Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall (June 2013) trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.
I have said many times that there is no need to build on high grade agricultural land across England. As a Sefton Councillor, a Maghull Town Councillor, Lydiate Parish Councillor and then after coming off both Sefton & Maghull Councils I fought alongside environmental campaigners opposing the Sefton Local Plan which designated high grade agricultural land for house building. We LOST….
This is a matter I’ve blogged about far more times than I care to recall but the underlying feeling of those of us opposing Local Plans across England was that there must be sufficient brownfield sites to deliver the housing* we have long been told is urgently required. However, the process to identify building land and indeed land use generally has always been flawed. Scoping it out on a council by council area basis has been looking thorough the wrong end of the telescope for me. In my view it should have been done and needs to be done at a regional level. The old process was called Unitary Development Plans but they then morphed into Local Plans although still tackled on a council by council basis.
This article on CPRE website is very interesting and informative:-
And as CPRE say in a Tweet today – BREAKING: We’ve found that there is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million homes – enough to meet government housing targets for the next five years.
There is already enough land to build the homes we need – so why deregulate the planning system?
* Of course we campaigners against the Sefton Local Plan were not just concerned about the concreting over high grade agricultural land, but what kind of houses would be built anyway. Many of us were of the view that the real housing need in England is in the social housing sector. On that basis councils, like Sefton, were not only sacrificing the land the feeds us for housing but they were not even gaining much if any social housing in the process!
** Whilst this article is mainly focused on the Tory plan for further planning deregulation (build what you want where you want) it, in my view, also exposes the flawed nature of Local Plans and their predecessor Unitary Development Plans.
Julia Marley, of the CPRE, writes in the Yorkshire Post about how smart planning is the key to protecting the countryside. She states that the CPRE realises that affordable homes are needed to keep the rural economy and communities alive. She argues that affordable homes can be delivered by smart planning, by building on brownfield land rather than green fields, protecting the Green Belt and increasing the delivery of homes communities want. She goes on to say that by using local skills from small and medium-sized builders, houses will get built that reflect the character of the towns and villages they are in while supporting the local economy.
Separately, in the Telegraph, Geoffrey Lean calls the election a victory for the countryside. All five nationwide political parties have pledged to prioritise building new houses on previously developed “brownfield” land rather than let it rip through the countryside, he says.
The Yorkshire Post & The Daily Telegraph covered these stories.
Lydiate campaigners and councillors fighting for their Green Belt
Yes it does sound like a victory but is it? In Sefton Borough sadly it is not. Why do I say this? Sefton Planners say there is not enough brownfield land to build upon so even if they prioritised such sites Green Belt/greenfield sites would also need to be built upon too. You see the big issue here is not simply about prioritisation of the type of land you build on first but about protecting high grade agricultural land from being built on at all! When political parties and government are talking about saving such land from development it will be a victory, until then ‘prioritisation’ probably means it will just take a little longer to get around to building on the land that grows our food.
A website launched recently by the Cabinet Office urges members of the public to find neglected government-owned buildings that could be sold. The site lists around 31,000 publicly owned assets and is intended to encourage individuals and organisations to challenge central and local government about underused property. Under a “right to contest” introduced in January, anyone can now force the government to explain why a building or plot is not being used fully and, if the department that owns it cannot justify its current use, it will be forced to release it for sale.
The site is reached via the link below and it is quite interesting to see what information is held on it if you put in a community name and search for Government owned land:-
The Guardian originally ran this story
With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this posting