OVER the past few weeks a large number of residents have contacted me about planning issues.

In normal times, this would be par for the course for an MP, but during the coronavirus lockdown, it has an additional aspect, that of a perceived sense of unfairness towards the residents affected by these new developments.

It is of course reasonable for normal, mundane planning applications for such things as a conservatory or a small extension to a property to proceed as usual, so that ordinary people can get on with their lives as much as possible.

It is quite different, however, for large, strategic, and controversial developments to proceed under the current circumstances.

There is a genuine sense of anger in the emails I am receiving from local residents about both the Pocket Nook Lane and Westleigh Waterfront developments.

Residents feel as though they are being bulldozed, bullied even, by the fact these developments are being allowed to proceed through the planning system at this time, without any chance to be properly consulted on, or campaign against these proposals.

Both the developers and Wigan Council must shoulder an equal share of the blame for this situation.

Did these proposals really need to come forward when everyone is confined to barracks because of the coronavirus crisis?

Could these plans not have waited until the crisis was over?

Many residents feel furious that these planning applications have been submitted at this time.

It is obvious that people would react extremely negatively to the timing of the submission of these plans.

Why the rush to deal with these applications now, in the least ideal circumstances they could possibly be considered under?

It is ironic that the way this issue has been handled locally, causing such a sense of outrage over these planning applications, has probably generated a greater number of objections to these proposals than normal, even given the much greater difficulty in finding out what was going on.

The British people, after all, have a deeply ingrained sense of when something feels like fair play, and also when it very much feels like it isn’t.

I hope that Wigan Council will, as a sign of good faith, undertake not to bring these applications before the planning committee until the lockdown has ended.

If they do not, it will result in a further erosion of trust between Wigan Council and the people of Leigh, and it will be a further sign that the council no longer feels the need to listen to local residents, or serve their interests.

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