I understand that as Tameside grows we need to identify land for future housing and economic growth across Greater Manchester.
My position on the matter has been clear for some years. Keeping our green space green matters, not just as recreational and leisure space for people to enjoy, but as an environmental asset and to prevent wider urban sprawl. That’s why I support a proper ‘brownfield first’ strategy which focuses on building on brownfield sites, this makes sense for a number of reasons, specifically the ability to build on land which has already been developed, and building on derelict or unused land rather than green spaces.
This position means that in recent years I have consistently come out on the side of residents and defended our community green spaces. In 2016 I was fiercely critical of initial proposals within the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) and called for a complete brownfield first strategy rather than a greenbelt grab, as I saw it.
I’m delighted that in response Tameside Council, under the new leadership of Brenda Warrington, has been looking at the sale of urban greenspace with fresh eyes as well as updating Tameside’s section of the spatial framework.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is the governments approach to planning policies for England and offers an opportunity to influence the GM Spatial Framework rewrite. The NPPF can influence the GM Spatial Framework rewrite by advocating brownfield first, higher densities, Housing target sharing with neighbouring authorities and only greenspace release in exceptional circumstances where necessary.
The NPPF could be a positive influence by informing the GMSF rewrite and emphasising brownfield first, higher densities, housing targets shared with neighbouring authorities and only greenspace release in exceptional circumstances where necessary.
I am optimistic that the NPPF presents a great opportunity for positive change but I am wary that however well-intentioned, the framework could repeat much of the Governments previous rhetoric without including any new measures that will significantly boost the supply of housing.
The Government’s stated aim of “making sure we use the space we have available efficiently and reduce the need to build out” reinforces the tension between delivering the 2020 target of 300,000 homes per year against the radical reform many had hoped for when the Housing White Paper was first published.
It’s important to remember that the arguments that won the day in 2016 with the spatial framework, and more recent battles for green spaces across Tameside will inform the upcoming rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework that Mayor Andy Burnham has insisted on.
As a community we have to be clear that economic considerations do not, in and of themselves, mean we should build on Green Belt.