Our recent housing White Paper underlines the Government’s continuing commitment to the green belt. Local councils should remove land only in exceptional circumstances, and the White Paper clarifies what that means: when they can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting housing need.
When a plan proposes large-scale development on the green belt, as in the case of the Greater Manchester spatial framework, will my hon. Friend assure me that he will carefully assess how realistic the various projections and assumptions are for things such as population growth and household size?
I assure my hon. Friend that the approach that is taken will be robustly tested by a planning inspector in public, and that he will be able to give evidence. My hon. Friend is right that before councils think about releasing green-belt land, they should consider brownfield land, surplus Government land, density and how their neighbours can help to meet housing need.
Plans to build on the green belt in Bury are part of the Greater Manchester spatial strategy, which also affects Flixton in my constituency. Does the Minister agree that Greater Manchester councils should look at using brownfield and other sites in preference to green belt, as he says, and perhaps at increasing density when possible?
I very much agree with hon. Lady. The White Paper sets out clearly what “exceptional circumstances” means. It is a phrase in the national planning policy framework that has not been defined previously. This is about looking at brownfield land, surplus public sector land, density and what neighbouring areas can do before precious green-belt land is released.