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Housing and Homes

Part of Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle 6:36 pm, 15th May 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Emma Hardy.

Planning and housing are hot topics in my area, as neighbourhood plans, the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council plan and the Greater Manchester spatial framework are all currently being worked up, and people are rightly focused on the need for brownfield use and green-belt protection.

I welcome the Minister’s comments on the importance of green-belt protection. The Campaign to Protect Rural England recently launched its “State of Brownfield 2018” report to highlight and reinforce that very issue. It analysed the potential use of brownfield land to address our housing shortage and its findings were quite stark. An examination of the recently published brownfield registers from across the UK found that there is enough space on brownfield land to build at least 1 million new homes, with more than two thirds of those homes deliverable within the next five years. That would mean that three of the next five years’-worth of Government housing targets could be met through building homes on brownfield land that has already been identified, thereby easing pressures on councils to release green-belt land unnecessarily and preventing the unremitting creeping loss of countryside. Local authorities must be empowered and use powers to refuse planning permission for greenfield sites where there are suitable alternatives on brownfield land.

The draft Greater Manchester spatial framework was published in 2016 but was widely criticised for focusing too little on brownfield land and too much on development on the green belt. Indeed, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, was elected a year ago pledging to “radically rewrite” the framework and promising a “substantial reduction” in the loss of green-belt land. Currently across my borough of Stockport, more than 12,000 homes are proposed on green-belt land. Shockingly, 8,100 of those—67%—are planned on the green belt in my constituency of Cheadle. I look forward to a radically reformed proposal.

Greater Manchester has 1,000 hectares of underdeveloped brownfield land across 400 sites that has not been earmarked for use. That is enough land to build 55,000 homes. The revised spatial framework is an opportunity to further redevelop our major town centres, and we should be radical in our approach. We need a more ambitious attitude if we are to ensure that our town centres benefit from the investment generated by urban regeneration schemes.

We also need to see more co-operation between local authorities. I was encouraged when that was reflected in the Localism Act 2011 and reinforced by the Secretary of State last autumn, with the introduction of a requirement for local authorities to publish a statement of common ground. Councils already have a duty to co-operate with bordering authorities, as set out in the Localism Act. However, under the new proposals, they will have 12 months to set out how they are working cross-county to meet their local housing needs.

This issue is particularly pertinent to my constituency because, as I have already mentioned, the number of houses proposed to be built on the green belt is considerably high. Stockport Council, for example, has argued that, by calculating housing need at the Greater Manchester level, over a 20-year period, 18,720 fewer homes could be built on the green belt than under GMSF and 5,680 fewer than under the current national methodology.

In my constituency, the strength of feeling is a concern and most evident in the activities of local neighbourhood groups. I very much want to mention the Woodford neighbourhood forum, which was set up in October 2013. The people who are part of the forum have worked unremittingly hard on their local plan and I urge the Minister to listen to local voices as he takes this policy forward.