Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Racecourse opponents hold meeting

Manchester racecourse - an artist's impression
Plans were first unveiled in 2001

Campaigners opposed to a racecourse in Greater Manchester are meeting as the plans move towards a public inquiry.

Developer Peel Holdings wants to speed up a decision on the 100m Salford Forest Park scheme, which is planned for greenbelt land near Boothstown.

Opponents say the course - the first in the area since the 1960s - will cause huge traffic problems in the area.

A Peel spokesperson said "a decision needs to be made" on the plans, which were first submitted in 2001.

Those plans were later withdrawn and new proposals submitted in 2004, which Salford City Council has not made a decision on.

The development is planned on an area of greenbelt close to the M60 and Bridgewater Canal, which local residents claim is unsuitable.

Effectively, all we are doing by appealing now is bringing forward the public inquiry that will have to be held
Peel spokesperson

Opponent Michael Howard said: "I can well appreciate that it sounds great to them because they're not going to be suffering the inconvenience that we are going to suffer.

"Thousands of cars at the end of a day's racing are going to want to get out of there.

"That's going to have a knock-on effect for everyone in an area that already has severe traffic problems."

Peel has asked the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry to speed up the decision.

"We do not underestimate the size of the scheme or the concerns of local residents but we feel that adequate information has been provided and a decision needs to be made," a spokesperson said.

Castle Irwell
The last time horses raced in Salford was at Castle Irwell in 1963

"Even if the Councils wished to approve the scheme it is almost certain that the proposal would have been called in for determination by the Secretary of State.

"Effectively, all we are doing by appealing now is bringing forward the public inquiry that will have to be held."

The plans include a floodlit oval racetrack with a 6,000 capacity grandstand, a four-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course.

The last time horse racing took place in Greater Manchester was in 1963 at the former Castle Irwell Racecourse in Lower Broughton.

The site is now used as student halls of residence by The University of Salford.

Residents Against Green-belt Erosion (Rage) are meeting at St Mark's Church, Worsley, on Friday evening.

A new racecourse opened in Essex in April - Great Leighs - which was Britain's first new course in 81 years.

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