GM plan ‘lacks ambition’, says survey

The outline of a 20-year blueprint for development across Greater Manchester "lacks ambition" and "does not reflect the desire to become a European premier city", according to some of the 90 organisations who responded to an early consultation questionnaire.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will be the overarching development plan document for the 10 local authorities forming the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.

Responses to an early-stage 165-page questionnaire released in September have described the evidence forming the plan as "not forward-looking enough", according to a summary by Eamonn Boylan, lead chief executive for planning and housing.

Peel Group, advised by Turley, said the report was based on "historic trends and will perpetuate past inadequacies" without set objectives or factoring in growth, while Taylor Wimpey said the framework would fail to "proactively drive and support sustainable economic growth" as it was not clear how the built environment fitted in with the wider strategy for the area.

The estimated housing numbers and employment growth was considered to be flawed and too low, and some respondents questioned the volume of sites available to meet the need.

Several organisations called for a green belt review in addition to the use of brownfield sites. In its response, Russell Homes said the need for a review was "urgently required to release strategic sites for development to provide a real competitive advantage".

Dan Mitchell, partner in planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore, which was one of respondents to the consultation, said: "The fact is that many brownfield sites are simply uneconomical to develop. A green belt review is inevitable if the city is to meet the pent-up housing needs of its population.

"One of the big concerns developers have is the timetable for the preparation of the city-region's spatial plan, especially now that many councils have shelved their own local plans in the interim. In the short term this is likely to create uncertainty and can only add to the already great pressures on the delivery of new homes. We would encourage the authorities to move as quickly as possible."

In its submission, the National Trust said that the lack of any reference to heritage in the plan's vision was "deeply worrying" as it would directly affect Greater Manchester's tourism offer.

Harrow Estates described the framework as "rather staid", while the lack of any mention of the impact of HS2 was called a "fundamental omission" by CBRE.

A mix of local authorities, housebuilders, planning consultants and developers submitted their views as part of the six-week consultation.

The proposal to deal with Greater Manchester as one market area was criticised as it would not take into account the different requirements of each borough. Manchester University described the plan as "not spatial at all", and Peel Group called the idea "fundamentally flawed".

Peel and Turley said that the framework's estimate of a need for 10,000 additional homes each year was too low, and advocated at least 15,000 dwellings to be built each year.

The initial evidence published in the framework suggested that "Greater Manchester's objectively assessed need for housing is 224,823 net additional dwellings over the period 2012-2033, equating to an average of 10,706 net additional dwellings per annum." Currently around 3,000 a year are delivered.

The multi-council plan is believed to be the first of its type in the country and will link to the 10 councils' own local plans.

The new plan would not replace individual councils' local plans but will exist in addition to those as part of the city region's effort to gain greater autonomy.

Following the consultation, AGMA will now gather more evidence and develop further options for the framework over the next year.

To view the consultation responses within the AGMA meeting agenda, click here

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Ambition is fine if it is allied to good design, suitable densities and properly funded infrastructure. I would be wary of any submissions that push for more sprawl, undermining the need for high quality, sustainable brownfield development. Claims of ‘uneconomic’ brownfield housing are spurious at best.

By H L

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