Greater Manchester may Undertake Strategic Green Belt Review

Manchester Evening News

Council bosses in Greater Manchester say they may have to build on greenbelt land to help drastically increase the number of new homes being built.

The region’s combined authority is currently working up plans to significantly boost the region’s housing stock over the next two decades.

Town hall chiefs say thousands more homes are needed to keep up with demand. They say sites where planning permission for development has been approved, but stalled, will be targeted first.

But Stockport council chief executive and combined authority planning and housing lead, Eamonn Boylan, said that although building on greenbelt land is not currently on the cards, bosses can’t rule it out in the future.

He added: “You can’t build on greenbelt land without a fundamental review, which there hasn’t been.

“We have aspirations to drastically increase housing in Greater Manchester and will start with sites that currently have planning consent, but where nothing has happened.

“There are a lot of those across the ten boroughs, in the right locations.

“That’s not to say we won’t get to the point when we have to look at greenbelt land, beyond the sites being looked at.

“There’s no grand plan to get into greenbelt review. But that’s something we may have to look at.”

A housing masterplan is currently being developed by leaders from all ten boroughs to help ensure a ‘pipeline’ of suitable sites for new homes.

The region’s historic devolution deal will see Greater Manchester’s new elected mayor handed greater powers over strategic planning – including the authority to establish the new housing framework.

The masterplan will need to be approved by a unanimous vote of the mayor’s cabinet, made up of the region’s ten council leaders.

The mayor will also be handed control of a new £300m Housing Investment Fund, which will provide up to 15,000 extra homes over the next 10 years.

Last August, the M.E.N. reported on the combined authority’s fears over the region’s lack of homes.

Council chiefs said 4,000 new homes are constructed each year, compared to the required 9,000 to 10,000.

Hundreds of sites have been identified for new schemes across the region, with the potential for 48,000 homes – enough to meet demand for five years.

But town hall chiefs say more needs to be done in the long term to find more suitable sites, with thousands of people struggling to find homes to rent and buy.

They planned to set up a new organisation – TopCo – to negotiate long-term funding for projects.

Stockport council leader Sue Derbyshire, who is lead councillor for housing and planning on the combined authority, said council bosses would ‘exhaust’ sites where planning permission had been granted, but development has hit the buffers, before considering projects on greenbelt land.

She added: “We’ll look at all the barriers to those and try to overcome them to deliver housing.

“We can’t say we’ll never have to look at greenbelt land, but at the minute, we’re quite a way from that.

“There are an awful lot of sites where permission exist – many will be viable.”

The Cities Growth Commission has called for Greater Manchester’s ‘super council’ to be given the power to reclassify greenbelt land to allow bosses to deliver housing.