Is it wrong that people want to aspire to own a home with a garden? | Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar column

The Burnley Local Plan has been the subject of much discussion ever since it was adopted in 2018 and was again debated at last night's meeting of Full Council.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 3:45 pm
Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar

Often referred to by critics as the Labour Local Plan, it was produced over the preceding 8 years in line with statutory guidance and adopted through democratic process by the whole council on 31st July 2018.

From that moment on it became the Burnley Local Plan, not the Labour Plan.

Whilst there were many objections to some of the housing sites identified, there was also support and in accordance with the rules of the consultation all voices needed to be heard.

Support for the plan has been undermined by the government’s austerity that scrapped the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) programme.

This project was delivering neighbourhood renewal by reshaping brownfield land across the borough at around £10m per year and provided the balance between developing attractive and affordable brownfield homes and the requirement for new growth sites.

Nothing replaced HMR thereby forcing developers towards greenfield sites, making it more difficult for the council to promote the use of brownfield sites and vacant homes.

If HMR had been left to run its course instead of falling to austerity we would now be in a totally different place as a borough.

Terraced houses are not proving popular with young families, older people or first-time buyers – is it wrong that people want to aspire to own a home with a garden?

Ironically those objecting to new developments and reminding us that we have empty homes in the borough, tend to live in homes built on former greenfield sites with a garden.

The current Local Plan clearly states a “brownfield first” policy and 60% of housing sites in the local plan are brownfield sites.

Despite the challenges according to monitoring reports, 96% of the 1625 new homes completed in Burnley between 2012 and 2020 were on previously developed land.

The government has suspended progress on the Planning Reform Bill that was in the late stages of its adoption.

Government planning reforms are in disarray and clarity needs to be provided urgently. However, what is clear is the government's desire for accelerated house building, so a new Act is unlikely to reduce the need to supply even more land for housing.

Those who criticise the plan need to be careful what they wish for.

The Local Plan may be unpopular with some residents, but if we are to see progress there needs to be a return of HMR programme, or something similar along with appropriate local powers to enable the Council to build the future homes the town needs in the places they are needed while restoring public confidence in the planning process.

This would allow the council to build on the successful work it has previously done.

Any developments need to take into account changing conditions including the issue of our time, the climate change emergency.

If this government is serious about 'levelling up' it needs to provide sustainable support for councils and put an end to the 'bidding bingo' currently in place.

This is exactly what we asked for through the amendment to the conservative group motion. What did the Conservative group do? They failed to support the council in putting a request to government for multi-year funding for brownfield regeneration.