GMSF final draft could be out for consultation in days
The long-awaited final draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework could be published in the next couple of weeks, if leaders give it the green light.
The news was revealed at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Housing, Planning and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 15 November. A paper distributed to members before the meeting, but not published on the Combined Authority website, sets out a date of December 2018 or January 2019 for the consultation on the final draft to start.
That would allow the final version of the GMSF to be published for comment in the summer of 2019, before being submitted late 2019 or early 2020. The public examination could take place in the Spring and Summer of 2020, followed by adoption in Winter 2020/21. However, the GMSF has been subject to delays at every stage so far: further bumps in the road would not be a surprise.
For a December consultation to happen, leaders will need to make a decision at the GMCA meeting in Bury on Friday 30 November. There’s no GMSF item on the agenda for the meeting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. As with the Housing Scrutiny meeting, the decision may well be taken under urgent business with a paper circulated to the leaders just ahead of the meeting rather than being published on the website.
A December launch would see the GMSF consultation run through to mid-March. If the consultation starts in January, it would finish in April. Neither is ideal for the leaders. Getting the papers out for December could be a rush, and launching your consultation in the Christmas season is rarely a good look. But that might be preferable to the alternative, which would see it overlap with the 2019 local election campaign. Having both at the same time could be a gift to Save Our Green Belt campaigners who would doubtless seek to turn the local elections into a referendum on the plans.
For the GMSF to be approved, all ten council leaders plus the Mayor of Greater Manchester have to vote in favour. That could happen even if a majority of councillors in a council opposed the deal. However, two of the ten councils (Stockport and Trafford) are in no overall control, while Bolton is on a knife-edge. In Stockport at least, leader Alex Ganotis has made clear that he will only vote for a deal that has the support of a majority of Stockport members.
Add to that the local elections in May 2019 and 2020, plus the Mayoral election in 2020, and there’s plenty of scope for further changes of leadership. Just one of the ten council leaders who signed the first Manchester Devolution deal in 2014 is still in post. Who knows how much more turmoil the next few years will bring.
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