Peel Holdings, under its subsid title of Peel Investments (North) Ltd, is about to shred what's left of Salford Council's housing policy this week as its schemes for up to 124 houses on Greenfield sites in Worsley, Boothstown and Ellenbrook get considered by the city's planning panel.
The first application is for up to 24 houses near Greylag Crescent in Worsley, a Greenfield site currently used for grazing horses and identified in Salford's Greenspace Strategy, with a Public Right of Way and Wildlife Corridor running through it.
The second application is for up to 100 houses on land off Vicars Hall Lane in Boothstown, another Greenfield site that is currently open grassland.
Salford Council did have a policy in place (UDP Policy ST11) that could have protected Greenfield sites but, according to the Council planners' report, it was dropped in 2009 in favour of another Regional Strategy which has now been `revoked' (see previous Salford Star article - click here). Thus, Salford currently has no targets for use of more environmentally suited brownfield land, and little protection for Greenfield sites.
Meanwhile, the ConDem Government has introduced the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), which basically gives developers like Peel a licence to concrete over green sites, as it doesn't prioritize the use of previously developed land over Greenfield sites, and pushes planning authorities to favour `sustainability' – in other words, economics over environmental concerns.
Taking advantage of the vacuum at the heart of Salford Council planning policy and the Tories' developer free-for-all, Peel is now pushing as hard as it can to build on Greenfield and Green Belt land in the city.
A public meeting in Worsley last February attended by six hundred local residents (see here) slammed plans by Peel to build over 1,000 houses and apartments on green land in the west of the city, and both of these current applications have been met with objections from groups and individuals ranging from Barbara Keeley MP, to local ward councillors, Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID) and the Worsley Civic Trust. There have also been over one hundred letters opposing the schemes.
As well as Greenfield and wildlife issues, objections have been raised on grounds of traffic, lack of school places, air quality and over development. On the latter issue, Salford Council's `Core Strategy', which identified housing need, has been `revoked' (see above), and, partly thanks to Peel pressure (see here), the Council now has no official policy on this, apart from statements from the planning inspector and projected population figures.
The planning report states that "Where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date, then the presumption in favour of sustainable development means that planning permission should be granted".
The only defence left against Peel in these cases is something substantial, like a Wildlife Corridor – but, because Peel proposes to put in a `mound and a ditch' to mitigate the fragmentation of the Corridor in its first application, the `benefits' of the scheme outweigh any `adverse impacts', according to Council planners who are recommending acceptance of both applications.
The applications go to Salford Council's planning panel on Thursday. If successful in trashing the Greenfield sites, expect Peel to go for the city's Green Belt next time around…
UPDATE: 6th September 2013
Salford Council Planning Panel passed the application for 24 houses on Greylag Crescent and deferred the application for up to 100 houses off Vicars Hall Lane, pending transport reports.