The Conservative-led Government has changed planning in a way which is encouraging developers to submit proposals for housing development on many areas of our green field and Greenbelt land. Fourteen areas of green open space or Greenbelt land are now being targeted for over 3,000 houses.
I have campaigned for years to defend this land from development. It has never been easy to argue the case against development but our previous planning system offered some help. Policies like "Brownfield First" meant that Planning Panels had some grounds on which to resist inappropriate applications for green open spaces.
In Salford, we have many Brownfield sites which could be developed for housing but developers prefer the easier and cheaper route of building on green field sites.
The Conservative-led Government claimed they would give local communities a say on planning issues but it is clear that Government Ministers want to be able to override the wishes of local communities. On Burgess Farm in Walkden Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, overrode his own Planning Inspector and allowed the development of hundreds of houses with the loss of an urban farm.
Conservative Planning Minister Nick Boles has said “The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field”. Conservative Ministers have also hinted at plans to weaken protection for the Greenbelt.
The Government’s recent Growth and Infrastructure Bill will allow developers to bypass local authorities in some cases by going directly to the Communities Secretary for planning decisions.
This is worrying for people in Irlam and Barton who are campaigning against fracking for shale gas at Barton Moss. The Government is bringing in new planning guidance for shale gas and says that developers may be able to apply for planning permission nationally rather than through the local council.
I am opposed to this Government’s plans to weaken local decision-making on important planning issues. I will continue to support the right of local people to have a say on developments which affect them and their quality of life.