December 23, 2014

Bill Esterson

After the Second World War, the Labour government set up the greenbelt to keep a barrier between towns and villages, prevent urban sprawl and to protect valuable land including farmland. And protection of the greenbelt still stands as an important policy. 

The Labour Party Policy Review into planning and housing was published a few weeks ago. It called for a brownfield first approach and said that developers should have to build where they already have planning permission. 
Labour’s review said that developers should not be allowed to build on green field or greenbelt sites where there are brownfield, derelict, former industrial sites available. 
I know many people where I live in Maghull who struggle to afford to buy a house and there are few properties available to rent either from housing associations like One Vision Housing or from private landlords. 
There is a housing shortage, so Labour is absolutely right to say we will build 200,000 houses a year by the year 2020, if we win the election. And we are right to say that those houses need to be what local people need. 
So many of the 200,000 houses will be for social rent, for private rent, part rent/part buy or affordable for first time buyers. 
And we are also right in our policy review where we say that those houses will be built where local people want them to be built not where the developers want. 
Under this government, the National Planning Policy Framework allows developers to refuse to build on brownfield sites and to insist on building on the greenbelt. 
In Knowsley, the council was told by the Planning Inspectorate that it had to make more land available in the greenbelt after developers challenged the council’s local plan. 
Developers want to make as much money as possible and want to build on the greenbelt where they can sell executive houses for more money than on the brownfield sites in our towns. 
The Communities and Local Government Select Committee of MPs published a report last week, saying the same as Labour’s review. The MPs said that councils should be able to include sites which already have planning permission in the local plan, something that the current government does not allow. They also said there should be a remedial fund for brownfield sites. 
There are brownfield sites with room for hundreds of thousands more houses, some with planning permission, some without. 
The brownfield sites in our area are an eyesore and developing them helps to improve the whole area. 
Of course we should build on these sites first. And Labour’s plan to build the right kinds of homes is also right for those of you looking for a home. It will help the economy by boosting construction industry jobs and ensuring there are proper, decent quality opportunities for apprentices. 
The Labour review and the Select Committee report both show that we can start to deal with our shortage of housing, boost the economy and protect our greenbelt all at the same time.