Stockport to debate GMSF withdrawal

The council may back out of work to prepare the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework over concerns that the Government’s forthcoming planning reforms would render any framework out of date soon after adoption. 

A Stockport councillor has put forward an internal motion to withdraw from the 201,000-home spatial framework that allocates land for development across the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. The motion, drawn up by Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Hunter, will be considered by Stockport Council at a meeting next week and seconded by Cllr Lisa Smart. 

The motion argues that the GMSF “does not comply with the [Government’s] new approach to planning and would not produce a valid [Stockport] Local Plan under the proposed changes. 

“[An adopted GMSF] would not prevent this council from needing to start development of a new-style local plan almost immediately after adoption.” 

As a result, the council should withdraw from the GMSF and instead turn its attention to “developing our own five-year Local Plan, mindful of the likely new requirements to be imposed by central Government.” 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick unveiled a raft of planning proposals intended to further simplify the planning system, in his Planning for the Future white paper last month. The Government is now consulting on the proposals but it is not known exactly when the reforms would be enacted once finalised. 

Hunter’s motion also raises concerns over proposed Green Belt allocations in the draft GMSF. Stockport Council has long been wary of the potential for Green Belt release for development as a result of measures contained in the draft GMSF.  

However, the council cannot currently demonstrate sufficient housing supply and, as a result, would require Green Belt sites to be allocated for development under the GMSF. Stockport claims that the most recent version of the much-delayed GMSF, on which the Greater Manchester boroughs are due to consult in November, would undermine its ‘brownfield first’ policy. 

Like Salford City Council and Oldham Council, Stockport has criticised Whitehall’s proposed planning reforms, which it said are likely to be adopted “given the Government’s ideological stance and majority in the House of Commons”. 

The reforms would “give too much control to developers, which already have a history of not delivering developments after gaining planning permission”, Stockport added.

Under standard Government methodology, Stockport is required to build 1,098 homes a year.

Dan Mitchell, partner at planning consultant Barton Willmore, said Stockport’s decision was “disappointing but not surprising”.

“This potentially deals a serious blow to the GMSF as a collaborative plan,” Mitchell said. “Cross-boundary collaboration is key for delivering on major infrastructure needed for growth.

“Stockport’s decision to go alone won’t necessarily change the argument about the balance of brownfield and Green Belt land.” 

He added that Stockport has  an “affordability problem” and is the second most expensive borough in Greater Manchester for people to buy a house, after Trafford.

In April, Stockport’s brownfield-first approach was dealt a blow after charity the Seashell Trust’s plans for a special needs school and 325 homes on Green Belt land were approved by the Secretary of State on appeal after the council had initially refused them.

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