February 27th 2019

Guest Blog – Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF)

Posted by:

Cowgills

In the second of this months guest blogs,  Doug Hann, Executive Director at Indigo Planning talks about the impact of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).

Housing is never far from the top of the political agenda, and 2019 will be no exception.  January saw the long awaited publication of the latest draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.  This was Mayor Andy Burnham’s draft and sought to deliver on his promises of reduction of green belt loss and driving regeneration of the conurbation’s town centres.  The plan has been met with mixed reviews but our view at Indigo Planning is that it has lost a bit of its ambition, with a reduced housing requirement (11% less) and reduced industrial/warehousing floorspace (almost 50% less).  At a time when the region will need to up its game on the international stage and drive growth post Brexit, we feel a greater ambition will be key.

The focus on town centres is a great move we applaud as the region must react to the changed retail market, to rationalise and find new uses to reinvent its town centres.  Altrincham has made great strides with its food market led strategy, but others need to identify what works for them.  We are delighted to be involved promoting a number of major sites in Stockport town centre, where the Council and combined authority have launched a Development Corporation.   This public sector commitment with potential powers to acquire and deliver land will be important as fragmented land ownership is likely to be one of the biggest challenges facing town centre redevelopment.  For proactive land owners and developers the drive for increased density of residential development in town centres and brownfield sites offers great opportunity for raising land values going forward.

Promoting high density housing in town centres makes sense and will help boost housing numbers, however we have concerns that the GMSF over focuses on this, at the expense of providing a balanced land supply.  With a high percentage of the supply for 2018-2037 to be met from high density apartments which are geared to smaller households, there is a real concern that family housing will not be provided.  This is the consequence of reducing the green belt release.  We feel there is a need to revisit this and make some more confident bites into the green belt where it can be done without adversely affecting its overall purpose.  Family housing must be delivered in greater numbers and will need lower density sites which are largely not available in the urban centres, after decades of brownfield first planning policy.  Its success has exhausted such sites so we must now make the difficult decisions and look to green belt.  Such sites should however not be given up lightly and policy should seek they provide high quality development which delivers the affordable housing and other social and environmental infrastructure that can support not only it but enhance the opportunities for existing communities.

Finally, we are concerned that the GMSF now includes for phasing, which back ends the housing delivery towards the end of the plan period. This will allow councils to deliver fewer homes in the early phase and still be able to meet their five year land supply requirements and Delivery Test.  This is a retrograde step and will not provide the boost to delivery of homes that will be important to support and help drive the economic growth strategy.

All in all, the GMSF brings plenty of opportunities for land owners and developers, with planning the tool to help unlock such opportunities.  Indigo Planning are happy to discuss any sites or proposals with you.

Indigo are one of the UK’s largest independent planning consultancies. In the last five years, they’ve secured a ‘first-time’ consent for over 95% of the projects they work on.  To find out more about Indigo visit their website at https://indigoplanning.com/