The joint plan isn't popular with everyone. Credit: via PfE

Blow for GMSF as Stockport quits

The council finally voted against the Greater Manchester spatial framework following a rebellion by Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors over Green Belt development in the borough. 

The other nine Greater Manchester Councils will now have to decide whether or not to go ahead with the plan, while Stockport’s attention turns to producing an updated local plan to guide development in the borough. 

Stockport failed to reach a consensus on the GMSF despite support from leader Elise Wilson and other Labour councillors. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which allocates land for employment and housing development across 10 local authority areas, was defeated by 35 votes to 26 at a council meeting last night.

Speaking to Place North West, Stockport Council leader Elise Wilson said: ” Make no mistake, the challenges we face haven’t gone away with the GMSF, they have simply moved over to the local plan. We now have more problems and less tolls to solve them.” 

The proposal, which outlined plans for 45m sq ft of employment space and 180,000 homes to be delivered across Greater Manchester over the next 20 years, could now be scrapped altogether.

Leader of Stockport’s Conservatives Mike Hurleston told Place North West that his party was in favour of joint planning but the GMSF was not the right plan. 

Question Time (39)

Mayor Andy Burnham had pleaded with Stockport’s Conservatives to accept the plans

“There are good points within it but our point of view is that the Green Belt is really important and losing it forever was a risk that we weren’t prepared to take. 

“The leader of the council accepts that this is democracy. We are representing what our residents are telling us and we are entitled to do that.”

The decision to refuse the proposals came despite calls from other regional leaders, including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Salford Mayor Paul Dennett, who said that by choosing to reject the GMSF, Stockport would be getting a worse deal than if it opted in. 

In a letter to Stockport councillors last week, Burnham said: “The GMSF allows the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs to share out the numbers of homes that each individual borough needs to build. As a result, the GMSF allows Stockport to cut the number of planned homes by over 5,000 – 25% less than its Government target. 

“Conversely, if Stockport was to opt out of the GMSF, it would have to find land for all these 5,000 homes.” 

However, Hurleston picked holes in that argument saying the idea that building more homes in Manchester and Salford would reduce the number of homes Stockport would have to deliver was incorrect. 

“The idea that taking housing numbers from Stockport was doing us a favour [is wrong]. Those homes [in Salford and Manchester] were going to be built anyway,” he said. 

He added that his party would lobby the Government to change the system used to calculate housing need, describing it as “flawed”. 

Stockport’s divided council must now somehow put its differences aside and start work to prepare a local plan for the borough by the end of 2023. 

“It is going to be difficult to work out that happens next but just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Hurleston said. 

Following Stockport’s rejection of the plans, a spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: “While we regret the position that has been taken by Stockport councillors and the implications this will have for the borough, Greater Manchester will continue to work to build a sustainable future with good homes, jobs, and growth. 

“Greater Manchester leaders will meet to consider the next steps in the coming days”. 

Matthew Dawber, associate in the planning team at Savills in Manchester, said Stockport’s decision had “wide-ranging implications” for the future of the GMSF and development within the region. 

He added that, even if the other nine boroughs proceeded with the plan, without Stockport “it would no longer be a Greater Manchester plan and some of the gloss would be lost”. 

“Other alternatives are that the GMSF is withdrawn altogether and individual authorities begin work on their own plans or the Mayor withdraws the plan for now and waits until after the elections in May 2021 to try and get the plan through each council then. Either way, the only certainty is that of further delays,” Dawber said. 

Dan Mitchell, partner at Barton Willmore, said Stockport’s refusal was “disappointing”.

“The politics in the borough have made decisions on strategic plans very tricky. It is a big blow for the framework as a whole.”

He suggested that those responsible for putting the plan together may have bitten off more than they could chew and should not have tried to “address all the Green Belt matters in one go”.

“If Greater Manchester had created a strategic growth plan and a housing distribution model it probably would have gone through. Where it has gone wrong is that it has tried to micro-manage green belt release across the whole conurbation.”

Mitchell said a better approach would have been to tell each borough how many homes and how much employment space it needed to create and leave each borough to decide how and where to deliver it.

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Hopefully the rest of the nine boroughs go it alone. Good luck Stockport I think you may need it.

By Bob


By Mancunian

This is perhaps a little overdramatic, but this is a sad indictment of democracy as a system, which on a much bigger scale has already taken a hammering over recent years. The fact that a few petty minded councillors, elected by a very small propotion of GM residents for a very area could bring this city-region plan down warrants a complete rethink of the system that has been constructed to deliver it. It is completely ridiculous to be sitting here, years after GMSF was first conceived, in this position. The role that politics plays in planning is too strong.

By Lee

Great news! We’ve just voted against building in the Green Belt by adding 5,000 homes to the number that will now have to be built in the Green Belt.

By Not In My Ward

Stockport’s decision to reject the GMSF project is a disgrace, as Lib Dem and Conservative councillors are playing politics by looking at their own interest rather than the overall interest of the region. We need to focus on improving the region’s housing and economic problems.

By Anonymous

After Stockport’s decision to reject the GMSF proposal, I think that the 9 councils should go ahead without Stockport. As this is in the best interest of Greater Manchester.

By Anonymous

After years of discussion and hard work, I think the councillors should not jeopardise the GMSF plan after Stockport’s rejection. But, rather I think the Mayor should take GMSF plan with 9 councils and leaving Stockport behind. As this is in the best interest of the region to create build more houses and create economic opportunities.

By John

Brilliant. As part of shameless politicking ahead of the 2021 Mayoral election, Tories and Libs have ensured we will have an extra 5,000 houses built on Green Belt in Stockport. Landowners and volume house builders will be delighted at the windfall profits. The Tories claim the extra 5,000 will be built in Salford anyway. Even if they are (and this isn’t certain in the coming recession), they will just count as over-provision for Salford, for which they get a pat on the back. Stockport will still need to find an extra 5,000.

