Is Green Belt release in GM premature? The latest Census data suggests it is!
Government data tells us that since 2013/14 England has lost over 25,110 hectares of green belt – equivalent to over 35,000 football pitches of highly valued land, with various attributes and community benefits, that are now forever lost to future generations.
Here in Greater Manchester, the Places for Everyone (P4E) Spatial Plan Examination in Public has begun, and GM’s leaders are hoping the Planning Inspectors will approve the unnecessary release of 2,430 hectares of our precious green belt (equivalent to over 3,400 football pitches).
We have already argued in our responses to the Plan that GM’s leadership has NOT proven the need for this unwarranted reduction in our green belt but what does the recent publication of Census data provide in the way of justification for their proposals?
Well, actually, quite the opposite. The Census data supports our contention that the exceptional circumstances required to release green belt have not been demonstrated!
Our fellow campaigner, Matthew Broadbent, of the Save Royton Green Belt group, has looked at the Census data in some detail and his analysis reveals that, in terms of Household growth, the 2014 data set (which is used in the Government’s standard methodology for calculating housing need) has significantly over-estimated household growth in Greater Manchester.
Looking at the figures themselves, it is clear that ALL Districts are impacted by the Government’s standard method (and this is before the Affordability Ratio is added to the calculation). Trafford’s data is particularly shocking given their record on minimal reductions in green belt take in the various iterations of the Plan and Trafford has the highest Affordability Ratio in GM which is added to these erroneous numbers.
What the table below does tell us is that housing need across Greater Manchester has been significantly inflated and that there is clearly no justification to release green belt to supplement the land available in urban areas.
The 2014 data, calculated by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, projected significantly higher levels of household growth than has actually been the case. The latest data available in the Census demonstrates what has been shown in previous ONS data – population projections have been noticeably reducing over the last decade.
Over the coming months the Office for National Statistics will use the Census data to re-calibrate their Household Projections and hopefully this information will lead to a long-awaited change to the source data required by the Government’s standard methodology, which is clearly resulting in Local Authorities sacrificing vital green belt land that the Government suggests it attaches “great importance to” (National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 137)!
As mentioned above, it is clear from this data that growth for Greater Manchester CAN be achieved WITHOUT releasing green belt.
This is endorsed further in P4E itself, which reports that the Government’s standard methodology for calculating housing need creates a requirement to build 164,880 homes within the Plan area (Housing Topic Paper, page 18) and the 9 Districts are able to provide land supply that exceeds that figure (170,000 homes – Housing Topic Paper, page 20). GM’s population in the Plan area is projected to increase by 158,194 between 2021 and 2037 (paragraph 7.14). This equates to a need for around 66,500 homes, which demonstrates that there is clearly sufficient flexibility and choice within existing urban areas to meet GM’s housing needs (and there are various brownfield land funds that can be applied for).
What should also be considered is how the number of Net Additional Dwellings over the past 10 years (ONS reports that over 73,000 net additional homes were constructed in the Plan area during that period), compares to the Census data (which shows that only 45,000 households have formed in the Plan area). The graphic below highlights that each District in GM has built more houses than the number of households formed!
Again, the figure for Trafford is astounding, with the construction of dwellings being more than two and a half times the number of new households! This means that it is not under-provision that is holding back household formation. If data about vacant housing stock (empty homes) is added to the above numbers, the over-provision figures are increased even further, but let’s keep it simple.
The Census identifies a household as a property where there is “at least one usual resident”, so do the figures above suggest that a large proportion of the dwellings being built in GM are second homes? investment properties? More investigation is needed but these figures certainly leave our friends at the GMCA and in our Local Authorities with a number of questions to answer in relation to their plans to unnecessarily reduce our green belt (see our previous blog for more information).
Whose Plan is it anyway?
Given the Examination in Public has already begun, we hope the Planning Inspectors seriously consider our inputs and arguments, but we are aware citizens have very little influence in the Planning Ecosystem and that developers have submitted responses proposing that more green belt is released!
A Plan that unnecessarily releases green belt, preventing future generations from accessing its recreational value, seeing its landscape views, benefiting from the best and most versatile agricultural land, the abundance of species, the carbon capture capabilities, the flood water storage areas, the woodlands, the wetlands and the irreplaceable habitats, is NOT our plan!Friends of Carrington Moss