Another delay to Greater Manchester’s 201,000-home spatial framework has been confirmed by the Combined Authority with another round of public consultation expected in the New Year.
The latest delay rules out any final form of the framework coming forward before next year’s Mayoral elections, taking place in May 2020; the GMCA’s revised timescale points to a further round of public consultation in summer 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.
Place North West reported in July that another delay was looming, and this has now been confirmed by the GMCA, which has said a refreshed timescale will “allow for a period of deeper engagement with local communities and other stakeholders in light of the number of detailed and considered public responses received” earlier this year.
The latest move pushes back the existing timescale for the GMSF; under this, 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.
Despite the delay, the GMCA reiterated the existing framework was “the best proposal for implementing future housing and infrastructure needs fairly across the city region”.
Paul Dennett, GMCA lead on housing, homelessness, and infrastructure, said: “The people of Greater Manchester have provided invaluable insight and feedback and I want to thank them for engaging in this important process on our Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment. Having a clear plan is vital if we are to avoid a future where developers get the pick of the prime sites across Greater Manchester with no joined-up strategy to combat the possibility.
“I am confident the second, redrafted Spatial Framework was a significant improvement on the first, with proposals for building on Green Belt reduced by more than 50 per cent. However, from the large number of responses we’ve received there obviously remain real concerns in many communities. We received 27,000 responses to the first draft and fewer than 18,000 this time but it remains important that we consider all feedback properly and factor it into the next redraft.
“When the revised proposals are presented for a further round of consultation next summer they will better represent what we all want – a comprehensive proposal for the homes, jobs and supporting environment we all need now and in the future.”
As reported by Place in the summer, 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.
Part of the reason, according to sources close to the process, 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.
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.