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GMSF: Are you an Outer or an Upper?

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Are you an Outer or an Upper?

You might be surprised that it’s got nothing to do with Brexit. This is the debate around the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, though it also applies to many other Local Plans.

The question is how we grow our city region. Do we focus on building out: more homes, industrial units and offices on greenfield sites, stretching our borders? Or do we grow upwards – increase density in the existing population centres, packing more people into today’s urban environment?

The original GMSF, and the view still supported by most Greater Manchester council leaders, is more in the Outer camp. A large proportion of the 200,000 new homes Greater Manchester needs over the next twenty years is planned for Green Belt land.

There are clear benefits to the Outer approach. It’s relatively easy and cheap. The greenfield sites provide good profit margins for developers, making them eminently deliverable. And once those sites have taken their share of new homes, the remaining housing need can be met by the easier-to-deliver brownfield sites, especially those around the desirable city centre.

It can be argued that relatively little of the UK is built on – less than 2.5% – so perhaps we shouldn’t be too precious about building on a little more. Some might also point out that people seem to rather like living in suburbia with a nice house and a nice garden on a nice quiet road.

At the recent Place North West Northern Transport Summit, James Rayner from Broadway Malyan set out an alternative. You can see his slide presentation here.

Rayner’s case is that the urban sprawl that characterised city growth in the 20th century has to be replaced with mixed-use higher density developments. He argues for development around transport hubs – Greater Manchester’s 94 rail stations. New communities with new hearts in a growing-but-compact city.

That should be music to the ears of Andy Burnham. The Greater Manchester Mayor has ordered a “radical rewrite” of the GMSF and wants to see less development on the greenbelt.

And, of course, many will retort with “if only it was that easy.”

The cost of urban regeneration on the sort of scale needed to build at least 10,500 new homes a year across Greater Manchester is likely to be high. There’s demolition and decontamination costs. Additional infrastructure will be needed. We can talk about sexy tram lines and refurbished stations, but someone had better be looking at our ageing sewerage systems and electricity networks too.

So the challenge for Uppers like Andy Burnham is to come up with a funding mechanism for the sort of large scale urban renewal that would be required. Not just a flagship project here or a small-scale trial there but consistent projects delivering high quality outcomes right across Greater Manchester, year-in, year-out.

Outer or Upper – which are you?

Your Comments

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72% of new housing in the draft GMSF was on existing sites, mainly in the urban area – how is that the existing GMSF being mainly in the ‘Outer’ camp?

By InterestedParty

Because it is obvious, and has been proven in other areas that developers will take the easy option and build on the former green belt first. Experience in Leeds has just shown that if you take out green belt land, even for development in the middle future, then the pressure to develop immediately will become too great. If we allow large-scale GB releases in GM now, then we condemn all the town centres (Ashton, Rochdale, Stockport, etc., to another generation of decline. As a chartered planner, the prospect of this makes me want to weep.

By Peter Black

Interested Party is right- 72% of housing in the GMSF will be in urban areas, presumably mixed use higher density development around transport hubs as suggested by James Rayner

By Anonymous

I get really agitated with the Green belt Gestapo.In Bury there is a vigorous campaign from this group which in effect is saying that new people are not worthy of living where we live.Everywhere was originally Green belt and the people living in the houses in these areas should remember, that their houses were once new and probably built in a field.We need houses for the next generation and why do they have to live on the site of an old cotton mill,when they work and pay tax.Tastefully built homes enhance the Green belt. They do not spoil it.If Central Manchester had a better infrastructure, we would attract more families,but it currently has little to offer aspiring people with children.

By Elephant

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