Government halts Bradford Core Strategy
In a surprising turn, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell MP has issued a holding direction, telling Bradford Council to halt its adoption of its Core Strategy pending further evidence that it is not needlessly eating into the Green Belt by not making full use of its brownfield sites.
This follows an 11th hour intervention by Shipley MP Philip Davies, in response to concerns raised by his constituents over the proposed loss of Green Belt to housing development in Wharfedale.
The Bradford Core Strategy plans for 42,000 new homes across the District, of which 11,000 will come from the Green Belt. During the consultation and Public Examination for the Strategy, CPRE argued that 26,000 was a more appropriate figure, that would still produce a significant boost in housing supply and more than meet the forecast housing need based on demographic projections. The extra 16,000 homes are intended to compliment economic growth ambitions that, in our view, are wildly unrealistic and produce a housing target than can’t be delivered. Government guidance states that Local Plans should not be based on scenarios that cannot reasonably be expected to occur, and it would certainly be wrong to take land from the Green Belt on that basis.
At this stage, neither Mr Davies nor Mr Barwell are questioning the overall housing requirement, but they want to know whether brownfield land – of which there is a great deal in urban Bradford and in Keighley and other towns – is being used first, before the Green Belt sites. The question is welcome – it’s one we’ve been asking for nearly three years – but really, the intervention is a symptom of the problem, not a solution. The Council will probably produce more evidence that the brownfield sites are not economically viable to develop, and then carry on as it intended.
The central problem is that whilst one of the purposes of Green Belt is to encourage re-use of urban brownfield sites, by constraining the supply of greenfield sites, it cannot do so unless it is backed up by real, public sector investment in the infrastructure and land preparation that makes brownfield sites an attractive prospect for developers. Where this is done properly, it reaps rewards, but the public investment needs to be sustained over a long period. It’s the kind of public investment that the Government has systematically ripped away since 2010, and may now become even more scarce as European funding is also likely to dry up as a result of Brexit.
So whilst this intervention does offer a glimmer of hope that Government attitudes towards brownfield land may be taking an upwards turn, Bradford’s Green Belt is unlikely to be saved unless Government also gets a grip on inflated housing targets.