McVey asks council to 'prioritise' brownfield development due to plan's green belt release

The housing minister has written to a Nottinghamshire council "seeking further reassurance" that due to the level of green belt release proposed in its emerging local plan it will "prioritise" development on brownfield land "going forward", despite recognising that a planning inspector has just found the strategy to be sound.

Housing and planning minister Esther McVey
Housing and planning minister Esther McVey

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday published a letter on its website from Esther McVey to Milan Radulovic, the leader of Broxtowe Borough Council.

MHCLG said the letter was written to "remind" the council "of the importance the government attaches to maximising use of previously developed land for new development".

It added that the letter "has been published as it raises matters that are likely to be applicable to other local authorities".

The Broxtowe Part 2 Local Plan was submitted for examination by inspector Helen Hockenhull in July 2018.

The plan proposes to remove several areas of land from the green belt, including sites at Awsworth, Brinsley, Kimberley, Bramcote, Stapleford and Toton.

Yesterday, Broxtowe Council published Hockenhull’s final report into the plan. The report says the plan is sound, subject to proposed modifications, and the inspector supports the council’s proposed green belt releases after finding that "exceptional circumstances" exist to justify them.

Hockenhull writes: "The amendment of green belt boundaries and the release of land from the green belt within Broxtowe as part of the [the local plan is] necessary to meet the housing needs of the borough to 2028 and beyond."

McVey’s letter, dated 2 October, says the minister offers her "full support to the Planning Inspectorate" and is "grateful to the inspector for her work on this plan".

McVey says that she "would like to make clear that I am not commenting on the merits of her recommendations but rather am responding on how the local authority intends to implement the plan once adopted".

She adds: "In this instance, the inspector has concluded that the need for housing, the lack of alternatives in sequentially preferable locations outside of the green belt, and the limited impact that the alterations will have on the openness and purposes of the green belt constitute the exceptional circumstances required."

However, she continues: "I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance this government attaches to maximising the potential of previously developed land for new development, ensuring the efficient and appropriate use of land when planning to meet housing need."

The minister says that, "in the context of the green belt releases proposed in your local plan, I am seeking further reassurance that the council will be making every possible effort to prioritise delivering redevelopment on previously developed land going forward".

"I would be particularly interested to understand more about the challenges you are facing in bringing forward brownfield sites for development, and would encourage the council to engage with my officials on how we can best support you in meeting this objective," the minister says.

Broxtowe Council was asked for comment on the letter but it had yet to respond at time of publication.

According to the inspector's report, the part 2 local plan follows the Aligned Core Strategies (ACS) document jointly prepared by Broxtowe and neighbouring Gedling and Nottingham City councils.

This "forms the part 1 plan", the report says, and "sets out the spatial vision for the borough up to 2028, while Broxtowe's part 2 plan "contains allocations and development management policies to conform with the ACS".

It goes on to say that the submitted version of the part 2 plan made provision for 6,950 homes in the borough over the plan period, but this figure has subsequently been revised upwards to 7,512 homes.

Last month at the Conservative Party Conference, McVey said she wanted to see development take place on "brownfield sites first" to ease pressure on the green belt, stating that one million homes could be accommodated on previously-used land.

Also last month in a speech, McVey said that "greenfield land" should be developed only in "the most exceptional circumstances". MHCLG later moved to clarify the comments. 

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