Readers may recall I presented to Parliament the petition about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework which many local residents had signed.
I have now received the official government response which I have set out below. As one might expect it summarises what the present legal position and current policy is and encourages petitioners to continue to engage in the process which I have no doubt people will do.
The following is the petition and the official response:
Declares that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework should avoid large-scale residential development on the greenbelt, which is a valuable barrier to urban sprawl and is hugely valued by local people; and further declares that brownfield land should be prioritised for residential development provided that proper infrastructure is in place.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government to make such provisions in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr David Nuttall , Official Report, 13 December 2016; Vol. 618, c. 763 .]
Observations from The Minister for Housing and Planning, (Gavin Barwell):
Green Belts are created by local authorities, who are expected to protect them in line with policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The Framework states that a Green Belt boundary can be altered only in exceptional circumstances, using the Local Plan process of public consultation followed by examination in public of the draft Plan.
Local authorities, working with their communities, are responsible for determining the best location for the new homes needed in the area. The Framework recognises that, in exceptional circumstances, a local authority may find it necessary to review the extent of its Green Belt. In the Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market, the Government reaffirmed their commitment to Green Belt protection, but also proposed a strengthening of the test of the exceptional circumstances in which Green Belt boundaries can be adjusted. This proposal is that local authorities should amend Green Belt boundaries only when they can demonstrate that they have examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting their identified development requirements, and that any impact of removing the land from Green Belt should be offset by improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of the remaining Green Belt land.
When any Green Belt alteration is proposed, the revised draft Plan with the supporting evidence is submitted for examination by a planning inspector. The inspector, who exercises independent judgement in the name of the Secretary of State, will consider whether the draft Plan is sound. A Plan will be found sound only if it is properly prepared, justified, effective and consistent with policy in the Framework.
The Framework encourages the re-use of brownfield land, if not of high environmental value. Brownfield sites differ greatly, and local authorities are best placed to assess their suitability, viability and availability. If desired locally, a local authority may consider having its own Plan policy to increase the take-up and prioritisation of brownfield sites.
To support development of brownfield land, the Government have accelerated disposal of public sector brownfield suitable for housing, and extended permitted development to give new life to thousands of under-used buildings. We are also introducing Brownfield Registers and Permission in principle. Brownfield Registers will provide up-to-date accessible information on the brownfield sites suitable for housing in each local authority area, giving developers, communities and investors more certainty about the potential of these sites. Permission in principle will give certainty from the outset that the fundamental principles of redevelopment are acceptable. Moreover, the £3 billion Home Building Fund will provide loans for small and medium-sized building firms, custom builders and offsite construction, and help to make more land, much of it brownfield, available for new homes. An additional £1.2 billion will be available to enable starter homes to be created on brownfield land.
I encourage the Petitioners to contribute to the preparation of Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework for the period to 2035, and to support creation of a plan where growth can be accommodated sustainably.