The Peel Holdings subsidiary company, Peel Investments (North) Ltd, and Taylor Wimpey today had their application to build six hundred houses on greenfield sites in Broadoak, Worsley, rejected by Salford City Council's planning panel, despite Council planning officers recommending acceptance.
The Salford Suite at the Civic Centre was packed with around one hundred people opposing the plans, who jeered as Peel, firstly, asserted that this was "not an area of outstanding beauty", and then tried to persuade the panel that local residents were in favour of the development by handing out glossy pie charts and screening a vox pop of a few people who had shown an interest in the houses. The company also dangled a marina "which can only be delivered through this development".
Residents, under the RAID campaign banner, objected to Peel's plans on numerous grounds, including traffic and lack of school places, but the most compelling argument was the loss of green space, which won the day with councillors voting on the application.
Undeterred by Peel's veiled threats at the meeting that "unless you begin to make hard decisions on greenfield sites, you will have more applications for the green belt", Councillor Derek Antrobus reiterated the Council's policies and its previous stance on the Worsley Greenway, known as policy EN2…
"In the old Worsley plan we decided that this area should be protected and in the UDP [Unitary Development Plan] we protected Worsley Greenway" he explained "The local policy is very clear."
Officers had cited the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) brought in by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This hated policy - dubbed `a charter to concrete over the green belt' - makes an assumption in favour of developers, particularly where councils don't have a `local plan' in place setting out housing needs and potential sites.
Salford's `Core Strategy' plan was torn up by planning inspectors after Peel got involved (see here, see here and see here), but Councillor Antrobus agreed with RAID's objection that it would be `premature' to build on a site which would be protected in a new plan, no matter how many new houses had to be built.
"We saved this area knowing what the need for housing will be" he argued "How can we be credible if we suddenly think Eric Pickles knows more about the value of Salford than we do?"
Approving housing on the land, he added, would undermine any future policies which would protect Worsley Greenway. Taking this lead, councillors voted down Peel's plans on the grounds of policy EN2 and `prematurity', much to the joy of campaigners.
"I'm absolutely delighted, more than pleased" said local resident Pauline Williamson "Of all the applications that have happened in our area, going back many years, this one is the one that would alter the area forever. Because Peel and Taylor Wimpey are so powerful and strong I wasn't sure which way it was going to go right up until the moment when they decided.
"Peel are a massive, massive company and they've bought a big tranche of land going right to Liverpool really, and all they are interested in is building on every single bit of land that they own" she added "They really don't think of any other people because it's all money, money, money…that's all they're interested in. And none of their people, including the big cheese himself, lives here so they couldn't care less."
Bill Newham, who is on the RAID committee, emphasised that the campaign against Peel's plans was not a NIMBY protest, and stressed its importance for the whole of Salford.
"It defies all common sense to build on that land" he said "This is a very nice area and we want to keep it as a nice area, not just for the residents of Worsley, it's for everyone in Salford. This had much wider implications for the city."
The campaign, which began with over six hundred residents meeting in a local hall in February this year (see here), has since drawn in residents who were either experts in related fields or who became experts in planning rules in order to fight off one of the richest companies in the North West.
"It takes some strong people to plan things, a lot of hard work and a community spirit; if you don't get together you're just a lone voice" said another RAID campaigner "I've just been to Kent and Rugby and seen all those green areas down there, beautiful countryside. We've got that one small area here and they want to build on it and take everything away. We've got to have some space that's green."
Not in Peel's concrete dreams. The company is expected to appeal the decision…
* See previous Salford Star article - Peel drives concrete mixer through Salford's green sites - click here
* At today's planning meeting councillors also approved plans for up to 140 homes off Green Lane in Eccles by developers Sky Properties and Chester Developments with the support of Investec Bank. The site was formerly earmarked for an incinerator but after this was refused permission in August 2012 (see here) the housing option came to the fore.