Experts give their verdict on the rewritten GMSF

At the recent Breathing Space conference in Manchester, organised by the Save Greater Manchester’s Greenbelt (SGMGB) group, no one was left in any doubt that the GMSF rewrite does not go anywhere far enough in taking into account many people’s concerns, particularly about the Greenbelt.

Andy Burnham and the ten local Councils comprising the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities (GMCA) are not meeting residents’ expectations – in protecting Greenbelt; having a ‘Brownfield First’ policy; and in truly taking on-board people’s concerns about the future on their communities.

Despite the glossy brochure rhetoric, they don’t seem to be listening to what people have said in response to the first nor second consultation.

So the Greenbelt Groups across Manchester have tried to emphasise where Andy and his team, and the system they’re working with, have gone wrong and can really make a positive difference.

The Breathing Space conference saw presentations on: Clean air; Public participation in planning; Planning and land speculators; and What makes a viable neighbourhood.

Whilst all the experts gave excellent presentations, we were particularly impressed by Dr Quintin Bradley’s presentation ‘Planning and land speculators’. Dr Bradley powerfully highlighted how the current planning system is stacked against ordinary people and the local councils in favour of the developers:

‘a planning regime intended to increase the supply of housing has actually doubled the length of time taken to build houses, created a new market in land speculation, incentivised housebuilders not to build, and forced local authorities to allocate more than twice as much land as actually needed for housing’.

Some of the headlines from the presentations are:

  • Bring forward the day when we can all breathe clean air with healthy lungs
    (Sue Huyton – British Lung Foundation)
  • 152 roads in GM are above legal air pollution levels and motorways are not included in this.
  • 1200 early deaths have been attributed to poor air quality in GM.
  • Poor air quality costs GMCA £1 billion per annum due to health issues.
  • Air pollution increases by 112% next to a construction site for houses.
  • Public participation in planning: smoke, mirrors and charades? (Dr Paul O’Hare – MMU)
  • How planners approach public participation, and how they are getting it wrong
  • Help! The town planning system has been captured by land speculators: the five year land supply and the Housing Delivery Test (Dr Quintin Bradley – Leeds Beckett University)
  • What was once known as land banking has now been renamed as a ‘housing supply pipeline’.
  • A whole new middle industry has now emerged called site promotion which gets a landowner outline planning on greenbelt. The promoter takes a % fee for land sale with planning permission. Many never turn into new homes.
  • Agricultural land worth £25K per hectare will typically increase in value to £5.6M per hectare once residential planning permission is granted.
  • Housebuilders deliberately restrict build-out rates in order to starve the market of new houses so that land prices inflate and new house prices remain high.
  • Over 1 million homes given detailed planning permission over the 11 year period to 2017 were never actually built.
  • Housing developers are now taking twice as long to produce completions to market: from 2 years to 4.
  • 90 % of planning applications for housing get approved, and this includes appeals.
  • Most appeals are now won by housing developers disproving that a local council hasn’t got a 5 year supply of land which is manipulated to suit in some cases.
  • Vital and Viable Neighbourhoods
    (Dr Steve Millington & Professor Cathy Parker – Institute of Place Management)
  • Local markets are often an essential component of successful town centres, encouraging local enterprise.
  • People like pedestrianisation and car-free zones.
  • Town centres need to be mixed use (not just retail) with an evening economy.
  • Harpurhey is seen as a model of successful co-location of key public amenities with retail and community-led partnerships.

Both the Thornham St John’s Neighbourhood Forum and SOS-Save Our Slattocks Greenbelt Group will take what we’ve learned from the conference and continue to campaign to save the Greenbelt and oppose inappropriate development

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