What next for the GMSF?
I’m sure I could hear a collective sigh of relief from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority this week, when the consultation on the draft version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework closed.
After two years of internal discussions, lobbying from the private sector and limited public scrutiny, the scale of the Combined Authority’s ambition has been laid bare for all to see in recent months. 227,000 new homes, plus new employment space over the next 20 years, was always going to be a politically ambitious, if not necessarily economically ambitious, target. Add to the mix some (limited) Green Belt release and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that councillors and MPs have been lining up to demand a wholescale re-think.
Nor should it be a surprise that the bookies’ favourite to become Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has declared that the GMSF is “unfair and disproportionate” and that it should avoid any loss of Green Belt development. Burnham has been slowly moving in this direction since his nomination last year. Ditto, the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate Cllr Jane Brophy. Conservative Cllr Sean Anstee stands out from the crowd (at least for now) as the only Mayoral candidate prepared to publically stand up for an ambitious and robust GMSF.
As the Combined Authority assesses the feedback received it should also review how it has arrived at a place where at least two of the 10 GM authorities could refuse to back the plan, where MPs like Jim McMahon are calling for radical alterations and where the Prime Minister is asked to give her view at PMQs.
If you don’t explain the problem, people will not accept the solution and it seems to me that the region’s leaders could have done more to prepare the public and local councillors for the difficult choices ahead.
At Remarkable Group we know from experience that more and more people are prepared to support new housing because of their experiences of the housing market. But to transform sentiment into action you need to tap into the everyday aspirations of people who want to get on and up the housing ladder.
Rather than discussing the GMSF in grand economic and spatial terms the City Region’s leaders need to find a way to explain how more homes of the right size and in the right place will help to reduce prices, free-up existing housing stock and attract employers who will pay better salaries. If they can do this, they may yet find a way of countering the emotive and vocal arguments of the 33 or so local opposition groups that are thus far seemingly winning the argument.
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