Stephen Mosley MP speaks out over plans for thousands of houses in Chester Greenbelt

 Stephen Mosley MP spoke at a packed Local Planning Framework Panel meeting at the Council’s HQ Building on Monday night to express concerns over proposals in the Council’s ‘Local Plan Preferred Policy Directions’ document. He raised particular concern over the proposals to remove land from the Greenbelt around Chester to build 2,000 new houses.

Also speaking at the meeting were Handbridge Park Councillor Neil Sullivan and Saughall and Mollington Councillor Brian Crowe as well as many local residents and community group representatives.

Stephen raised the issue of the divergence of the Council’s policies from the Government’s recently introduced National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Stephen said:

“The National Planning Policy Framework is clear in its defence of Greenbelt and the need to focus development outside Greenbelt. The NPPF explicitly says that the fundamental aim of the governments Greenbelt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open. The Council’s Proposals to release Greenbelt land for development appear to be in contradiction to this national policy.”

Stephen Mosley also raised concerns over the lack of evidence of the ‘special circumstances’ that Cheshire West and Chester Council have said exist to allow Greenbelt development around Chester. Stephen urged the Council to list the special circumstances to justify releasing greenbelt land around Chester.

Stephen Mosley MP said:

“The release of greenbelt land [...] is not what local people want. People want to live in Chester because it is a small historic city that is successful economically but small enough to be friendly and have its own community feel.

“These proposals to build on the greenbelt are the wrong way forward for Chester. They are unwanted by local residents. They are in opposition to government policy. They are contrary to the principles of sustainable development. The document itself lacks detail and fails to give any exceptional reasons why Greenbelt development is so needed. In many places the document is factually incorrect.

“Chairman, now that the document has been published you have the opportunity to fix it. Don’t let the executive and council rush to a decision straight away. Give people a chance to have their say and let us get this document right, now, and not have to argue this out in a couple of years time in front of a government inspector.”

The Panel decided to pass it to The Executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council to be discussed at a special meeting on the 2nd August.

 

Stephen’s full speech can be found below:

“Thank you chairman.

I am here this evening to express my grave concerns over some of the proposals in the councils local plan preferred policy directions document which is being discussed by the panel tonight, in particular over the proposals to remove land from the Greenbelt around Chester

My first concern is over the divergence of the councils policies from the policies of the current government

The Council started the ldf process over year ago, under a planning regime inherited from the previous government. But In march this year the current government published its own national planning policy framework .

The National planning policy framework is clear in its defence of Greenbelt and the need to focus development outside Greenbelt

The  nppf explicitly says that the fundamental aim of the governments Greenbelt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.

And it states that Greenbelt policy serves 5 main purposes:-

Check unrestricted sprawl of built up areas

Prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another

Assist in safeguarding countryside from encroachment

Preserve setting and special character of historic towns

Assist in urban regeneration by encouraging recycling of brownfield sites

 

The Councils Proposals to release Greenbelt land for development is in complete contradiction to this national policy

So my first question to the chairman is why hasn’t the council changed its approach as national policy has changed?

Throughout the councils preferred policy decision document there is a repeated assertion that very special circumstances exist to allow Greenbelt development around chester.

But nowhere in the 140 odd pages does it say what these very special circumstances are.

There is a 4 page Chester Greenbelt background paper, but even that does not outline any very special circumstances why any Greenbelt release is required in cheshire west.

I personally think that this is because there are no exceptional or very special circumstances for Greenbelt development around the city, but as you know I am open minded and willing to listen.

So my 2nd question to you madam chairman, is Could you ensure that the very special circumstances for Greenbelt release are listed so that we know what they are?

In the preferred policy directions document, page 23 makes clear that local need is for 13,000 new properties over the review period. And it makes it clear that these can easily be accommodated without any Greenbelt release – in fact 80% can be accommodated on brownfield sites.

The only reason that greenbelt release is required is the additional 8,000 properties that are being proposed, not to serve local need, but to deliberately provide an oversupply of properties in the area to grow the local population.

And that is not what local people want. People want to live in Chester because it is a small historic city that is successful economically but small enough to be friendly and have its own community feel.

As the introduction to the document makes clear, the local plan should take account of the views and aspirations of local communities,businesses and other organisations.

Yet we are just a couple of weeks from this document being approved by the council’s executive and there seems to have been no formal consultation on the proposals to release Greenbelt in Chester.

It seems the only consultation will be on which land is released, not on  whether land should be removed from Greenbelt. In fact I,the local Member of parliament, only found out about this decision through the local paper last week.

just a couple of weeks ago I asked officers from the council whether I had somehow missed the consultation and was told that I hadn’t and that it would occur.

So Could the chairman ensure that public consultation occurs on the principle of Greenbelt release – and not just on which land is released?

Chairman, I have pages of concerns I wish to raise, so I hope you will, this evening , recommend that residents, and their representatives, will get an opportunity to raise them before a final decision is made on this document.

These proposals to build on the greenbelt are the wrong way forward for Chester.

They are unwanted by local residents.

They are in opposition to government policy.

They are contrary to the principles of sustainable development.

The document itself lacks detail and fails to give any exceptional reasons why Greenbelt development is so needed.

In many places the document is factually incorrect.

Chairman, now that the document has been published you have the opportunity to fix it.

Don’t let the executive and council to rush to a decision straight away.

Give people a chance to have their say and let us get this document right, now, and not have to argue this out in a couple of years time in front of a government inspector.”

Comments

  1. Robert Aldridge says:

    I write in support of your opinions expressed in relation to the Local Development Framework. We live in Westminster park and are horrified to think that houses would be built on Green belt land along the Wrexham Road. This is already a very busy access road to Chester. We really need to look at Brownfield sites and make more use of terraced housing.

  2. Peter Carrington says:

    Isn’t the argument that the 13,000 houses required only accommodates natural growth in the population, and that because of demographic changes this results in a smaller labour force and fall in the the number of jobs? Thus inward migration is needed to sustain the local economy (Housing Requirements Background Paper page 159).

    What I don’t understand is why a natural increase of 9,800 people requires 13,00 new houses. What am I missing? And what is the effect on the communities whence the hypothetical migrants come?

    I certainly don’t want development in the Greenbelt if it can be avoided (there are rumours of social housing on Greenbelt land on the Saughall side of Blacon), but nor do I want the city to be strangled.

    If localism is to mean anything we need a lot of public debate – but will it generate light rather than heat? I’m not hopeful!

    Peter Carrington

  3. Hi Steven

    Thank you for speaking out for the Green belt in and around Chester. As a voter I feel that the local Council do not fully comprehend the ill feeling they are generating with the green belt proposals. I have just looked and the published maps online and I feel that areas around Blacon Saughall and Mollington should be ring fenced to stop any proposed development be it for housing, student village or commercial development. It won’t be long before gas resources start to dwindle and under the Sealand Saughall border there will be great pressure for commercial extraction of methane which lies below. Perhaps areas 8, 9 and 10 should be designated for future consideration for development when the economic conditions means a high price can be acheived for the Gas deposits and funds can be set aside to restore the landscape to semi rural or rural or whatever the voters decide. I honestly thought we lived in a democratic country that being the case why are the council trying to push us down this road for green belt development. Blacon was one of the largest housing estates in Europe only a few years ago so why is further housing development deemed necessary. I for dont want to live in an Urban Sprawl with no greenary whatsoever. I lived in central London for a number of years and having parks is not the same as having a green belt not to mention the traffic congestion over urbanisation caused.

    I hope you will continue to fight to save the green belt because once its lost it is lost for good.