Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Stockport Council leader Elise Wilson have written an open letter to residents imploring them to support the city region development strategy, in the latest instalment of the saga surrounding the controversial document.
The letter comes after Stockport Conservative Group warned that it planned to vote against the latest version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, despite achieving some hoped-for concessions including the removal of a Green Belt site earmarked for 500 homes.
“We wanted you to have a full and factual explanation of what [the GMSF] involves,” the letter, seen by Place North West, states.
“Being part of the GMSF allows the borough to reduce the number of houses it is required to build over the next 17 years. As a result, it saves more Green Belt in the borough for future generations than would otherwise be the case if Stockport left the GMSF and went it alone.”
The letter can be read in full below
Place North West reported on Monday that the High Lane site, off the A6 Buxton Road between Hazel Grove and Disley, was set to be deleted from the GMSF following lobbying from Stockport’s opposition Conservative MPs.
The group also wanted other Green Belt sites across the borough, including a site in Heald Green earmarked for 1,700 homes, and Woodford Aerodrome, earmarked for 750 homes, to be removed. Following discussions, Stockport Council secured from the mayor reductions of 70 homes each for the sites in question.
However, the latest statement from Stockport Conservative Group, issued yesterday, argued that “Labour’s best offer for Stockport is too little, too late”.
Cllr Mike Hurleston, leader of Stockport Conservative Group and local councillor for Bramhall South and Woodford, said: “We are sorely disappointed for the residents…that Labour has let them down and also not understood that small communities will have to bear the brunt of mass development both in our borough and at the borders, leaving them potentially lost in sprawl.”
“The Conservatives have been completely clear that we are not against joint planning, but we are against this plan, which is too high a price to pay. This is just too little, too late. Andy Burnham could not deliver for us and we will therefore have to vote against his plan.
“We will stand firm against Labour Manchester’s plan to move development onto our Green Belt and as Conservatives we remain unanimously opposed to the flawed and unfair proposals of GMSF.”
The open letter from Burnham and Cllr Wilson sets out “a crucial point” it said often gets missed. “Because the [GMSF] has to allocate some land for development over the next 17 years, the inevitable controversy about those allocations distracts from the fact that far more precious green land would be at risk if Stockport developed its own plan, or, worse, had no plan at all.
“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.”
The letter adds that all brownfield land in the borough has been identified and included in the current plan, but it is not sufficient to meet even the reduced number of homes Stockport needs to build.
“In fact, opting out also means Stockport loses its ability to access significant brownfield funding, meaning the vast majority of these homes would most likely have to be built on Green Belt and our open green spaces anyway.”
Cllr David Meller, Stockport Council’s Labour cabinet member for economy and regeneration, told Place North West: “It’s likely this allocation will have to come back now in a ‘go it alone’ local plan for Stockport – I wonder if members have realised this.
“It is ironic that those against the GMSF and against the High Lane allocation are now set to vote for its likely development, as the council will have to find space for 5,500 additional homes if it goes it alone.”
Kevin Whitmore, director and head of North at Built Environment Communications Group, wrote on Twitter: “This could well be [the GMSF’s] final death knell.
“Despite moves to make further changes in Stockport it looks like the Conservative Group has decided to walk away. Without their support, the GMSF will not be approved by Stockport Council, throwing the whole document into doubt.”
Meanwhile, as the GMSF plunges into disarray, two of Salford’s Conservative councillors have called in – meaning, formally challenged – Salford Mayor Paul Dennett’s decision to recommend the city council approve the latest version of the GMSF.
Cllrs Robin Garrido and Darren Ward oppose proposals in the document to build houses and warehouses on areas of Green Belt land in Irlam, Barton, Boothstown and Little Hulton, and claim that Dennett’s decision “lacked consultation, respect for human rights, failed to consider alternative options, and was not reasonable”.