CONSERVATIVE politicians are calling for a rethink over housing plans for York's greenfield land, after figures showed the city-centre had one of the highest concentrations of undeveloped brownfield sites in the country.
Data provided by the House of Commons library shows that previously developed land makes up 2.89 percent of York Inner's land - putting it in the top sixth of constituencies in England and Wales in a league table of brownfield land.
City of York Council has said the figures, which date from a 2009 survey, are out-of-date, and the brownfield land available would not meet even conservative estimates of York's housing need in the long term.
But both York Outer MP Julian Sturdy and Conservative group leader Chris Steward have said the data shows large greenfield developments in the local plan are unnecessary.
Cllr Steward said: "CYC has simply not taken brownfield sites into account to the extent it should have when preparing its Local Plan. Instead the Labour administration is seeking to attract developers by allowing them to build large estates on easy-to-build-on green land rather than the more sustainable infill opportunities presented by brownfield sites."
Although some brownfield sites will not be suitable for development, and others should be set aside for industrial or business use, he said many have massive potential for housing. Cllr Steward also pointed to sites such as The Press's former site on Walmgate, which he said have recently been given planning permission but not considered in the local plan.
Mr Sturdy added: "One of the key purposes of the greenbelt is in promoting urban regeneration. By underutilising the city’ previously developed land and by allowing developers to cherry pick such huge swathes of the beautiful open countryside which surrounds York, the Labour-run Council is failing our great city and its people.”
But council's assistant director of planning policy Mike Slater said the local plan is based on more up-to-date figures, and identifies 80.3 hectares of brownfield land - more than the Commons' 2009 figures.
Even if all 67.7 hectares shown in the 2009 figures were developed with 50 dwellings per hectare, it would build only 3,385 houses which would be enough for four years of 850 homes a year - the target included in the former Regional Spatial Strategy Plan for York - and well short of the 15 year plan. The current draft local plan works to a target of 1200 new homes a year.
The council's cabinet member for planning Cllr Dave Merrett added: "Apart from using figures that are five years out of date, and inaccurate, Julian Sturdy, Cllr Steward and local Conservatives continue to underestimate the housing crisis York is experiencing across both constituencies. Even building on available brownfield sites at densities not recommended by their Government, York would still not deliver the number of new homes required, as identified by independent research.
"What they don’t say is under Conservative housing targets some greenfield development would still be required. Labour is the only party prepared to deliver a Local Plan to meet the housing challenges York faces."