Labour’s Grey Areas

The Labour Party’s Manifesto has made much of its plan in Government to kick-start house building, with a promise of “1.5 million new homes over the next parliament” and “immediately updating the National Policy Planning Framework“.

Places for Everyone
Have they also given the ‘green light’ to Combined Authorities, such as our own GMCA, for their Place for Everyone (PfE) strategic plan, by requiring them “to strategically plan for housing growth in their areas” ?
Labour’s manifesto pledge is to “take a brownfield first approach, prioritising the development of previously used land wherever possible, and fast-tracking approval of urban brownfield sites”.
The caveat to this pledge being “brownfield development alone will not be enough to meet our housing need. Labour is committed to preserving the green belt which has served England’s towns and cities well over many decades. Without changing its purpose or general extent, Labour will take a more strategic approach to greenbelt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places. The release of lower quality ‘grey belt’ land will be prioritised and we will introduce ‘golden rules’ to ensure development benefits communities and nature.”

Will this require Greater Manchester’s local Councils to think again about allocating over 2,000 hectares of Green Belt land for housing and employment sites in the PfE plan?

Planning consultancy Lichfields found, in their 2022 report, that the Northwest was one of the three regions where brownfield land is most relatively prevalent. Odd then you might think that the Greater Manhcester ‘Places for Everyone Plan‘ says it needs to use Green Belt for both employment land and housing sites.

What is Grey Belt?
There is no official data on how much grey belt there is as it will be a new category of land.
Labour has described the grey belt as “poor quality and ugly areas” – including disused car parks and wasteland – on parts of protected green belt.
The green belt, which was established more than 70 years ago, covers about 13% of England. Its aim was to limit the growth of large built-up areas and to stop large towns merging into one another.
Labour says it wants grey belt land to be used for new homes, with half to be affordable housing.

Reform of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
We are all for a reform of the NPPF, but believe it should give even greater protection to Green Belt as it seems all to easy for so called ‘exceptional circumstances’ to be cited so that developments can go ahead on Green Belt. The Countryside charity CPRE says their research shows peoples support for Green Belt has increased. During the COVID pandemic people used the ‘outdoors’ much more.

I’m lucky to live on the edge of the countryside and saw a phenominal increase in the number of people out walking when gyms were closed. Being able to wander along footpaths through fields lifts your spirits and helps keep you healthy in mind and body.” said Gordon Tilstone, Chair of Save Our Slattocks Green Belt Group.

Developers have a strangle hold over when and where houses are built. They hold onto land (land bank) and drip-feed it into the supply chain to suit their profit margins, generally expecting to see a 20-25% profit from a site. They really don’t want to have to build social/affordable housing on sites as the profit from these is around 6%. The government should realise that this is the real problem with the planning system and remove this blockage.

Also see: What is the ‘grey belt’ and how many homes could Labour build? – BBC News

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