Wigan's greenbelt housing fears

Marie Bintley
Marie Bintley

More than 10,000 new homes could be built on derelict or previously used land in Wigan, according to greenbelt campaigners

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says there are enough vacant brownfield sites in towns and cities across England and Wales to build more than one million new homes – two-thirds of which could be delivered within five years.

It has called on the government to force councils to prioritise brownfield development, instead of building homes on green spaces.

In Wigan, the CPRE says there is capacity to build 10,399 homes across 438 sites.

Rebecca Pullinger, planning campaigner at the CPRE, said: “Building on brownfield land presents a fantastic opportunity to simultaneously remove local eyesores and breathe new life into areas crying out for regeneration.

“It will help to limit the amount of countryside lost to development, and build more homes in areas where people want to live, with infrastructure, amenities and services already in place.”

The CPRE analysed Wigan Borough Council’s Brownfield Land Register, which lists sites that the council says are suitable for development.

A brownfield site is defined as land that “is or was occupied by a permanent structure”.

However, the CPRE says confusion over the definition could mean councils are leaving sites off their registers.

This could include land that is already in use, but could be altered to make space for housing, such as car parks.

More than 120,000 potential new homes have been added to registers in England in the last year.

In Wigan, 1,712 new homes were added last year.

The brownfield sites now on the register cover a combined area of 1,082 acres. This would give an average housing density of 10 homes per acre – below the national average of 17.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing at the council said: “We’re committed to providing quality, affordable housing for local people, while also supporting the local economy to thrive.

“Local authorities need to prove a five-year housing supply to meet demand. Historically, we have been unable to meet this demand, however, last year we surpassed our housing delivery target for the first time, which puts us in a much stronger position to resist developments in inappropriate locations in the future.

“All brownfield sites we know about are in our housing land supply already. We will continue to work with owners to bring more sites forward and unblock those that have stalled for whatever reason.

“This isn’t always an easy process, as the costs of developing brownfield sites sometimes outweigh the values that can be achieved from development, so we need to bid for funds and find other ways to assist delivery, including focusing on residential development in our town centres.

“If we do not continue to prioritise brownfield sites, they will remain undeveloped, which will put pressure on the green field land supply.”

The Local Government Association said councils had already given hundreds of thousands of homes planning permission which have yet to be built. It called for better resourcing for council planning departments, to ensure developers build homes as quickly as possible.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “This Government is committed to building the homes our country needs while still leaving the environment in a better state than we found it.

“We’re encouraging planners to prioritise building on brownfield land and working with authorities to ensure sensible decisions are made on where homes get built.”