Housing is high on the agenda at the moment as Greater Manchester consults on the development strategy for the coming decades.
One of the common questions raised by my constituents is: why isn’t the development and regeneration of brownfield sites the top priority because green spaces should be protected? I agree with this, and this approach requires Government policy to encourage developers to behave against their instincts.
Housing developers will always prefer to build on nice green spaces because it is easier for them and usually goes hand in hand with building bigger, more expensive properties in the nicest areas. Many brownfield sites need extra work like decontamination of soil before they can be built on.
An effective Government policy would recognise this, working to protect the green belt while incentivising construction on brownfield sites.
However, this Conservative Government is clearly failing in this area. Research by MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee revealed that the Government has drastically cut funds needed to encourage new building on brownfield sites. Funding to detoxify soil has fallen from £17.5m a year in 2009/10 to just £500,000 in 2014 and will be phased out in 2017. The same report identified more than 741,000 acres of contaminated land that could be brought back into use.
This simply makes no sense at a time when housing supply is such a major issue for us as a nation. I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions to press the Government to improve their housing strategy and preserve our precious green spaces.