A MASTER plan for huge new development between Leigh and Hindley Green is the subject of a three day exhibition currently underway in Westleigh.

The North Leigh Park Group regeneration plan is the brainchild of Black Country Properties whose sister company Gibfield Park Group developed the Gadbury and Gibfield sites at Atherton.

They are now inviting people's views on the proposals for the conversion of the open land east of Leigh Road into a 1,800 home development with 800,000 square feet of industrial units and a new link road joining the Atherleigh Way-Leigh bypass at Lovers Lane.

But before the exhibition got underway hundreds of people in the area signed a petition against the proposals which Abbey Lane estate resident John Atherton intends presenting to Leigh MP Andy Burnham.

The link road would be along the route of the former railway line and the parcels of land involved come under the ownership of BCP, Wigan Council and Peel Holdings.

A spokesman for the North Leigh Park Group said: "The area was once heavily mined with remnants of open cast quarries, colliery tips and mine shafts remaining. It has been neglected for many years and problems of dereliction and contamination need to be addressed. The proposed development will address these issues."

The Group says the plus points are reclamation and regeneration, reduced traffic congestion with a new link road between leigh Road and Atherleigh Way, employment opportunities, new housing including affordable properties, improve rights of way and open space and play area, a new district centre with community and retail facilities, a network of cycleways, roads and footpaths and enhanced environment and habitat creation and protection.

Petitioner Mr Atherton, aged 61, of Furness Crescent, Leigh questioned how the site could be improved by the development.

"How can you improve a public area by drastically reducing its size?" he asked.

"This area is full with life, naturally self-sustaining and more educational for our children than any zoo."

He then reeled off a list of birds, animal and fish and amphibian types recording on the site.

"The habitat and biodiversity of the area is second to none and any human intervention will turn our natural green area into another man made Pennington Flash.

"We should be more interested in the revitalisation of Leigh shopping centre and maybe then people would have more than just 'quid' shops, charity shops and pawnbrokers' windows to gaze into."

*The exhibition is on until 7.30pm today at X11 Apostles Club, Westleigh Lane and tomorrow (Friday) until 7.30pm at Westleigh Adult and Community Learning Centre, Westleigh Lane, Leigh.