GMSF delayed again as Combined Authority points the finger

Greater Manchester’s 201,000-home spatial framework looks to have been kicked into the long grass again, although the GMCA’s attempts to pin the blame on the Government for the delay have been questioned by those close to the process.

The latest delay leaves it unlikely that any final form of the framework will come forward before next year’s Mayoral elections, taking place in May 2020.

The long-awaited draft of the framework was published in January this year, outlining Green Belt release and a plan to build a minimum of 201,000 new homes across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs, alongside 65m sq ft of employment space; a consultation on the plans followed soon after.

However, the Manchester Evening News reported this week the framework had been delayed again with sources close to Mayor Andy Burnham’s office blaming “an error in the draft legislation” and pointing the finger at Whitehall officials for the delay.

Despite this, it is understood much of the delay hinges on the GMCA’s decision to pursue the spatial framework as a Spatial Development Strategy, which under current legislation does not allow for Green Belt release.

The GMCA had been attempting to convince Whitehall officials to change legislation to allow the GMSF to be able to release Green Belt, despite it being an SDS, but this has been met with push back from Government.

Sources close to the process told Place North West: “The GMCA knew all along they would have this complication when they chose to pursue the GMSF as a spatial development strategy, but they still wanted to allocate [Green Belt] sites for release. The Government was always going to say no.

“Why they haven’t just taken it forward as a joint development plan [which does allow Green Belt release] is beyond me. If I were Andy Burnham, that’s exactly what I would do”.

Part of the reason, according to senior sources, is that the GMCA is “not confident its evidence base is strong enough” to push on with its housing plan; if pursued as a JDP, more evidence would have to be submitted to Government than under an SDS. Another source said: “From conversations we’ve had, it looks like the evidence base as it stands would face failure at examination”.

It also understood the Liverpool City Region, which is pursuing its own spatial development strategy, is against changing legislation to allow SDSs to include Green Belt release, with the Liverpool authority instead wanting to allow local authorities to choose where to release Green Belt under their own Local Plans. This puts it at odds with the GMCA’s view of SDSs.

Under the existing timescale for the GMSF, the next version would have come forward this September, before being signed off by all 10 boroughs in October. A consultation would have followed before Christmas, with the framework being sent to the Planning Inspector in spring 2020.

There remains, however, some opposition from local authorities. In Bolton, a change of administration leaves any potential backing of the GMSF in the balance, while sources close to Stockport Council suggest the GMSF would be “very unlikely to get through the chamber” based on the council’s current make-up: the only fully pro-GMSF party is Labour with 26 seats; the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, which have argued against the framework, make up the majority of the council with 25 and eight seats respectively.

It understood there is “no clear plan” as yet if the GMSF proceeds as planned but is voted down by one of the 10 boroughs. Under the joint development plan model, the GMSF would only need to be approved by the executive of each of the 10 councils.

With a new Government now in place, with Tatton MP Esther McVey now holding the housing brief instead of Kit Malthouse, the future of the GMSF still remains up in the air, and a further draft looks more likely to come forward next summer.

The first draft of the GMSF, published in 2016, set a target of 227,000 homes over the next 20 years, and included the release of 12,100 acres of Green Belt, which was massively unpopular with the public and was spread unevenly across the 10 boroughs. Burnham tapped into this wave of discontent when he campaigned to be Mayor in early 2017, and when he took post in May of that year he commissioned Salford Mayor Paul Dennett to oversee a rewrite.

Responding to the news of the delay, the Housing the Powerhouse group, made up developers including Peel, Himor, Harworth, Barratt Homes, Gladman, and Strategic Land Group, called on the Mayor to now align the GMSF with Greater Manchester’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy, as well as negotiating a new housing deal for the region.

The group’s spokesman Rob Loughenbury said: “Greater Manchester clearly now needs an ambitious spatial plan to match its ambitious industrial strategy. The prospect of another delay to the GMSF is frustrating, but it provides the opportunity to align the plan with everything else that Greater Manchester is doing and to negotiate a better housing deal with Government.

