Margaret Greenwood MP tabled a series of amendments to the government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which were designed to strengthen protections for the green belt and the environment more widely.
The bill introduces national development management policies (NDMPs) which will have primacy over local development plans, meaning that those local plans could be easily and rapidly rendered out of date by changes to national policies.
The Wirral West MP said that her constituents who are campaigning to protect the green belt will be concerned about this, and one of her amendments was designed to ensure that the government could not use NDMPs to allow housing to be built on green belt land.
Margaret Greenwood has previously highlighted concerns that a situation could arise where, on the one hand, a council says that any new housing in its area will be built on brownfield sites and the green belt will be protected, but on the other hand, the government sets a NDMP that overrules the local council position.
The government has failed to rule out that such a situation could occur.
This has implications for Wirral, where the council’s draft local plan states: “‘”Sufficient brownfield land and opportunities exist…to ensure that objectively assessed housing and employment needs can be met over the plan period.”
However, the changes the government is seeking to bring in could render such decisions made by local authorities obsolete.
Further amendments to the bill tabled by Margaret Greenwood MP were designed to ensure that:
- regulations made by the government in relation to Environmental Outcomes Reports – the proposed new regime of environmental assessments – would be subject to higher levels of scrutiny by MPs than is currently provided for
- when setting these regulations, the government would be required to have regard to green belt preservation, climate obligations and the protection of heritage, as well as the government’s environmental improvement plan
Margaret Greenwood spoke in support of her amendments during the debate on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill this week. The amendments received support from a number of MPs and environmental organisations, including the Better Planning Coalition which represents 32 different organisations across the environment, housing, planning heritage and transport sectors. However, unfortunately, they were not selected for a vote by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Speaking afterwards, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “I fully support people in Wirral West who are campaigning to protect the green belt. The green belt is clearly not safe in the hands of the Conservatives.
“The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should be strengthened to provide stronger protections for the green belt, and that is what my amendments were designed to do.
“In its current state, the bill could in fact weaken protections and seriously undermine local democratic processes for determining planning decisions.
“It is clear that we need new homes to be built on brownfield land, not on the green belt.
“It is also a matter of very real concern that the government is planning to replace our existing systems of environmental assessment – known as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) – with a new Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR) regime.
“EIAs and SEAs have been vital to the protection of sites of local, national and international environmental importance for decades.
“The bill provides little detail about how the new EOR system of environmental assessment will work. Instead, the government is leaving that detail to secondary legislation, which means that MPs will have minimal opportunity to scrutinise it.
“I know from the emails and letters that I receive that people will want there to be more scrutiny of how environmental assessments will work, not less.
“As it stands, this bill would give ministers a blank cheque to change environmental protections in the planning system.
“It is very disappointing that my amendments were not selected for a vote, but these are vital issues that I will continue to campaign on.”