Margaret Greenwood MP has taken part in an important debate in Parliament on the impact of new development on green belt land.
She said that “local people are angry and upset” over recent proposals by developers Leverhulme Estates and Richborough Estates to build houses on the green belt in Pensby, Greasby and Irby in her constituency.
She added that she supports local people and stands with them in opposition to the plans to build houses on precious green belt land.
The Wirral West MP also highlighted that the current Conservative government’s Secretary of State with responsibility for planning, Simon Clarke, has previously called for the release of green belt land for new homes and has described the green belt as “an arbitrary and increasingly damaging holdover from seventy years ago.”
In a 2018 report, Simon Clarke also said that “the green belt is not simply part of the problem…it has become the central obstacle to enabling the building of the volume of houses we need, where we need them.”
Prime Minister Liz Truss has also previously called for the Conservatives to build one million homes on the green belt.
Margaret Greenwood also argued that the government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill could potentially weaken green belt protection.
The bill would introduce National Development Management Policies (NDMPs).
NDMPs would take precedence over local development plans, meaning that those plans could easily and rapidly be rendered out of date by changes to national policies.
Wirral Council’s draft local plan states: “Sufficient brownfield land and opportunities exist within the urban areas of the borough to ensure that objectively assessed housing and employment needs can be met over the plan period…The council has therefore concluded that the exceptional circumstances to justify alterations to the green belt boundaries do not exist in Wirral.”
However, an NDMP set by the government could override that. The legislation, which is currently going through Parliament, specifies no limit to what might be covered by an NDMP.
Margaret Greenwood raised the possibility that we could end up with a situation whereby, 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 would set an NDMP overruling that council’s position.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is no wonder that people in Wirral West are extremely concerned about the threat that the Conservatives pose to the green belt.
“Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State in charge of planning have previously made clear that they believe that homes should be built on the green belt.
“This is a matter of real concern, particularly given that the government is set to bring in National Development Management Policies which will take precedence over local development plans.
“Given the government’s plans, it is vitally important that we keep up the fight to defend the green belt.
“Research by CPRE, the countryside charity, found that 42% of applications for development on green belt land were approved between 2010 and 2020, resulting in the building of more than 52,000 housing units in that time.
“This shows that there is not the level of protection for the green belt that there needs to be.
“We need more homes in Wirral, but they need to be built on brownfield sites and they need to be affordable for first time buyers and for people to rent.
“People value the green belt highly for the quality of life it affords and for the important part it has to play in protecting nature and mitigating the impact of climate change.
“We are facing an ecological emergency.
“The government really must come forward with stronger protections for the green belt as a matter of urgency.”
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