Flixton green belt homes plan sparks Trafford political spat

A dispute over the planned release of green belt and construction of homes at a golf course in Flixton triggered a Labour walk-out of Trafford Council’s meeting on Wednesday, as the issue of housing becomes even more contentious as councillors vie for votes ahead of local elections in May.

In its submission to last year’s call for sites to be included in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, Conservative-led Trafford put forward William Wroe golf course, playing fields, Flixton Park and the land around the listed Flixton House as suitable for redevelopment into 750 homes.

A rewrite of the draft GMSF is underway, under the direction of Mayor Andy Burnham, and a new version is expected to be released in June 2018.

As part of Trafford’s review of its submission, in response to local opposition, last month the council reduced its Flixton proposal to 370 homes.

However, the release of the green belt land for housing development remains contentious, leading to the Trafford Labour Party to put a motion to Wednesday’s full council meeting, opposing “any and all building on Flixton’s green belt”.

In response, Cllr Sean Anstee, leader of Trafford Council, moved an amendment and blocked a vote on the Labour motion “as members cannot circumvent the GMSF process that is currently being undertaken.

“It’s easy in opposition to say you could look at how you want to interpret a process that’s being undertaken, but there are consequences for applying a view that isn’t possible,” he said.

“Labour Group has not set out how it would meet future housing challenge, which puts at risk all land across the borough to future uncontrolled development,” pointing out that all nine Labour-led councils in Greater Manchester are also planning to release pockets of green belt in order to meet the housing targets set out in the GMSF.

On confirmation from a legal officer that Cllr Anstee’s amendment was constitutional, Cllr Andrew Western, leader of the Trafford Labour Group, led his fellow party members out of the session mid-meeting, leaving several agenda points undiscussed.

In a statement following the meeting, Cllr Anstee said: “The Conservative group moved a legitimate and appropriate amendment that was ruled acceptable by the council’s independent statutory and most senior legal officer. We are shocked and confused as to why the Labour group chose not to accept this professional advice and walk out.

“The amendment indicated the executive’s latest thoughts around how we address a growing housing crisis in Trafford whilst outlining progress in Flixton including the retention of land at Flixton House, park and the playing fields in the green belt.

“Pulling out of the GMSF, which would appear to be the outcome of Labour’s continued stance on housing, would mean we have to find land for an additional 2,000 homes over and above those already planned as other Greater Manchester boroughs have taken this number from our allocation so far.”

A statement from Labour explained its “extraordinary and unprecedented” decision to vacate the council chamber: “During the course of debating a Labour motion opposing all development on green belt land in Flixton, Conservative councillors sought to prevent a vote on this motion by moving an amendment which Labour councillors felt was directly contrary to the spirit of the original motion.

“Negation of a motion is explicitly disallowed by the council’s constitution and, as you would expect, Labour councillors immediately sought a legal ruling from the council’s monitoring officer as to the validity of the amendment. In an incredibly unusual step, the monitoring officer was unable to make a ruling and the meeting was adjourned.

“Labour councillors were unable to have confidence in the legal determination that was then made, and felt the democratic process was being undermined. We remain of the view that a decisive vote on whether to allow housebuilding on Flixton’s green belt should have been permitted. As a result, we felt we had no option other than to leave the meeting.”

Speaking to Place North West, a local campaigner flagged their concern for how the debate over the Flixton homes had been managed. “While I’m against any homes being built on the Flixton green belt, it’s totally the wrong site, we need to work within the GMSF process or run the risk that the 2,000 homes taken out of Trafford’s allocation by other councils are all piled back on us.”

A draft of Trafford’s submission to the GMSF is due to be voted on next year. Local elections, where a third of all Trafford councillors are up for re-election, are due to take place in May.

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Not sure why the Trafford Labour Group is being painted the villains in all of this. Since day one they have been against the build & have fought on behalf on Flixton residents even when the Flixton Conservative councillors backed the build. Only after the backlash that the Conservatives decided to see what they could do. Firstly saying that could not change the plans as part of the GMSF, but now they have reviewed it and miraculously reduced it to 300 odd houses. Excuse me if I dont explicitly believe the Conservatives on this when they were happy to go along for so long. Labour have been challenged about their plans by campaigners which have been fully explained to residents.Yet nothing has been provided by the ruling Conservative council and their Flixton councillors but they seem to be again getting let off by campaigners scott free. Furthermore, which party is providing the Flixton residents with the no build option yet nothing is being said about the Conservatives still wanting to build in Flixton. Surely campaigners need to challenge this?

