Letter to Tameside Planning Inspectors re Matley Lane Hyde
14th April 2023
Dear Tameside Planning Department
Objection to Planning Reference 23/00157/OUT
The Save Greater Manchester’s Green Belt Group (SGMGB) objects to this application for the following reasons (which are outlined in more detail in the paragraphs below):
- the application conflicts with National Policy:
- the site is currently designated as Green Belt and Very Special Circumstances have not been demonstrated
- the Green Belt Boundary will be impacted
- the Landscape and Visual impact will be considerable
- the application conflicts with regional Policy (as set out in Places for Everyone – P4E):
- the site is not within the area of search as defined by the P4E spatial strategy
- the development does not support Greater Manchester’s aims for brownfield regeneration
- the application conflicts with local Policy
- the development will impact efforts to mitigate the Climate Emergency, to deliver the district’s Carbon Neutral Action Plan and to address local food security issues (the site is Grade 3 bmv agricultural land)
- the scheme will be detrimental to nature’s recovery, with a huge impact on local woodland habitat and biodiversity
- the site is home to protected species and should not be developed
- the application does not comply with the district’s Statement of Community Involvement
Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you need any clarification.
Chair – Save Greater Manchester’s Green Belt Group
Conflict with National Policy:
The Planning Statement Part 2 Summary Report recognises (paragraph 4.5) that “The proposed development does not fall within any of the exceptions to appropriate development in the Green Belt and as such, in accordance with paragraph 147 and 148, the development must demonstrate there are Very Special Circumstances (VSC) that clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt in order for it to be considered acceptable in principle”.
Interestingly, whilst a number of legal cases are highlighted in the planning application, the Compton Parish Council vs Guildford Borough Council judicial review is not mentioned. This case established the following two principles:
- While housing need can contribute to exceptional circumstances, “it is simply not necessarily sufficient of itself” to establish exceptional circumstances.
- “Very Special Circumstances” (VSC) is a more demanding test than “Exceptional Circumstances”, a higher burden of proof is required to demonstrate VSC.
Paragraph 4.5 goes on “The VSC Case is set out below and demonstrates there are significant benefits that outweigh the limited harm”. This is rather misleading given the relatively small number of homes to be provided, the planned developments set out in the Places for Everyone (P4E) Plan and the alternative sites available for small developments that do not require Green Belt to be sacrificed. The Part 2 document hugely over emphasises the benefits of the delivery of less than 100 homes and severely belittles the harm to be caused, describing it as “limited” when the document itself demonstrates the harm will be extensive in terms of Green Belt purposes, openness, landscape and visual aspects and the impact on protected species. The document makes much of the community benefit of a small new play space, which cannot be compared to the loss of proximity to green space that local people currently enjoy.
We do not believe the requirements of NPPF paragraphs 147 and 148 have been met for the following reasons:
- we disagree with the applicant’s perception that the relatively very small area of the site would have a negligible to low impact in relation to the Green Belt purposes, the evaluation of Green Belt harm, which was undertaken as part of the P4E Plan, identifies that the site is in a land parcel (TS41) that is assessed as follows:
- Green Belt Purpose 1 – Strong (for 1a and 1b)
- Green Belt Purpose 2 – Strong
- Green Belt Purpose 3 – Strong
- Green Belt Purpose 4 – Strong
- Green Belt Purpose 5 – not assessed
- the applicant frequently (and disingenuously) refers to the “limited harm” to the openness of the Green Belt, but this is not what is demonstrated by the documentation itself, the impact on openness is clearly very highly adverse:
- it is helpful that the applicant has accepted that the “residential receptors directly opposite the site would be assessed as having a high sensitivity”, that users of the PROWS would “be assessed as having high sensitivity, due to their proximity to the site and the general views of open, green space that they experience” (paragraph 5.11) and that those “private residential receptors will have open views from upper floor rear windows at least across the site and to the countryside beyond and would be assessed as having high sensitivity” (paragraph 5.22)
- despite this, the document repeatedly diminishes the impact to visual character and sensitivities
- given the lack of community engagement, it is not clear how the site promoter has come to the conclusion that residents “generally disassociate with countryside to the east” (paragraph 5.8).
- the VSC case (set out in Part 2) needs to be presented in the context of the P4E Plan, which proposes to release over 200 hectares of Green Belt in Tameside and plans to deliver housing need for the next 16-17 years. The previous Inspectorate/SoS cases alluded to are, therefore, in the most part irrelevant
- the site promoter has made no assessment of the natural capital value of the site, including its importance as the breeding and feeding grounds for protected species.
Furthermore, the recent Government consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) proposes to reduce the amount of required housing supply to 4 years (with no buffer) and for the Housing Delivery Test to include land which already has planning permission. The Government also wishes to make it clear that local planning authorities are not required to review and alter Green Belt boundaries if this would be the only way of meeting housing need in full. These proposed changes significantly reduce the weight that should be given to the land promoter’s key benefits to support their VSC argument and should significantly increase the weight given to retaining the land as Green Belt. We note that the NPPF presumption of sustainable development specifically excludes land designated as Green Belt (paragraph 11, footnote 7).
