At the Novotel in Worsley this morning, residents in the public gallery laughed at Peel Holdings' attempts to use homelessness and affordable housing in its arguments to justify building up to 600 'aspirational' houses in the Worsley Greenway.
Peel's past attempts to build houses and a marina in the Broadoak area were originally thrown out by Salford City Council, and subsequently, on appeal, by both the Planning Inspector and the then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
However, Court of Appeal cases regarding developments in Cheshire East and Suffolk allowed Peel to have the decisions quashed, hence the planning inquiry re-run which has been taking submissions for two weeks, concluding today with the summing up on all sides.
The case centres on Broadoak, the fields on either side on Worsley Road, which are classed as part of 'Worsley Greenway' and protected in Salford Council policy EN2 as "a strategically important green wedge...of great value to the city and local area".
Over the past weeks, residents, civic groups, councillors, the local MP and City Mayor have made representations to the Inquiry stressing the importance of keeping the area intact.
Peel Holdings has now added into the 600 (or 550) house scheme from the original Inquiry, 165 houses it also wants to build in the area that were rejected in the planning stage.
The company argued at the Inquiry that its schemes would "address the clear and compelling need for high quality market housing", would "respond to the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the city" and would provide "important recreational facilities, not least the marina"...
Salford Council's and the residents' case rested on the previous Inspector's decision that overruled the 'housing need' argument in favour of the importance of the Greenway.
Indeed, the Council's QC, Christopher Katkowski, pointed out that even when the Council could not demonstrate a five year supply of housing, Peel's appeal was dismissed on the grounds of protecting the Greenway. Now the Council can demonstrate around ten years of housing supply, the case against Peel is even stronger.
Meanwhile, Peel's extensive arguments about affordable housing were met with derision. In the company's summing up, 'affordable' was mentioned over fifty times by Peel's QC, Martin Kingston.
However, it was explained by the Council's QC that, with Salford needing 760 affordable homes to be built every year, Peel's offer of between 50 and 180 affordable homes, built over two years, had a minor relevance in citywide terms. In any case, he added, the housing mix itself wasn't an issue within this Inquiry.
Peel's witness, a Mr Stacey, had earlier brought growing homelessness and lack of cheap rents into the equation, but even he had admitted that the so-called 'affordable homes' would not be occupied by homeless people or those looking for cheap rents.
Indeed, in summing up, Councillor Robin Garrido, representing the RAID residents group, added: "To suggest that the proposed developments will make any meaningful contribution to tackling homelessness or improving health is simply an insult to our intelligence".
Instead, Garrido concentrated on traffic, air quality, the lack of services, particularly GPs, and the need for the Greenway, even ending with a poem written by a resident, beginning with the lines... "The leafy glades in Worsley Woods/Provide a needed lung/Of greenery and open space/For both the old and young..."
Essentially the judgement, like it did last time, will centre on the importance of the Broadoak environment. Salford Council is intending to further protect this area by designating it as Green Belt and Local Green Space in its future planning policies, although it has come too late for this planning application.
Meanwhile, as Salford Council's QC said in his summing up, "If the planning system cannot defend against this audacious grab of Greenway it would be very difficult indeed to draw the line elsewhere..."
The Broadoak Inquiry has now concluded in public, with a site visit by the Inspector tomorrow...
For more background see previous Salford Star articles...
Salford Council Battle With Peel Holdings Begins Again – click here
Peel Holdings Applies To Build in Proposed Green Belt – click here
Peel Holdings Refused Planning for Broadoak – click here
Peel Holdings Worsley Plans Slammed By Residents – click here
Peel Holdings Wins Excellence in Wrecking Salford Award - click here