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Burnham’s GMSF, another three years?

The newly elected mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has reiterated his intentions to ‘radically rewrite’ the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework less than a week after taking office. In a short speech delivered to the media, Mr Burnham outlined his plans for the region including more affordable homes, a significant reduction in the amount of green spaces allocated for new housing and a drive to see more residential development in town centres.

To assist with all things housing and planning, Burnham also announced the appointment of Salford Mayor, Paul Dennett as the portfolio lead for housing, regeneration and homelessness. A political move which may worry some in the private sector considering Dennett has called for an increase in the number of council houses, the protection of the Green Belt and accused the planning system of being rigged in favour of developers.

With Mr Burnham’s announcements signalling a clear shift in housing policy, what could the impact be for those involved in Manchester’s property industry?

Delays

With work starting on the GMSF in 2014 and a final draft expected in 2018, it is likely that any ‘radical rewrite’ would see a significant delay to the framework. Many in the industry were already braced for delays beyond 2018 but depending on the scope of the ‘re-write’ it isn’t inconceivable that adoption drifts well into 2019.

Green Belt

Although much of the debate has centred on plans to allocate sites in the Green Belt they only made up a fraction of total housing numbers in the draft GMSF. All the evidence seems to suggest that Greater Manchester cannot deliver the housing it needs without some development in the Green Belt. So which communities will be left disappointed that Mr Burnham’s re-write hasn’t stopped development in their area and what will they do to frustrate the process?

Working with the private sector

Delay brings further uncertainty to investors and housebuilders who had assumed that Greater Manchester’s start on the long road to a clear planning framework was finally beginning to bear fruit. With many already believing the GMSF lacking in ambition any significant re-write is likely to embolden those most critical of the process and make adoption of the framework even more protracted.

What about the Combined Authority?

Officers and councillors have spent their time, effort and significant political capital getting the GMSF to the point it is now. Many on the Combined Authority had assumed that the mayor’s campaign rhetoric would be toned down once in office and that the GMSF would see evolution rather than revolution.

If Mayor Burnham really does mean the latter, what does this say about the judgements made by senior officers and council leaders who had signed-off on the original draft? It risks alienating the very people who have worked hard to get the GMSF to this stage and who Mayor Burnham will be relying upon to go out and ‘sell’ the revised framework to an already sceptical audience.

With many resident’s groups doubtful that there is a need for the framework in the first place, a re-write is unlikely to convince everyone that the new options are the right ones – especially if much of the good work that has been done by the Combined Authority is dropped.

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