Hopes of green belt reprieve as plan is revisited

Protestors at The Bell
Protestors at The Bell

Campaigners against a blueprint to build on parts of the borough’s precious green belt will be delighted at the wind of change which could be about to blow these plans off course.

Fears were raised last year that several local areas of hitherto ring-fenced open land could succumb to housing and commercial projects demanded by the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework drawn up by the region’s leaders.

With authorities supposedly running out of alternatives to using fields to meet demand for new buildings, borough areas including The Bell at Kitt Green (Pemberton’s only remaining green belt) had been earmarked for development, much to the dismay of many.

But the new mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who has a big say in such matters, appears to have other ideas.

He is refocusing the planning debate on town centres and infrastructure led development in response to public concerns expressed in the first consultation on the framework.

More than 27,000 people responded to the initial consultation on the draft GMSF including around 17,000 letters and 18 separate petitions, as well as thousands of comments made through the GMSF consultation portal.

Mr Burnham said: “We had a huge public response to the first round of consultation ... and we have listened carefully to what people have told us. The plan does need radical change and we will consult every step of the way as we develop the next draft that responds to those concerns.

“There will still be difficult decisions to be made but we will take those decisions in an open, transparent and consultative way.

“I want the new plan to refocus the debate on the transformational development opportunities for our towns, and in the coming weeks I will set out details of a new town centre challenge.

Each borough will have the opportunity to nominate a town with regeneration potential. Our aim will be to kick-start the regeneration effort so we can breathe new life into our smaller towns.”

Both positive and negative issues were raised during the consultation. These included:

l Concerns about the amount of greenbelt land allocated for development. This was the single biggest issue which was raised during the consultation process;

l Others recognised the need for new housing of all types and welcomed the ambition in the plan to provide much-needed housing;

l Concerns around effects on the environment and air quality;

l The potential for job creation which the GMSF highlights was welcomed;

l The need to link developments to infrastructure improvements;

l The types of housing and jobs being created.

The redrafted spatial framework will aim to make the most of Greater Manchester’s brownfield sites and reduce the impact on greenbelt, making sure that the area capitalises on existing town centres and transport links.