do it alone. If Bury Labour decide to back Andy Burnham’s plan, then all is lost: we need cross-party consensus to stop the GMSF in Bury and save our green belt for generations to come."
Bury’s Liberal Democrat group leader, Coun Michael Powell added: "Put simply, this is simply the wrong plan.
"We do need more homes, the high quality and affordable homes that people need, but absolutely must not lose our precious green spaces.
"As our experience this year has told us, we need our open spaces more than ever.
"Our precious green belt land must be protected with development restricted to existing sites and brownfield land."
Stephen Cluer, is from the group, The Friends of Bury Folk, who have hundreds of active members protesting the housing plans.
He said: "For over four years The Friends of Bury Folk have been fighting against council proposals to release large amounts of our vital greenbelt land for mass urbanisation.
"The latest draft of the GMSF proposes that Bury will lose nine per cent of its greenbelt compared to an average of four per cent greenbelt loss in the other nine local authorities.
"The whole process has been marked by a lack of transparency. The council are reluctant to explain how they narrowed down over 30 proposed sites from the initial ‘call for sites’ to four main sites.
"Why is the housing not evenly distributed throughout the 17 wards in Bury? Was this done to reduce the number of wards impacted, therefore reducing opposition and increasing the chances of getting the proposal through?"
Council leader Eamonn O’Brien, added: "We also need to be clear that Bury benefits from its place in the GMSF and that the alternatives would be worse for the whole borough.
"If Bury was not part of the GMSF we would risk a developer free-for-all, many more houses built, a much greater loss of green belt and none of the transport and community infrastructure that we can bring with this plan."
Bury’s cabinet will be asked to approve the GMSF for consultation on November 11 and the full council will be asked on November 25 to approve it to be submitted to government following consultation. If approved, the consultation will run from December 1 to January 26.
All 10 boroughs in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GCMA) will need to approve the plan if it to move to the next stage, that of consideration by the Government.
To take part in the consultation visit the GMCA website, or email [email protected]