Labour Leader Slams Tory Minister Over Housing Snub
As part of the ongoing GMSF process, the Labour Leader of Bury Council, Councillor Rishi Shori, wrote to Sajid Javid MP, the Secreatry of State for Communities and Local Government, to discuss the issue of population projections and housing numbers, and the impact that these figures would have on the release of greenbelt land in Bury. In particular, Cllr Shori wanted answers on how recent events, like Brexit, might impact these numbers.
The current figures are based on government calculations that Bury needs available land for 12,500 houses by 2035, with only 3500 currently identified as being attainable by building on brownfield land – that is land with previous development on it.
However, Mr Javid has refused to meet with Cllr Shori “due to diary pressures” and has failed to offer any alternative chance for a discussion.
Responding to the incident Cllr Shori has said: “This is an outrageous snub, especially when you consider that the Minister is up in Manchester soon for the Conservative Party Conference. It is clear that the Tory Government has no plans to protect our greenbelt and is simply not interested in listening to our local concerns. Quite frankly, this is an insult to the taxpayers of Bury.”
Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, who is the recently appointed Cabinet Member dealing with the GMSF, added: “When GM Mayor, Andy Burnham, proposed the “radical rewrite” of the GMSF we were fully supportive of that process because it aimed to reduce the level of greenbelt lost, add new land into the greenbelt and ensure brownfield sites were developed first. However, it is for the Government to set the housing figures that we will be obliged to meet and ultimately, this will be the biggest factor in the future of our greenbelt. I would ask that Bury’s two Labour MPs continue to work on this issue in Parliament and ensure our voice is heard.”
Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South, called for radical change to the proposals earlier this year and highlighted the need to tackle “land banking”, which is the practice of leaving land dormant by its owners to allow for the value of land to increase over time. He stated: “The Government needs to do a lot more and should introduce policy to unlock these sites before greenbelt is lost. I will do all I can to push the Government to take our concerns seriously.”
Bury North MP, James Frith, who pledged to protect more of Bury’s green belt during the General Election campaign has pointed to national planning laws as a significant restriction for local decision makers. He has criticised Mr Javid saying: “It is remarkable that the Secretary of State is refusing to meet with local leaders responsible for implementing his misled policies. I will write to Sajid Javid to ask him to make time to meet with me and representatives from Bury to listen to our concerns about the government’s reckless plans to blindly force building on our green belt.”