As predicted in the last Salford Star feature on Burgess Farm, Salford Council is to roll over and chicken out of a fight with Peel Holdings over its plan to build 350 houses on the Walkden greenfield site.
At a planning meeting in July, councillors voted against the Peel Holdings housing application, despite Councillor Derek Antrobus, the Council's Lead Member for Planning, supporting Peel and trying to get the decision nulled.
Peel immediately put in an appeal against the democratic decision, which is due to go through an appeal process with the Planning Inspectorate. First the Council said it would contest the appeal, then, last week, a letter to local residents stated that, following legal advice, it wouldn't contest the appeal. The reasons were everything from `we got our facts wrong' to future Government policy on greenfield planning regulations (see here).
What is more (and again, as predicted by the previous Salford Star feature), the Council is now stating that if Peel re-submits its application for planning permission for Burgess Farm it won't oppose that either. It's all very strange.
Firstly, the Government's new planning proposals (the National Planning Policy Framework, or NPPF) are just that at the moment – proposals. The NPPF aims to restrict local councils' power over residential planning, making it easier for developers to build on greenfield sites.
The Government argues that the planning relaxation is to do with easing the housing supply but the last issue of Private Eye proved that it is nothing of the sort – it's to do with bigger profits…
"Planning rules introduced under the Major government have pushed the proportion of homes built on `brownfield' sites up from 55% to around 80%. The new proposals will reverse this environmentally friendly trend" the magazine states "Developers will switch from brownfield to greenfield sites – without necessarily building more houses – because it's much cheaper, and so more profitable to build on virgin land."
Thus, we can assume, land values on greenfield land will rise accordingly. Funnily enough, next door to the Burgess Farm land that Peel wants to build on is another greenfield site owned by Salford Council. This was the infamous area that was the playing field of St George's RC school, given over by the Council to a sheep farmer (see here). And in the Council's Core Strategy document this very land has been identified for future housing (site 852 if anyone wants to look it up). It could be argued that this is about Salford Council cashing in too on greenfield sites.
Secondly, campaigners are questioning Salford Council's neutrality on the issue when the Council is in bed with Peel Holdings on so many ventures… MediaCityUK, Salford City Stadium and Port Salford to name a few. Salford City Stadium, for instance, is a formal joint venture company between Peel and Salford Council.
These are all things that the Planning Inspectorate might like to consider at its Appeal Pre-Inquiry Meeting on 11th October at Salford Civic Centre.
Given that Salford Council is busy doing its chicken (or is it a fox?) impersonation on the Burgess Farm planning application, it's now left to the residents themselves to fight Peel Holdings on their own.
"There has been a huge amount of opposition from residents to the development of Burgess Farm - the relentless amount of public consultations sent out by Salford Council in relation to the Core Strategy and, at the same time, Peel's Planning Application would have knocked the stuffing out of most individual residents but as a group we have stood strong" says the Burgess Farm Residents Group
"Certain Lead Members of the Council have wanted this development for a long time and even at the Panel Meeting they still tried to 'bulldoze' it through" adds the Group "Thankfully the Panel were able to see and hear first hand from the residents what affect this development would have on both the local and wider community. Now the Council have cited the content of draft Government documents, which are still out for public consultation, as the reasons why they will not defend the Panel's decision.
"They seem to forget that they were democratically elected by the residents to represent the residents" the Group concludes "but unfortunately they are not very democratic, they are a disgrace!"
The Group is holding a Residents Meeting on 5th October at Harrop Fold School, Hilton Lane. Walkden at 7:30pm to discuss future actions. Everyone is welcome to attend.
And the official Appeal Pre-Inquiry Meeting will be held at 10am on 11th October in the Council Chamber at Salford Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton. Everyone is being urged to attend to support the residents.
There's also an online petition to sign - click here
See previous Salford Star feature on Burgess Farm - click here