Stockport Cllrs vote against Manchester Green Belt Plans

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A U-turn on Stockport’s highly controversial green belt plans now looks certain after councillors refused to approve them at their latest meeting.

Members of all parties agreed last night that they would block their part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework unless it is radically scaled back.

Even the town hall’s leader Alex Ganotis, who was part of the team that drew up the proposals, says that unless they change he ‘probably won’t support them’.

The combined authority’s spatial framework aims to build 227,000 new homes across the region within the next 20 years, including on green belt.

Stockport’s part of the plan has been particularly contentious, as it includes several huge sites on green belt in High Lane, Cheadle, Woodford and Heald Green that would between them take more than 10,000 homes.

Could Stockport council veto the entire region’s plans to build on the green belt?

That has caused uproar not only among opposition councillors and the public but within the council’s ruling Labour group.

Protest about proposals to build housing on greenbelt
Protest about proposals to build housing on greenbelt (Photo: Manchester Evening News)
Local Liberal Democrats want Stockport council to withdraw from the strategy altogether – but Labour and the Conservatives voted that down last night, arguing some kind of development framework was still needed.

But they agreed that unless the current one was radically altered they would not be able to support it, admitting a ‘revised and more acceptable plan must emerge’ following the public outcry.

Council leader Alex Ganotis, who himself sits on the region’s combined authority that drew up the draft framework, told members: “We have to have a robust plan, that will stand up to challenge. Our current local plan is out of date.

“If we pull out of the GMSF, the developers will come circling like vultures. Pulling out now would be suicide.

“I’m not naive. I know the current proposals have caused outrage. If these proposals do not change, I know this council won’t approve them. If they don’t change at all, I probably won’t support them either.”

Greater Manchester development planning map

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Liberal Democrat councillors dubbed the process so far a ‘shambles’, however, and demanded for a second time that Stockport withdraw from it altogether.

Lib Dem leader Iain Roberts said the framework as it stands would lead to ‘urban sprawl’, destroying the green belt – and would put huge pressure on infrastructure and lead to traffic chaos.

Former Cheadle MP Mark Hunter said it was ‘time to end the charade of going along with this process’, describing the plan as a ‘shambles of huge proportions’.

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The Conservatives, who tabled an amendment to the Lib Dem’s motion, sided with the ruling Labour group, however, saying that the masterplan needed changing rather than scrapping altogether.

Tory Brian Bagnall said pulling out of it now would be ‘reckless’ and would lead to ‘uncontrolled’ green belt development, since there would be no rules to underpin where firms could and could not build.

Consultation on the first draft of the spatial framework closed on Monday and senior combined authority sources admit that the Stockport proposals – and potentially other contentious parts of it – will need to be completely changed following a fierce backlash.

Labour’s mayoral candidate Andy Burnham has said it needs ‘radically’ rewriting, while several MPs have submitted detailed concerns to council leaders, arguing they are planning for too many homes and haven’t correctly assessed the amount of vacant industrial land already available.

Each individual town hall has to approve their part of the masterplan before it goes to government. Even before last night’s vote it was widely recognised that Stockport council, where political control is finely balanced, would not approve the current proposals.

Housing White Paper to Abandon Javid Green Belt Plans

Daily Mail

A housing free-for-all on the Green Belt is set to be abandoned as ministers come under pressure from their own constituents.

At least half the Cabinet are already facing controversy over plans to allow green fields to be bulldozed for housing.

Those affected include Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond, and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who has vowed publicly to ‘fight to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development’.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid was reported last year to be considering easing the rules that allow councils to build on Green Belt land provided they designate equivalent areas of land for protection.

But Tory sources insist his remarks were over-interpreted and believe the idea will be quietly shelved when a White Paper on housing is published later this month.

One senior Tory said: ‘There will be a riot if they mess about with the Green Belt. We made a promise to protect it, and there are plenty of MPs – including some in the Cabinet – who are going to make sure we stick to it.’ At least ten Cabinet ministers are facing controversy over proposed Green Belt developments in their constituencies, including Mr Javid, who lodged a formal objection to plans for 2,800 homes in his Bromsgrove constituency in the West Midlands last year before taking up his current role.

Those affected include Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond, and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon

In the Prime Minister’s Maidenhead constituency, campaigners are fighting plans to build 3,000 new homes on Green Belt land. Sir Michael has said publicly that he will oppose plans to turn over large swathes of countryside for housing in his Sevenoaks constituency in Kent.

The top-level opposition is expected to head off any major watering-down of protection for green fields in the new proposals.

The Prime Minister is also said to be mindful of the Tories’ 2015 manifesto pledge, which said: ‘We will protect the Green Belt.’ Ministers are instead expected to focus on increasing development on brownfield sites and undesignated greenfield sites as they set out new proposals to hit the target of building one million new homes by 2020.

Sources close to Mr Javid insist he is committed to protecting the Green Belt, with development only permitted in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

But former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said the Communities Secretary ‘cannot be trusted’ on the issue after he gave approval for 6,000 new homes on countryside in Mr Mitchell’s Sutton Coldfield constituency in the Midlands.

Campaigners still fear that the push for housing will inevitably lead to more building on the Green Belt unless ministers act to strengthen existing protections.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says precious countryside is ‘under siege’ from developers, with for almost 300,000 new homes in the coming years.