By Peter Black

Stockport have shot themselves in the foot massively here. All because of politics and point scoring. The opposition parties have obviously only voted against it to score brownie points for elections. Stockport will find itself in a position where the government housing targets are a lot higher than if they were part of the GMSF, meaning they will lose a lot more greenbelt. Such a nonsensical move

By Anon

Good for them. The GMSF wasn’t the right plan and would have destroyed the borough.
I think this could be the end of Greater Manchester as a combined authority. CV has made it obvious that there are certain areas that have zero affiliation with Manchester.

By Observer

Such a decision will have consequences for the credibility and coherence of the GMCA. Has anybody considered what type of precedent is being set here? Would it be possible for you to organise a virtual event that puts in the public domain the rationale for the decisions being made on all sides?

By Bob Robinson

This has been a painful process and … time for MHCLG to step in ??

By Justin Paul

Stockport did what’s right for their people.


I agree with a previous comment that the remaining nine boroughs should proceed with the GMSF. Unfortunately, I could see it coming, the playing out of political ambitions set above what these councillors and in some cases MPs are paid to do. Are they really motivated by the plight of thousands of residents and 1.6% of greenbelt land, really? This is shocking, no doubt there was a little flurry of phone calls to and from various Conservative/Liberal offices. And, as is usual nowadays, the ‘objectors’ have no alternative plans….

By Robert Fuller

The other councils may as well go ahead, and refuse support for funding on Stockport projects.


When Stockport prepares their Local Plan and have to release significantly more Green Belt land to meet their housing requirements I hope the residents remember who put them in that position.

By AnActualTownPlanner

Well done to the Tories and Lib Dems for now needing to build more homes in your greenbelt. Oh and you’ll also get less infrastructure through the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy. Great stuff.

By Bye Bye Greenbelt

The SF was deeply flawed even after the review, and did little to assist in achieving GM’s net zero by 2038 targets. The whole project needs to align to this first and foremost or be resigned to the scrap heap.

By why tho

Doomed to fail ever since Andy Burnham promised to scrap the first iteration for political gain.

By Just saying

After three iterations the GMSF was badly watered down and lacking ambition. This is probably the final nail in the coffin as the tail has wagged the dog once to often. RIP GMSF.

By Grumpy Old Git

As a resident of Stockport, I am shocked that local councillors are more interested in scoring short-term political points than looking after the interest of the people they are supposed to represent. The decision last night means more Green Belt will be used to build more houses in the Borough.

By Monty

Do you think…maybe…that the GMSF was just too heavily stacked in favour of the developers? Perhaps reducing the amount of affordable housing provision for developing green belt from Stockport’s current 50% to 30%…removing around £36m in revenue might have been part of the reason? I’m assuming that saving won’t have been used to reduce the selling prices. Having read the details of the individual proposals perhaps the councillors saw through words like “contribute to school places”…or “implement shared pedestrian/cycle paths”? Maybe they saw through the “ditch the legislation now” and “worry about the impact of COVID/Brexit/population changes/the economy later” approach?

By Not a developer

Conservative politicians doing their best to destroy anything that is remotely progressive. Wonder if the clowns down South had a hand in this to embarrass Andy as retaliation for speaking the truth…Pathetic. GM and Stockport will suffer from this lunacy.. I feel sorry for Andy and the team at GMHQ.

By Stockport Resident

Many of the comments on here think that this is all about playing politics, it is to a degree, but not in the way being suggested.
The GMSF is essentially a Labour plan; the problem in Stockport is that all these green belt proposals in places like Romiley, Marple (High Lane), and Heald Green for example, are areas where there are no Labour councillors – nor ever have been – and where Labour struggle to even find a few hundred votes – they all lie in the Hazel Grove and Cheadle constituencies – again, Labour no-go areas.
Supporting the green belt building plans in the places mentioned above would be electoral suicide for the Tory, Lib Dem, and Heald Green Independent councillors in these areas who are elected to represent their wards: this is not playing politics, it IS politics in the best sense, and they are reflecting accurately the wishes of the people who live in these areas.
It also has to be said that the opposition to the green belt developments exist elsewhere across GM, but Labour’s control of the Councils – Bolton excepted – ensures that these objections can be, in the final analysis, ignored.
That said, whilst there are things to commend in the GMSF, across GM as a whole, it is not a popular document.
One final thought: I think the total number of houses thought to be needed is probably too high.

By AltPoV

What how Stockport? You reject the spatial plan but approved the diabolical ‘Red Rock’ eye sore, lacking flare, dimension, it’s unattractive and plastic. As your Welcome to Stockport, Really! Stockport has always been a back water of Greater Manchester.

By Luca

2o out of ten for Stockport, defenders of the green belt,

By Ray brown

I seem to remember Manchester saying “No” to a Mayor and now we have one! This resident is again saying No to building on green belt land. I sincerely hope that democracy prevails and developers build on the no so lucrative brownfield sites.

By Anonymous

AltPoV makes a good point. Without being partisan, GM has been fortunate to have most councils under control of the same party, its probably one of the reasons its been one of the more effective metros in terms of joined up strategy. In a more politically diverse context you are going to need a stronger Mayoral model like in London. We are already seeing that as Manchester itself get more gentrified they are getting more pushback against top-down development strategies – feels like its inevitable that this becomes more more normal as pockets of GM build prosperity. Personally I think Green Belt protection has simply become a proxy for not wanting development, and they should be more candid about that. The net effect is to push development into places that don’t have green belt protection and drive longer commutes.

By Rich X

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