The consultation into the first draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, the 20-year strategy to deliver up to 230,000 new homes and 11 million sq ft of commercial space across city region, closes just before Christmas.
The 225-page paper was published in October, and is the first time a statutory planning blueprint has been produced for all 10 local authorities in the city region.
The bulk of housing development is planned on brownfield land, but 28% is proposed on Green Belt, equating to 63,000 homes on previously protected land. Bury and Trafford would be the hardest hit.
The plan sets out a requirement for 26 million sq ft of office space, 55% of which is proposed for Manchester city centre. The framework also outlines 86.5 million sq ft of land for industrial and warehousing, although only half of that is expected to be delivered during the plan period.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority held a consultation event on Wednesday 14 December, at which officers and political leaders involved in drafting the plan presented an update and took questions from delegates the room.
Cllr Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Council and GM portfolio lead for housing, reassured those residents who had expressed concern over the plan, particularly over the release of Green Belt.
“We’re going to keep it nice and calm and steady. People are getting worried, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“We’ve chosen a middle ground as the proper and reasonable thing to do. The priority is to ensure equal growth across Greater Manchester; so far it has been very uneven, and we haven’t seen the same investment in the North as we’ve seen in the South.”
Eamonn Boylan, lead chief executive for planning and housing, was firm about the soundness of the strategy’s figures, even in the face of economic uncertainty.
When asked if the Brexit vote had impacted on forecasts, he said: “We’ve looked at every assumption, and with independent analysis we believe these are still robust. Of course we haven’t seen the impact of Brexit yet, but we will continue to analyse as we move forward.” Boylan said the GMCA would be prepared to revise figures based on any changes in economic growth, both upwards or downwards.
Responses to the GMSF have fallen at both ends of the scale, with the targets being criticised for being both too high, and too low.
Earlier this week, more than a dozen property business leaders sent an open letter to the 10 leaders of the local authorities, and interim mayor Tony Lloyd, criticed the draft plan for its lack of ambition, calling it “a handbrake on opportunity that will hamstring Northern growth”.
At the consultation, a representative of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said that the organisation had commissioned a demographer to look at housing targets, and that there was a valid argument for the figure to be reduced.
Others expressed fears that the targets “could be setting Local Authorities up to fail”, as areas could struggle to find a five-year land supply on which to build the homes, leading to a risk that developers could win planning permissions on appeal at problem sites.
The consultation ends on 23 December, with planning advisers across the region kept busy up to the last working day before Christmas submitting comments on behalf of clients.
A final draft of the GMSF is due to be published in July 2017.
The plan is expected to be adopted in 2018, subject to further consultation and a final vote by council leaders and the new city region mayor.