On 5 October, the proposed Main Modifications that Bury officers have been leading on were agreed with Executive Director of Place, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Strategic Growth and Skills and the Director of Law & Democratic Services.
Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Growth and Skills, presented the report which provided an update in respect of the Places for Everyone Joint Development Plan (PfE). It provided details on the Borough’s updated housing land supply, which has significantly increased since PfE was submitted to Government in February 2022 owing to the acquisition of the Mill Gate and the work undertaken through master planning and the Joint Venture with Bruntwood.
In the light of the updated housing supply evidence, Members noted there was an opportunity to reduce the amount of Green Belt land that is needed to meet Bury’s proposed PfE housing target without impacting on the overall strategy of the submitted Plan and, following an appraisal of the existing PfE sites, the report recommended that a request be made to the Planning Inspectorate to make a Main Modification to the plan involving the removal of the Walshaw site.
Councillor O’Brien thanked everyone for their contribution and work in bringing this forward and thanked residents for their engagement.
In response to Members’ questions, Councillor O’Brien advised that this change was consistent with the Cabinet’s brownfield first approach and was a result of months of hard work in delivering change to Bury Town Centre. It was agreed that any reduction in use of greenbelt land was positive but that the final decision was out of the Council’s control. It was noted that this was the reason for such comprehensive due diligence, to provide robust evidence to support such a reduction. With regards to infrastructure, the benefit of having a wider strategic plan was that this could be planned and secured in advance.
With regards to why the Walshaw site was identified over others, it was noted that each site was assessed on its own merits, not just what was being lost but also what was being gained by each development and, in the view of the Council, the Walshaw site presented the least amount of strategic benefit.
Wider discussion from Members highlighted that a vote against PfE would not save greenbelt land; Bury Council were required to work within a government-mandated housing allocation and only had choice over where those sites could be. Brownfield land was being utilised as much as possible, but was not sufficient to cover the entire allocation, even with the reductions secured through the PfE Plan.
1. Noted the findings of the updated evidence on Bury’s housing land supply as set out in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (April 2022);
2. Noted the conclusions of an assessment of options for addressing issues arising from the updated housing supply evidence; and
3. Authorised Officers to request a Main Modification to PfE involving the removal of the proposed housing allocation at Walshaw.
Reasons for the decision:
To ensure that the Examination of PfE takes account of the most up-to-date evidence on housing supply and pursues a sound approach to the future provision of housing in Bury.
Alternative options considered and rejected:
The recommendation set out in this report is fundamentally underpinned by the emergence of new evidence that shows an increase in opportunities for new housing in sustainable locations within the existing urban area that were not apparent at PfE submission stage. In accordance with the NPPF and the need to make effective use of land, it has been necessary to consider this new supply within the context of the PfE’s approach to housing in Bury.
The inclusion of this newly identified supply whilst maintaining the PfE’s current proposed site allocations would lead to Bury having an overall housing supply that would be significantly in excess of the PfE target. As such, the review of the housing supply has considered options to reduce the extent of the housing supply buffer.
The recommended approach seeks to reduce Bury’s housing land supply through the removal of a proposed PfE site allocation. An alternative means of reducing the buffer is to maintain the supply but to propose an increase to Bury’s PfE housing target. Consideration of the options for reducing the buffer is set out in the main body of this report. The consideration of options for reducing housing supply and minimising the impact of the Green Belt is contained within the site options appraisal (summarised in Section 5 of this report).