“Providing enough good homes, of the right kind and in the right places, is essential to improving productivity and attracting and retaining a skilled workforce in areas such as advanced manufacturing and healthcare. We remain supportive of seeing the best possible GMSF in place as soon as possible.”

The GMCA said there would be a further update “in the coming months” but declined to comment further.

Your Comments

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I have a solution, no more houses. There’s nearly three million people in GM now, that’s already far too many, 70 million people in Britain, we’ve lost the plot

By Bry

Bry – I hope you send your detailed analysis of projected housing need in Greater Manchester to the GMCA, I’m sure they’d find it most valuable. Why hire all those consultants and planning professionals when you could just hire Bry from the Place North West comments section!

By Anonymous

Having a devolved mayor making decisions ahead of elections is likely to mean these sort of tough decisions being delayed more common. Downsides along with the upsides of devolution. By the way I am very much a supporter of devolution.

By ProDevo

Spatial Development Strategies/Frameworks do not require the same extent of public scrutiny and examination. The GMCA has pursued this route for this reason. They know that the proposed housing figures (and therefore extent of Green Belt release) would not pass the relevant tests if a joint Local Plan was pursued instead.

What the GMCA have failed to appreciate is that even if the SDS was adopted, each LPA’s Local Plan would still need to justify their housing figures and Green Belt release – they couldn’t simply rely on the SDS as sufficient evidence. The GMSF has therefore been destined to fail from the outset.

The GMCA need to stop trying to circumvent (or change) planning legislation and should instead pursue a properly evidenced joint Local Plan, even if that means releasing more Green Belt and building more houses.

By NWPlanner

What a shambles. They submit the plan as something else to try to hide the lack of evidence that supports their assertions and unsurprisingly it gets kicked back. Then its someone else’s fault. Sounds like “a big boy did it and ran away”. If the case is sound then they can back it up, if it isn’t then why are they wasting time and resources on it? Or does this need opening up to public scrutiny?

By D

This is what happens when polititions make decisions in there own interests for populist support.

By Andrew Gaskin

This is what happens when you reduce numbers to appeal to people who don’t understand housing need and simply want “no more houses” because they are wilfully ignorant of the world around them.

Under a JDP the evidence would show higher housing numbers required, upsetting the NIMBY’s.

By Anonymous

Another error by Whitehall again – I thought this was part of the devolution process. No evidence of that here, still held back by Whitehall…

By Mark

Its all a load of nonsense anyway. The delay just means more appeals and more money for the barristers. Half of the sites will be built before GMSF is finalised.


Someone’s head should roll. How much time and money has been spent on a plan that they now conced as no evidence base. I bet we end up with the first plan.

By Andy

This is what happens when you pursue a strategy that is outside the legal framework provided for by Westminster.. Arrogant, deluded, bonkers and a huge waste of tax payers money on professional fees. You can’t push water uphill GMCA, so wake up, smell the coffee and fall in line; that way you will largely get your plan over the line post proper scrutiny and cross examination.

By Grumpy Old Git

Andy Burnham hands off OUR Greenbelt instead of using it for self gain !

By Kath Cameron

Government should revoke the planning powers it granted to the mayor’s office unless they get a plan to examination by summer 2020. If they are just going to p’ss about and not make any decisions then there is no point having those powers or wasting hundreds of thousands on a plan that never gets past first base. If Burnham was any any way interested in pushing this through that might give him a bit more of an incentive.

By Mr T

Not exactly brexit. Just takes longer.

By Just saying

Skilled workforce where from there are minimal apprenticeships now.We need our green belt,not more rabbit hutch size houses and useless industrial units that never get used but count as a tax write off

By Hilda

Andy Burnham leaving us young people wanting a home hanging & others worried about impact on them for 3 full years just to perpetuate his own fruitless career TIME TO GO

By graham

A shambles. A long term plan for GM reviewed and presided over by a mayor who only holds office for 3 years was probably never going to get through before the next election came round . In addition a route taken that looks as though it never had the backing of legislation and Government is kicked into the field even further.Perhaps the pro-growth boroughs need to paddle their own canoe and get on with local plans if they want to attract inward investment.

