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A vital 20-acre slice of green belt on the outskirts of Bury has been saved from the threat of housing development ...
A vital 20-acre slice of green belt on the outskirts of Bury has been saved from the threat of housing development by London's high court.

Bury MBC has for years been adamant the land at Spen Moor should be retained as part of the countryside 'buffer' between the densely populated town and nearby Radcliffe.

Land owners, Peel Investments (North) Ltd, had gone to the high court in a bid to overturn the council's latest decision to protect the land from development by including it in the metropolitan green belt.

But deputy high court Judge Christopher Lockhart Mummery QC today refused to intervene, saying the council had approached the issue of the land's status 'with an open mind' and its decision could not be faulted.

Top planning QC, Nigel Mcleod, had argued on behalf of Peel Investments that the council's stance flew in the face of an environment department planning inspector's recommendation that the land be excluded from the green belt.

After a public inquiry the inspector said he had 'sympathy' with Peel Investment's view that there was an inadequate supply of building land to take Bury into the next century and there were 'no exceptional circumstances' justifying the land's inclusion in the green belt.

But the judge said the council's development services committee remained 'strongly of the opinion' that the site had a vital part to play in checking the growth of the built up area and safeguarding the integrity of the countryside.

In January last year the full council rejected the inspector's recommendation and the land was included in the green belt.

Mr Mcleod claimed the council had reached its decision 'with a closed mind', merely reiterating the arguments which the inspector had rejected.

But, dismissing the judicial review challenge, judge Lockhart Mummery said the council had been entitled to take a different view from the inspector.

'I am not persuaded that the council failed to approach this very contentious matter with an open mind.

'The committee members recognised they had to approach the matter with an open mind and did so. This was quintessentially a matter of planning judgement for the council alone and not for this court,' he ruled.

Peel Investments were ordered to pay the action's legal costs.

Celebrating the court room success, Bury MBC leader Derek Boden said: 'Put in its simplest terms the high court has vindicated the stand that we have taken over this issue. We fought this matter because we felt it was in the interest of the borough to protect this land. All along we have argued that these 18 acres or so at Spen Moor should retain green belt designation and the court has agreed with us. Peel

Investments chose to appeal the issue and we have successfully

defended our position. I sincerely hope that they now accept the

decision that has been given. As a council we have consistently made it clear that we will fight to preserve and protect green

belt land. Our determination is strengthened by this victory.'

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