Greenfield land should only be developed in 'the most exceptional circumstances', says McVey

Housing and planning minister Esther McVey has said that "greenfield land" should be developed only in "the most exceptional circumstances" and has recommitted the government to meeting its annual 300,000 homes target and delivering its anticipated Accelerated Planning Green Paper.

Housing and planning minister Esther McVey (pic: Getty Images)
Housing and planning minister Esther McVey (pic: Getty Images)

Speaking last week at a property conference in Wales, Esther McVey said there is a "need to focus on brownfield sites", adding that "regeneration on brownfield sites ... is what we must do".

"Because greenfield land, greenfield sites, should not be what we turn to, not what we look at first.

"Every blade of grass must be looked at before it is changed – and it is only in the most exceptional circumstances we turn there," the minister said.

The minister also used the speech to recommit the government to its 300,000 homes per year target.

"While the trend is heading upwards, I’ve found there’s still serious barriers stopping that progress unnecessarily, and we need to understand what those barriers are, understand what is getting in our way so we can remove them," she said.

McVey also said the goverrnment would "focus" on delivering its Accelerated Planning Green Paper.

In March, the then housing secretary James Brokenshire announced in the Spring Statement that the government would publish the green paper later in the year.

This would focus on "how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end process," he said.

Since the arrival of the new administration led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, some commentators had speculated that the new housing secretary and minister might not pursue the green paper.

McVey, who was speaking at the RESI Convention in Newport, also said 40 councils are to receive "a share of nearly £2 million to crackdown on illegal development, including in the green belt". This funding, from the Planning Delivery Fund, was first revealed by Planning in August.

"I’ll be putting money there, to help with enforcement officers, new technology and legal costs. And alongside that, there will be a cash boost, from our department too, we are teaming up with the Royal Town Planning Institute to overhaul the National Enforcement Handbook," McVey said.

A statement from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the updated handbook "will provide the latest best practice and expertise on shutting down illegal building and preventing it from happening, whilst ensuring developers obtain full planning permission before a shovel hits the ground".

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