The latest version of the long-awaited Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will be published for consultation in November, and is intended to form part of the city-region’s wider response to the impact of the pandemic on local development.
A report to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority sets out a revised timeframe for the drafting and submission of the GMSF, the 201,000-home spatial framework that allocates land for development across the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.
The GMCA intends to complete preparation of the statutory evidence base required to support the GMSF by the end of this month, after which time the document will be recommended for approval by the GMCA’s executive board on 12 October.
The authority then plans to open an eight-week public consultation on the draft framework in early November, before submitting to the secretary of state for examination in June 2021. It is anticipated that the plan will be ready for adoption “at some point in 2022”, the report notes.
The timeframe represents further delays from the original targeted consultation period of August, due to the Covid-19 emergency. The current document is the third version of the GMSF that has been produced in the past few years, and developers, planners, local authorities and others are pressing for its adoption as a matter of urgency.
The report this week notes the importance of adopting the framework as soon as possible and ensuring that the final version proposes concrete solutions for mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on Greater Manchester development.
“Mechanisms for mitigating the possible long term impacts of the pandemic will be incorporated into the GMSF, and it will include a review of development trajectories particularly in the early years, a review of the approach to allocating land and a commitment to a radical early review if convincing evidence emerges post adoption,” the report states.
“The impact needs to be reflected in the way that Greater Manchester brings its strategies forward, rather than in the strategies themselves,” it adds. “While the arrival of Covid-19 was not anticipated and its impact is very significant, our approach needs to be flexible to address unpredictable challenges that will arise over the course of any long-term strategy.”
“The need for a bold spatial plan to provide certainty and guide development, investment and infrastructure has never been stronger.”
Gary Halman, principal, planning, development and regeneration, at property consultancy Avison Young, told Place North West: “The reference to a ‘radical early review if convincing evidence emerges’ is interesting. This seems logical given that in a long-term strategy such as GMSF, it’s impossible at this stage to assess with certainty the true impact of Covid.
“For example, what will the effects on the city centre be in terms of the future demand for offices? How do buildings and planned development areas get repurposed if major city centre office plans don’t get delivered?
“And, given the acceleration of demand for home delivery of goods, will the planned level of land for distribution and logistics developments across the region now be adequate, or will more be needed to meet the structural changes we have seen, which are surely part of a long-term trend that won’t be reversed?”
The heavy emphasis on the impact of Covid-19 in the GMCA report suggests that the final version of the GMSF is “unlikely to either seek to drive development at higher levels than previously planned (in line with the Prime Minister’s ‘Build Build Build’ rhetoric, or, importantly, reduce planned development activity because of potentially depressed demand arising from the pandemic,” Halman added.
He said the report also hints at further delays, by flagging risks to achieving the revised timeline arising from the ongoing pandemic situation.
Dan Mitchell, partner at planning consultancy Barton Willmore in Manchester, said: “We welcome the recommendations in the report to progress towards the next stages of public consultation in November and then to the submission stage in the summer of 2021. We need a GMSF. This process has been ongoing since 2016.
“This report rightly sets out the challenges to seek to mitigate the devastating impact of Covid. The report also highlights the challenges to provide for the jobs and homes the conurbation needs, particularly the 100,000 people on council waiting lists for affordable homes and 30,000 households with priority needs.
“Let’s hope that the revised development trajectories referred to seek to bring forward land and sites that meets these needs.”