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Thousands of people rallied against Greater Manchester Green Belt loss

Monday, 03 April 2017 13:04

On the 1 April 2017, more than two thousand people, representing thirty or so Green Belt groups, convened on Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall, to show the public opposition to the proposals to release 4,990 hectares of Green Belt land for new development, as part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Speakers included, Jackie Copley Planning Manager for the Lancashire Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, James Mason from Bury Folk, and three others who received cheers and applause for highlighting the importance of Green Belt for keeping land permanently open serving millions of people, and the important health and well-being benefits.

The important purposes of Green Belt in halting urban sprawl, stopping countryside encroachment, keeping distinct places from merging, protecting our built and natural heritage and for the promotion of urban regeneration were highlighted. Ms. Copley recommended the creation of more Green Belt land in the future, not less, due to the benefits associated of having it for people, farming and wildlife and reminded ‘once countryside land is gone, it is gone!’

The Spatial Framework will guide strategic investment and planning decisions across all ten local authority areas for the next 25 years. Greater Manchester Combined Authority consulted on the draft document in January and it received over 25,000 responses, 93% of which related to the direct opposition to Green Belt land sacrifice for development.

Ms. Copley referred to the CPRE response to the draft Framework and the independent demographic appraisal, which showed at least 30,000 unnecessary dwellings, because of flaws in the projections, are planned. If a more realistic job forecast was applied then the scale of both jobs and housing development would be much lower.

CPRE is campaigning for vacant brownfield sites in central urban locations to be used for needed development in advance of land in countryside being bulldozed. Higher density development in more central locations, with good design and adequate green space is needed, to stop the unnecessary release of our precious Green Belt protected land. The whole area should be more resilient to combat the impacts of climate change, and resolve problems such as traffic congestion and air pollution.

The new Mayor for Greater Manchester is set to have a lead role in the future direction of travel of the Spatial Framework on behalf of the Combined Authority. Prospective mayoral candidates differ in their opinion on the Framework with one seeking to scrap it in its entirety due to the wrong direction of travel; another stridently opposed to Green Belt release instead promoting a brownfield first approach; and one who is generally supportive of the scale of development and countryside loss.

The public is saying it wants the politicians to progress a Spatial Framework with an increased brownfield land focus, so in the future Greater Manchester’s economy can prosper in line with other global cities, and make the area greener to challenge ‘the grim up north’ reputation. When voting for a new Mayor people should choose a candidate who will fulfil not just economic ambitions but social and environmental ones too.

The next version of the Spatial Framework is due out in the autumn. In the meantime, CPRE hopes to support local groups via a new Greater Manchester wide group, to gather data and evidence to combat specific site proposals that would have significant adverse impact on the environment if realised.

The Greater Manchester Mayoral election is taking place on the 4th May 2017. The Green Belt rally aimed at encouraging voters to think about the future of our countryside and continued Green Belt protection when voting for the new Greater Manchester Mayor. Once countryside land is gone, it is gone!

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