Our colleagues at National Office have produced a video to accompany their General Election Manifesto to encourage our political parties of all hues to make our countryside and urban green spaces a top priority focusing on the General Election on the 8th June.
New Sub-Regional Mayors
CPRE offers congratulations to newly appointed Andy Burnham, as newly appointed Mayor of Greater Manchester, and to Steve Rotheram, as Mayor of Liverpool City Region. Both Mayors were the Labour Party candidates. CPRE Lancashire will urge them to protect and enhance our natural environment as much as possible in the new spatial plans.
Since the beginning of the year CPRE Lancashire has held a lead role in CPRE’s new “urban network” pilot project focused on the countryside and urban green space protection and enhancement as powers are devolved away from Westminster to new Combined Authorities (many of which are ‘urban’ focused). We wrote and discussed our mayoral manifestos with most of the sub-regional mayoral candidates for Greater Manchester and Liverpool city regions. CPRE also attended a Green Belt Rally, and a BBC Manchester radio hustings where we posed the question: “How will you use your Mayoral powers to ensure that the significant vacant brownfield sites across Greater Manchester are used in advance of preventable Green Belt loss?”
Most of the mayoral candidates adopted a “brownfield first approach to development” and CPRE takes credit for this due to its long-term campaign on this issue.
We responded to the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework in January. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority received 25,000 responses, 93% of which objected to Green Belt loss.
CPRE’s response was one of three highlighted by Place North West (the other two were developer led think-tanks) as we commissioned Piers Elias, an expert demographer, to double-check the figures and he concluded that there are errors in the calculations causing more than 30,000 additional homes to be planned than are needed.
CPRE recommended a review of the calculations with realistic economic growth rates applied to future jobs. The current claim of growth of 40 per cent for some sectors, such as warehousing, does not accord with technological advancements and declining trends for take up of that type of property.
We demonstrated the ‘exceptional circumstance’ needed to justify release land from Green Belt protection did not exist, due to the availability of significant amounts of vacant and neglected brownfield land across Greater Manchester. Furthermore, local opinion is against the loss of Green Belt, and CPRE is helping this voice to be heard.
The Salford Star reported that Andy Burnham insisted that in his first week there would be "a radical re-write of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which would result in a substantial reduction in loss of green spaces across Greater Manchester”.
Steve Rotheram has told CPRE that his strategy on land use is to seek to alter the economics of re-developing brownfield sites to meet the pressing housing need that we face in a way that takes the pressure off green field sites. He sees the major impediment to brownfield development as the costs of contaminated land remediation.
“This is why I have suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the idea of a ‘stamp duty holiday’ whereby the Liverpool City Region could receive the benefit of the tax collected locally for five years to provide ring-fenced funding for this purpose. This approach would greatly enhance the resources that would be available to me for this purpose as Metro-Mayor.”
CPRE’s Urban Network is in the course of setting up two new CPRE sub-regional level groups, one for Greater Manchester and one for Liverpool City Region. The purpose of these sub-regional groups will be to raise awareness, commission relevant research and undertake project work and to present CPRE critiques of the metro-mayors' proposals. The focus is to enable the metro-mayors to better understand the importance and value of our countryside, for its own sake, and for its green lung function, ecology, food production, health and well-being, education, recreation and leisure. CPRE will link with other environmental charities (including the RSPB, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Civic Voice), “friends of park” groups and residents opposing local Green Belt/green space loss.
Lancashire County Council
CPRE congratulates the newly elected members of Lancashire County Council, which is now under Conservative Party control. We will urge members to prioritise countryside issues such as planning for rural jobs, housing and transport, with particular reference to public bus services to ensure that in the future development is sustainable. Farming and environmental stewardship will also be of particular importance in the wake of Brexit to ensure our landscapes are protected and enhanced in the future.