A WIRRAL MP has urged the government to adopt a 'brownfield-first' approach to house building in a bid to protect the greenbelt from developers.

Margaret Greenwood's call follows publication of a report by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which revealed there was enough suitable brownfield land available in England for more than one million homes across over 18,000 sites.

Margaret Greenwood met with Matt Thomson, head of planning for CPRE, in Parliament last week to discuss the situation in Wirral where the local authority has been consulting with residents on its Local Plan.

Earlier this month the Government told the council its local plan must require building at least 803 new homes every year across the borough over the next 15 years.

The CPRE report, which is based on analysis of councils' brownfield registers, makes the following observations:

"Every local planning authority now has a brownfield register recording brownfield land considered to be suitable for housing-led development.

"More suitable brownfield land has come forward over the last 12 months, with one in seven homes on up to date brownfield registers being on sites identified in the last 12 months.

"This shows that brownfield is a perpetually regenerating resource, with the potential to provide a steady pipeline of development opportunities.

"Where councils are failing to identify all possible opportunities and even in areas with a lot of suitable brownfield capacity, countryside remains at risk unnecessarily.

"This shows the importance of implementing a genuine brownfield first approach to development.

"Capacity for more than half a million homes has yet to obtain planning permission, so whilst developers should get on with building the homes they already have planning permission for, more needs to be done to ensure these sites get planning permission and are developed before greenfield sites"

Government figures show that the proportion of homes built on green belt land doubled from 2% to 4% of all new homes between 2016 and 2017, while the share built on brownfield land over the same period fell from 61% to 56%.

Margaret Greenwood MP said: "It's very clear from CPRE's report that the government should be adopting a genuine policy of brownfield first when it comes to house building.

"We have seen recently that the greenbelt in Wirral is under threat, and this threat must be resisted.

"The natural world is very important to the character of Wirral and vital to our wellbeing.

"We need to build new homes and it is important that we use the brownfield sites available to do this."

Earlier this month the Government told Wirral Council its local plan must require building at least 803 new homes every year across the borough over the next 15 years.

Last year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released revised figures indicating the target could be lower – closer to 500 – which would have significantly reduced pressure on Wirral's Green Belt.

The council had asked if the revised figure could be used but has been told it must use the original estimate.

Deputy leader George Davies, who is also cabinet member for housing and planning, said its focus will be firmly on brownfield sites for the newly built homes – areas which have already had development on them – and on maximising the use of this land to provide as many homes as possible and protect Green Belt from unwanted and unneeded building.

Cllr Davies said: "It's also important to highlight that although we will look to maximise development opportunities in brownfield sites we will not compromise on quality and we will ensure that the approach of creating sustainable and vibrant communities for all is at the heart of everything we do.

"It's disappointing the Government want us to use the higher figure but despite this I am determined that we will do everything in our power to protect Wirral's most beautiful natural locations.

"As we go through the process of developing the Local Plan we are becoming more convinced it is possible to develop even more brownfield sites."