A council leader has branded the massive Places for Everyone housing masterplan a ‘three year waste of time and money’ in light of a potential government planning U-turn.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, has announced that there will be a consultation on a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), starting before Christmas.
He also confirmed that the long-standing target to build 300,000 homes a year would not be enforced, and would instead be considered ‘advisory’.
Housing targets have piled on pressure on local authorities, which are often unable to meet their ‘five year housing land supply’, by allowing development on protected green belt land.
Under the proposed changes to the NPPF, green belt land would have more protection and development of brownfield land would be emphasised in order to protect countryside development.
The announcement earlier this month comes as the Places for Everyone masterplan for nine boroughs of Greater Manchester, which proposes to allow thousands of homes to be built in the green belt, goes before planning inspectors.
The plan, previously known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework in its earlier incarnation, is allocating sites to build 165,000 homes across the region over the next 15 years.
However the inspection team have said that until any change becomes national policy, it won’t have an impact on the way the Places for Everyone plan is being assessed.
Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors in Oldham raised the issue of the proposed planning changes at a meeting of the full council, asking what effect it would have on the regional masterplan – and whether green belt sites could now be withdrawn.
Lib Dem group leader Coun Howard Sykes said: “Following Mr Gove’s announcement, Greater Manchester now has two years during which to rethink and re-position its housing strategy.
“So, the question to the leader is will her administration now stop and pause and think again about the land grab to do with green belt and green spaces now we have no compulsory housing targets?”
Labour council leader Amanda Chadderton responded that she ‘welcomed the U-turn from the government’ in relation to the ‘top-down’ housing targets.
“I’m cautious given the government U-turns every ten minutes, so until it’s into law you have to be cautious about that,” she said.
“Obviously we have always said we don’t want to build on green belt. We should always progress a brownfield first policy and we should always be able to set our own targets based on our own housing need and the work that we do in this borough.
“It irritates me what an absolute waste of time, what an absolute waste of public money over the past three years. I find it disgraceful that we’ve had to go through this for them to change their minds.”
She added she had already begun conversations with authority officers about what effect it would have on the green belt sites in Oldham included in Places for Everyone, although until any change becomes law it would not affect the current plan.
In a statement, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said: “The nine Places for Everyone districts will consider and fully participate in any consultation on the detailed proposals of this latest round of interventions from Government when the draft NPPF proposals are published.
“The nine districts note that the Written Ministerial Statement sets out proposals for consultation rather than immediate changes to Government policy. Consequently, the Inspectors have been clear that the examination of Places for Everyone will continue under extant policy unless and until such time as this policy changes.”