Lib Dems explain the danger with the Green Party's willingness to build on greenfield land in the Green Belt


Recently our Councillors have been writing to The Star explaining why protecting greenfield land in the Green Belt from development is very important. Unfortunately, the Green Party as part of the Labour/Green run Council disagree. We have pushed for a "brownfield first" attitude, where we regenerate and rejuvenate areas such as old factory and warehousing sites before we think about building on green fields.

The Liberal Democrats have been clear that when greenfield in the Green Belt is opened up for development, as Cllr Mike Levery (representing West Ecclesfield ward) writes in the Star on 23.2.22 "The reality is that once the plan is approved by government, you cannot manage the process. Developers can choose where they want to build first, and inevitably that is where they make the best returns........ Only when the opportunity for building on greenfield in the Green Belt has gone will developers get on with building the houses we need in this city"

Lib Dem Spokesperson Cllr Martin Smith (pictured above) said; “The choices made in the Local Plan will decide where a huge amount of development should go. It’s shocking to see some of the city’s coalition leadership say they want to build on more of our precious green space, increase traffic congestion and worsen our environmental performance.”

 

Read our Letters to the Star below:

Green Belt realities - Printed in The Star newpaper Wednesday 23rd Febrary 2022

In response to the letter in The Star of Green Councillor Alexi Dimond “Jumping on the Bandwagon” on the 15th February, where he states “that the biodiversity of some brownfield sites can be more valuable than Green Belt sites which have been subjected to years of industrial farming”, I’d be really interested to know where in the Sheffield area industrial farming takes place? Most, if not all of our farms are small scale, family owned and usually tenant farmers. They are both arable and livestock, many of which supply directly into the local economy. Due to the topography, most of the original field systems have been maintained which makes it impossible to carry out industrial farming. I would have thought these are precisely the sort of farms which the Green Party would support? And yet strangely, they see removal of these farms for large scale housing development as beneficial when we desperately need to clean up brownfield land and develop high quality affordable homes with good transport infrastructure close to existing services.

He also says that “A strong Local Plan……must ensure that former industrial sites are developed first”. The reality is that once the plan is approved by government, you cannot manage the process. Developers can choose where they want to build first, and inevitably that is where they make the best returns. He needs to answer the question why we currently have planning approvals granted for over 12,000 homes almost all in brownfield locations which still need to commence? Why are developers holding back? Only when the opportunity for building on greenfield in the Green Belt has gone will developers get on with building the houses we need in this city. Further, the government have committed to provided funding for Sheffield and Wolverhampton to allow clean up brownfield sites in this first phase of urban regeneration, and we must ensure our Local Plan clearly identifies the scale of investment needed to clean up Sheffield. That is why the Liberal Democrats voted for the option that delivers at the top end of our housing need, whilst ensuring we hold the government to account on their levelling up promises.

 

Councillor Mike Levery
Liberal Democrats
West Ecclesfield Ward

 

Sheffielders will Decide - Printed in The Star Friday 25th February 2022

Letters from Green activists and a councillor printed in the local media recently makes me wonder whether I was in the same meeting.

The last full Council meeting on the 2nd February was ‘lively’. Issues we debated included the effects of 12-hour bus lanes on small businesses and the Local Plan. The webcast of it is on the Sheffield City Council website. People can judge for themselves what was said and done.

The Officer’s Report on the pros and cons of the five options available for allocating development land in a Local Plan is also there. Liberal Democrats voted for Option 3 meaning developers can build on appropriate brown field sites but not on greenfield sites in our green belt. Option 4, voted for by Green Party councillors, means redrawing our green belt boundaries. Developers favour it because profit margins will be greater building on undeveloped land but housing is less likely to be affordable.

The letter from Green Party councillor Alexi Dimond (16th Feb) contained a number of questionable statements. One that is easy to check is our position on Chubby Brown, courtesy of back copies of the Star and Sheffield Telegraph. We argued for, and still do, for freedom of speech as long as the speech is legal. It’s not an endorsement of Chubby Brown’s, or Jimmy Carr’s views or of any other act appearing in our City Hall.

Another ‘easy check’ is our position when the council went to ‘no overall control’ last year. Liberal Democrats wanted to discuss policies important to Sheffield’s future that all parties could agree on taking forward. Labour and Greens wanted to discuss power sharing between themselves. It’s hardly constructive engagement.

We also have a long history of pressing for a bus system that is affordable, reliable and connects all parts of the city as key to reducing people’s reliance on cars. We’re pleased that Labour has finally come on board and that the Greens realise, belatedly, this is necessary for Active Travel to become a real choice for more of our residents. However, we also recognise not all people can walk and people will still need cars for access.

As always, Sheffielders will decide for themselves what’s the right of it.

Barbara Masters
Liberal Democrat councillor for Ecclesall

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