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Press release: Countryside campaigners alarmed at the scale of Greater Manchester Green Belt loss

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is alarmed by plans by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to reduce Green Belt by 4,900 hectares (more than 12,000 acres) and deeply concerned by the overall growth levels proposed by the authority in the draft documents.

On 31st October the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will come out for public consultation with a closing deadline in December, subject to the papers being signed off at a meeting of the Joint Greater Manchester Combined Authority/Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Executive Board on 28th October.

The Lancashire and Cheshire branches of CPRE along with the Friends of the Peak District will consider the draft document very carefully to ensure that any growth in the Greater Manchester region is “intelligently” planned so that in consequence urban and rural green spaces are properly protected and their vital importance in terms of the health and well-being of our communities are properly considered.

CPRE fully supports a sub-regional tier strategic plan that steers sustainable development over the next 20 years and believes and hopes that a renaissance of the urban area will transform the many vacant and neglected former factory sites, commonly called brownfield land, into vibrant and prosperous places. CPRE passionately believes that we can avoid needlessly bulldozing the conurbations and destroying our beloved and dwindling green spaces.

CPRE plans to undertake an objective demographic study to check whether the city’s development figures are realistic and not based on overly high growth assumptions being pushed by the development industry. The GMSF is looking to find land for some 200,000 jobs and provide over 227,000 new homes. Once CPRE’s study has been completed and the figures have been reviewed, they will also seek alternate projections to help understand the scale of new development and whether it can be accommodated on the significant brownfield land resources and/or whether new greenfield sites will have to be allocated to accommodate identified growth.

Development is targeted at six key areas including the Northern Gateway (Heywood, North Bury employment area), Western Gateway- Carrington, Port Salford, Eastern Gateway, M61 Corridor, East Lancs Road – Wigan, M6 Corridor. A further twenty-five minor sites are dotted around the ten authorities.

Jackie Copley, Planning Manager for CPRE Lancashire Branch, said:

“We want to work positively with the combined authority to ensure Greater Manchester prospers, but we will certainly hold up a flag if it is shown that too much development is being planned, and if too much development is being be targeted on the countryside rather than on existing brownfield sites, which we know exist.”

“At first glance the amount of development targeted on brownfield land may appear high at 70%, but this compares unfavourably with previous targets of the Regional Spatial Strategy when authorities had targets of between 95% and 85% and were successfully achieving them.”

“Sustainable development principles must underpin the Framework and full recognition must be given of the value of green spaces around, and within, our towns to ensure a ‘healthy and prosperous’ future for all.”

We believe that the downside of over supplying land for development, can easily result in the unnecessary destruction of local green spaces and associated loss of residential amenity and wildlife.

CPRE urges for ‘smart growth’ and the reuse of brownfield land for development in advance of ‘unnecessary’ countryside loss. Smart growth relies on development being focused on good town and planning principles to achieve sustainable development. A brownfield first approach is essential. Adequate infrastructure and investment on sustainable travel modes is very important to reduce our demands for energy and waste.

CPRE supports ‘needed’ new development but wants to see a sustainable approach applied with ecological and planning designations, such as Best and Most Versatile farmland protected for future generations.

CPRE is currently looking at working more effectively with new decision making structures of combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships and appointed mayors to seek the best outcomes for the countryside as growth of the sub-regions is planned.

The Branch will be working with residents and other interests across Greater Manchester to effectively engage on the draft GMSF to best protect beloved local countryside and urban green space.



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