James with Bury South MP Ivan Lewis and Cllr Rishi Shori and the Housing Minister
James with Bury South MP Ivan Lewis and Cllr Rishi Shori and the Housing Minister

A cross-party group from Bury led by MPs James Frith and Ivan Lewis and council leader Rishi Shori met the Housing Minister today to discuss Bury’s housing allocation and the protection of the borough’s green belt.

The Minister was unable to discuss the GMSF or Bury’s allocation specifically but did discuss government planning policy and housing figures. He confirmed categorically that Bury and other councils cannot use the latest 2016 housing need figures to determine its land allocation. Instead, the higher 2014 figures must be used as the basis for local plans. These figures make it impossible to avoid building on green belt land.

Speaking after the meeting, James said:

“I welcomed the chance to put the concerns of the people of Bury to the Minister and whilst he had some sympathy with our situation, he was clear that the government will not accept Bury using the 2016 housing need figures as the basis of its plan.

“He was also clear that the government has not set housing targets. However, saying the 2014 figures are not targets but that it will be a “very high bar” to justify not meeting these figures is akin to saying we can have any colour car we like so long as it is black.

“I did welcome the Minister encouraging us to have an early conversation with the Planning Inspector, who will make the decision on our local plan, to see if we might have some room for manoeuvre given our lack of brownfield land and higher proportion of green belt and I’ll be working with the council to ensure that conversation takes place as early as possible.”

Cllr Rishi Shori said:

“The Minister acknowledged the vital need for a plan to avoid speculative applications from developers and a free for all on our green belt. He also welcomed Greater Manchester’s decision to lay out a plan for the next almost 20 years as vital to growing the region’s economy and attracting investment.

“It is disappointing that he categorically ruled out the use of the latest 2016 housing need figures, which would mean we could protect all of our green belt. I explained to him that after we’ve used all our brownfield, maximised the density of proposed development and shifted 20% of our allocation to other areas we still can’t meet his figures without building on the green belt. He conceded that it would be a very high bar for us to meet to justify not meeting the government’s figures, leaving us with limited options.

“We will take up the Minister’s suggestion to engage with the Planning Inspector to see what if any room we have to diverge from the government’s figures.”

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