Again failing to see why Labour are getting the flack when they have fought this from day one – surely we need to hear the full conservative plans since they are the ruling party.

Incidentally, Sean Anstee has a nerve saying Labour were not representing residents – what like the Conservative cllrs in Davyhulme did over the George Carnall closure – they didnt even speak in the debate and voted to close it staying with the Party whip – now that isnt representing residents., even after promising the Save George Carnall Group that they would oppose the plans.

By Flixton Resident

It has been said many times..there are better places to build houses.more pressure on hospitals..schools..traffic congestion in the area..very simply lunacy…not thought out..long term..decades to come…

By leechged@gmail.com

Residents groups will always think houses should built in someone else’s back yard. As such their views should be given little weight when looking strategically about how to accommodate housing need across an entire conurbation. Where they absolutely should have influence is making sure the quality of the scheme including infrastructure is delivered and that it fits comfortably in the existing context – this is the area developers so often get away with cutting corners. No wonder people are so anti development, house builders really do bring it on themselves.

By New Balance

Valid points made here which I agree in part with. The trouble is during of all this political blustering, no homes are being built.

New Balance – I agree with your point about infrastructure, however developers more often than not buy sites with an existing outline planning permission in place, which establishes the parameters for the development. If that permission required a doctors surgery, or commercial space etc. they would build it. If those facilities are not provided on site there will often be a contribution via S106 towards the council providing these facilities elsewhere.

Personally I would put less blame on the housebuilders, and more on the ones that regulate / approve development, and receive contributions from them to place facilities elsewhere. I do see you point though, opposition often relates to the added burden placed on existing facilities, and a financial contribution often doesn’t help in the short-term. Housebuilders could do a better job to help improve this situation, or at very least compel Local Authorities to put any contributions to use ASAP.

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

@Same Old Housebuilder Bashing. I don’t know if you work for a PR agency but that is not how things work in practice.

By no means all land is bought from land promoters but anyway that’s a moot point. Planning obligations or S106 contributions are very often negotiated away or substantially reduced after planning permission is granted, supposedly on the basis of viability. Viability is determined by land costs in the main and in our dysfunctional and opaque land market, the housebuilder that is able to secure land is often the one who puts the most optimistic valuation on a plot of land. For the poor house purchaser and community, this housebuilder optimism is part funded by negotiating away planning obligations and minimising build costs (whilst maintaining their 20% margin, naturally).

So what do we end up with? Houses only delivered at a price point and quantity that the local market can sustain, dire space standards, character and build quality and inadequate infrastructure.

As I say house builders really do bring this on themselves but let’s not be deceived by their crocodile tears, this state of affairs is hughly profitable for them.

By New Balance

No ones crying, and I never mentioned promoters, just that sites often have an Outline planning permission in place. I don’t work for a PR agency, 10 years acquiring land… for housebuilders… so a fair bit of ‘how things work in practice’.

I would love to see the ‘very often’ instances where contributions are reduced, post-planning grant, post-acquisition. Interesting tactic for a company to acquire land on the basis of sheer optimism and hope of a reduction in contributions. I’ve not seen one instance of that occurring; in fact, the only instance I have seen of viability argument, post-acquisition, is when there has been a significant abnormal in the ground that hadn’t been factored into a viability.

“Houses only delivered at a price point” – Do you mean “Market Value”? Yeah that’s quite common.
“Quantity that the market can sustain” –Yep, as quickly as they can sell them, and not deliberately ‘slow’- that would make the huge amounts of money invested in faster forms of construction an elaborate smoke screen. Pretty silly, like your comments!!

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

I am bemused as to why the unused land at Neary Way could not be used to erect housing, I’m assuming there must be a reason for planning permission to be given to another Aldi, despite there being one within walking distance in Urmston. Also do we really need more fast food or takeaway outlets? Save a bit of Greenbelt and use some of the sites around Trafford like George Carnall, and Neary Way, and several disused industrial areas around Old Trafford. Also, I.m sure there must be some areas of Altrincham and Hale which could provide sites for low-cost housing.

By Mrs A Holmes

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