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Is this the end for the GMSF?

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Politics is a funny old game.

A year ago Liberal Democrat GM Mayoral candidate Jane Brophy polled just over 6% of the vote, trailing a distant third behind Labour’s Andy Burnham and the Conservative’s Sean Anstee.  This week she was one of the two Lib Dem Trafford Councillors to agree a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Labour Group – paving the way for a Labour-run administration in the Borough for the first time in 14 years.

With the promise of scrapping the 3,000 homes allocation on Timperley Wedge – on top of Labour’s plans to scrap housing on Green Belt land around Flixton – her year-old manifesto pledge to ‘reject the current Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’ looks set to be delivered.

Is this really the end of the road for the GMSF?

On the surface, this looks like it could be a game-changer for the GMSF – which needs to be approved by all ten GM authorities to go through. How will Trafford find alternative sites for over 3,000 homes?  Will neighbouring authorities be willing to accept more housing numbers?  Will the announcement embolden Lib Dem councillors in other parts of Greater Manchester to dig their heels in, especially in Stockport?

But away from the rhetoric that accompanied the announcement, the actual ‘deal’ between Labour and the Lib Dems in Trafford is not nearly as strongly-worded against Green Belt development as the public statements might suggest.  There is room for new Leader Andrew Western to move into if push comes to shove.

Furthermore, this is a deal for one-year only.  Trafford Labour will be looking to take the same seats it won this year in 2019, allowing it to run the council on its own terms.  If successful, Cllr Western will be under pressure from his Labour colleagues across Greater Manchester – not least GM Mayor Andy Burnham – to sign-off on the GMSF so that it doesn’t become a Mayoral election issue in 2020.

So what next?

Delay is likely to be the order of the day, with the next draft more likely than not to be held back until the autumn whilst the GMCA takes stock of the changing political landscape.

With new council leaders in Trafford, Oldham and Wigan – on top of those who have taken charge in Tameside, Bolton and Rochdale since the 2016 draft GMSF was published – there is likely to be more twists and turns before everything is agreed.

BECG is the UK’s only sector-specialist multi-disciplinary communications consultancy for the Built Environment.  You can find out more about our work at www.becg.com

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