GMSF publication deferred until October

Consultation on the rewritten Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will now be delayed until October 2018 following the release of updated population projections, which show a slower rate of growth than expected.

The GMSF was one of the key areas of debate in the 2017 mayoral election, with the triumphant Andy Burnham declaring his intention to “radically re-write” something that had been in the works since 2014, went out to consultation in 2017 and was originally due for adoption this year.

Burnham’s headline goals were more affordable homes, a focus on town centre development and less green space released for housing.

Discussion has rumbled on since, as Greater Manchester seeks to put in place the mechanisms for delivering development over the next 20 years in an integrated way across its 10 local authority areas.

There is some disgruntlement among planners and land promoters at the lack of progress since May 2017, while one professional contacted this morning queried whether this relatively minor shift in numbers should be considered significant enough to delay things further. It has been suggested that “confidence in the process” is falling.

Several commentators predicted a delay following May’s local elections, as new council leaders took the reins in Oldham, Wigan and perhaps most crucially Trafford, which until then had been the only Conservative-led council. The GMSF requires approval from all 10 authorities.

The mid-year population estimates released by the Office for National Statistics show that Greater Manchester accounted for half the growth within the North West’s population rise over the year, with a further 17,955 living in the area than did in 2016, 4,182 of them in the city itself.

This, however, is a slower rate of growth than Greater Manchester Combined Authority anticipated. As the figures inform the Sub National Household Projections, expected in September, the lower population growth is likely to mean there will be lower household growth change in the household projections, GMCA said.

It was agreed by leaders that a delay to the consultation would allow the authority to ensure the most up-to-date figures to plan for the right number of new homes in the city-region. With the market seeking some clarity on what has become a drawn-out process, leaders said that more information on the GMSF timeline will be forthcoming at its July meeting.

Burnham said: “The Spatial Framework is critical to the future of Greater Manchester and we need to get this plan right. That is why Greater Manchester Leaders have taken the difficult decision to delay consultation until October this year.

“This will allow us to make sure that the most up to date official figures inform this plan. We have tried to be as open and transparent as possible throughout this process. I hope people will bear with us as we use these new projections to ensure we’re planning for the right number of new homes in Greater Manchester.

“We will be bringing a substantial update on the plan for the Spatial Framework consultation and timeline to July’s GMCA meeting so that people in Greater Manchester are kept up to date and involved in this process.”

Greater Manchester’s lead for housing, planning and homelessness, the Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, added: “We are taking great care to ensure that all relevant evidence is taken in to account as we complete the next draft of the Framework.  This plan has to be is fit for Greater Manchester’s future.

“The official projections help us to know what housing need we should be planning for in the Spatial Framework. Given this, leaders have now decided to undertake further work to ensure the implications of these figures are understood and fully realised in the next draft of the Spatial Framework.”

Greater Manchester’s new population, according to the ONS estimates, is just shy of 2.8m. Merseyside saw growth of 5,670 in the period, 3,944 of which was accounted for by the Liverpool City Council area. Greater London’s population grew by more than 55,000 in the same period.

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