By Northern Outhouse

Greater Manchester desperately requires more housing, the politicians need to get on with implementing this framework. Stop listening to nimby’s.

By Lenny1968

The first plan was put together using local evidence and was sound. Along comes Burnham a shreds it for personal gain. However could Tameside’s local plan pass inspection with a allocation of 330 houses per year when there own housing need assessment recommended 1000 houses per year for the first 5 years and 700 thereafter.

By Just saying

I would like to see more brownfield sites and town centre development rather than green belt land.

By Linda

Brownfield sites not greenfield.

By Sharon

People seem to be mistaking brownfield for greenfield. I find it hilarious that people in local towns are in uproar over houses being built on the “green belt” that once used to be coal mines.

By Anonymous

Greenbelt is implemented to protect large or in so cases small open urban sprawl, maintain agricuture and provide a habitat for wildlife it helps protect agrictural activities,unique rural communities and gives people the opportunity to experience a vast array of outdoor activities .the government identified greenbelt as being areas of of siginficant importance when it came to developing our towns and cities and felt a need for these areas to be protected. I think we all agree we need affordable homes but does everyone know how many of these home will be affordable and to whom. for example in the area of Simster/Bowlee they are planning to build 2700 homes taking 90% of the greenelt, 200 homes they have said will be affordable at a cost of approx £175K, ask yourself who are these affordable too, 2500 homes will be luxury. Was anyone aware that we had a housing crisis when it came to luxury home.

brown sites are available to use but you could ask the question are they not building on them because its to expense and greenbelts in the big scheme of things is more cost effective, councils could ask other boroughs with available land to take some of there building quota but that would mean losing revenue
More plannig on this scale is being proposed throughout Manchester/Bury residents will be faced with more polution, road congestion, and an even bigger strain on there our local NHS

By Anonymous

If you take our green belt then where will it end! We need this green belt to relax and chill when we’re stressed so then what no more greenbelt land I’m protesting big time for sure

By Karl farnell

The amount of people harping on like the greenbelt is something special is absolutely hilarious. “if you take our greenbelt what will we do” probably just use the rest of the countryside… You know, with the country being over 90% undeveloped there is more than enough “green” to go around.

By Anonymous

Anonymous! are you actually a real person or a (RMRS) robotic message response system. RMRS always provide an argument without substance ie simply black is black (not its not its white). My only response which hopefully may sink in, for the sake of our future generations, (Green belt when its gone its gone) A digital response from your RMRS will not be accepted.(DELETE)!!


Anonymous is correct, large volumes of “Green Belt” land is generally inaccessible to the public and made up of farmland etc. The 10% “developed land” even includes gardens / parks. There’s more Green Belt land today than there has ever been, in fact it would take about 3,000 years to develop it all!

Nobody is proposing to build on nature reserves, or National Parks. Brownfield sites should be built on wherever possible, but lots of people don’t actually want to live in an apartment or townhouse in a town centre.

Bry – Wow. Just wow. You don however inadvertently raise a point; when GB was first initiated the population was 40 million, things change. Green Belt policy is not fit for purpose anymore and needs to be reviewed holistically.
Linda – Willing to bet YOU don’t live in a town centre though! Probably a nice house in the burbs I reckon……
Hilda – Building the supposed ‘rabbit hutches’ bigger would require more GB release… Not quite thought this through have we?
Karl – Really looking forward to your bigtime protest, I can’t wait. Let us know what’s happening so I can attend.

There’s lots more policies preventing inappropriate development, even if it was completely absolved there wouldn’t be widespread unrelenting development. Let’s all calm down.

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

We need more green belts!…. but not brown ones, thank you.

By Deja

Wigan council knocked alot of houses down on the plank lane estate, don’t actually know how many because I haven’t counted them, including a house that was meant to be a community center.Some of this land is now being used as a tipping ground, why don’t they rebuild on this land, instead of fields. We need green spaces for people to use for recreation purposes, and more importantly for trees and to plant more, as they provide our oxygen to breathe.

By Elayne Derbyshire

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