In summary, given the current examination of the P4E Plan, it is premature to submit a planning application which proposes the release of yet more Green Belt. In addition, we do not agree that the application complies with national policy, nor do we agree that there are “substantial” benefits and “limited” harm.
Conflict with Regional Policy
The P4E Plan, currently undergoing examination, maps out the geography of development in Tameside up to 2037 (at the earliest). This planning application is not within the area of search defined by P4E’s spatial strategy and is not consistent with the site selection criteria for Green Belt allocations in the Plan. It cannot, therefore, be deemed sustainable development nor consistent with regional policy.
There are other Policies in P4E which this Planning Application does not support. In addition, the Green Belt Topic Paper and Exceptional Circumstances document (07.01.25) highlights that it is not anticipated that districts will propose further amendments to Green Belt in Local Plans, stating that P4E “will be the only opportunity to make changes, including those that are small scale“.
The objectives in P4E prioritise the use of brownfield land. Making large areas of Green Belt land available to the market can have a significant impact on brownfield regeneration, as developers focus their resources on greenfield sites. The release of this land from Green Belt is also not in accordance with the Greater Manchester Deeper Devolution Deal, which has resulted in significant public funding being made available to support brownfield regeneration.
It is recognised across Greater Manchester that the Green Belt loss proposed in P4E has resulted in a public outcry, with around 27,000 residents objecting. There is no justification for the additional Green Belt release proposed by this Planning Application, especially as every Borough in Greater Manchester has delivered more housing in the period between 2011 and 2021 than new households formed (an overprovision of almost 30,000 homes, across the 10 districts, during the period, and that figure does not include empty homes brought back into use). For Tameside, whilst the number of new homes was only 3% higher than household growth, the district brought circa 1,400 homes back into use, meaning overall housing provision was 33% higher than household growth during that period.
In addition, the CPRE’s State of Brownfield report specifically highlights the North West and Manchester as having significant brownfield capacity. P4E confirms (paragraph 7.12) that there is no numeric requirement to release Green Belt to achieve the numbers required by the Government’s housing need methodology and the Housing Topic Paper (paragraph 8.2.4) highlights that there is clear evidence that windfall (not included in those numbers) will continue to come forward over the coming years.
In summary, this Planning Application does not accord with the P4E Policies, as submitted, which were agreed by each Borough, including Tameside.
Conflicts with Local Policy
There are a number of conflicts with local policy. We highlight some specific issues in this section.
The Council declared a Climate Emergency in February 2020 and has adopted a Climate-Change-and-Environment-Strategy (2021-2026), committing to act to reduce the Borough’s carbon impact to Net Zero by 2038. Development on the Green Belt will not support delivery of this Strategy and the document confirms how steeply the district needs to modify the emissions curve to reach net zero.
As the Strategy document points out, there are very measurable benefits to natural capital, including the value of trees, the benefits of surface water flood mitigation and the importance of the food chain. The document highlights the important role that biodiversity and the natural environment plays and how essential Tameside’s green infrastructure is in reducing the impacts of climate change on the lives of our residents, stating that “Trees and green urban spaces capture and store CO2, improving air quality” and that the green infrastructure also mitigates the “urban-heat-island” effect.
The application does not provide any natural capital values nor does it consider the supposed benefits of the scheme against those losses. The development will impact efforts to mitigate the Climate Emergency, to deliver the district’s Carbon Neutral Action Plan and to address food security issues (the site is Grade 3 bmv agricultural land).
Tameside’s Aboricultural and Countryside Estates Officer highlights that “There is a significant area of protected woodland along the southeast boundary of the proposed development, partially sitting within the footprint” and recommends “a full Aboricultural Method Statement, detailing protection measures for retained trees and a detailed landscape plan/schedule with any full application”.
The Part 2 Planning Statement highlights (paragraph 5.6) the emerging Places for Everyone Policy (JP-G7) but does not reference criterion 12 “Where development would result in the loss of existing trees, requiring replacement on the basis of two new trees for each tree lost, with a preference for on-site provision”. No such commitment is made in the application.
The document mentions (paragraph 5.18) that “A Badger latrine and signs of foraging were recorded on the site and so the report recommended a precautionary approach to Badgers during construction”. This is woefully inadequate. As this site is designated Green Belt and is also home to this protected species, development should not be approved.
In summary, if approved, this development would be highly detrimental to nature’s recovery, with a huge impact on local woodland and biodiversity, negatively impacting the habitats of endangered bird and protected wildlife species and will result in considerable, harmful changes to the surrounding environment.
Compliance with the district’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)
The Council’s SCI states (paragraph 2.1) that “The Council wants to give local people a greater role in shaping their local area”. This aim is expressed in various paragraphs throughout the SCI, including paragraph 3.6, which states “The aim of the pre-application process is to encourage discussion with a range of bodies including the local community before a formal application is made” and paragraph 3.9, which confirms that “Community engagement should be genuine, where failure by the applicant to consult appropriately could lead to objections being made which could be material to the determination of the application”. No such community engagement has been initiated, genuine or otherwise.
In summary, there has been a total lack of community engagement and a clear disregard of the aims of the Council’s SCI.