Making Places: Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework

Councillor Richard Farnell outlines what we can expect from the first draft of Greater Manchester’s spatial framework, which goes live in October and will guide how we develop our homes, workplaces and transport over the next 20 years.

Let’s face it, a place with a plan is a place with a future.

You could muddle through without one, possibly, but what kind of sense would it make to leave important things like homes you can afford, decent local services and good transport links, all to chance? Not much.

That’s why Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities have been working together on what we’ve called a ‘spatial framework’ for our conurbation, which will guide how we develop our homes, workplaces and transport over the next twenty years.

Why do we need a plan? Good question.

A few decades ago, virtually of all of Greater Manchester was suffering from a drop in population, a lack of jobs and let’s face it, a crisis of confidence. Even though we’d pretty much invented the industrial revolution, we were going through a tough time.

“Our towns and city centres have started to see a true ‘urban renaissance’”

Since then we’ve really bounced back. There’s still work to do but we’ve had more jobs created, businesses starting, new transport investment and our towns and city centres have started to see a true ‘urban renaissance’.

If we want to continue that trend, we need to make sure we’ve got room to grow. We need further investment in local infrastructure, from school places to green spaces. Families will want homes that their children can afford in places they want to live. New businesses will need decent offices or work places. New workers arriving or students looking to stay rather than moving to London or elsewhere for a job, will want somewhere nice, safe and affordable that they can call home.

And as we create our new homes, we need to deliver a cleaner, greener and better connected conurbation. This means trains, trams, buses and better roads. We can only deliver on that if we plan for it.

Here are the numbers. We’ ve had experts look at what our next twenty years of job growth looks like and the objectively assessed need for Greater Manchester suggests we’re looking at around 200,000 new jobs being created. Many of these will be jobs for people already living in Greater Manchester, good news, but they’ll also attract other people and families to come and live here to share their talent and skills.

“Green Belt is not a green space or nature designation. The purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent un-planned urban sprawl”

Altogether we’re going to need up to 230,000 new homes by 2035, approximately 70% of this supply is on brownfield sites within the existing urban area. We’re going to work hard to make sure these are developed and you could call our approach ‘urban first’, but as we still have a shortfall we will also need to identify some limited areas of green belt to release for development.

Green Belt is not a green space or nature designation. The purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent un-planned urban sprawl. The broad extent of the Green Belt in Greater Manchester was established in 1981 and detailed boundaries were introduced in 1984. Since that time these boundaries have been carried forward and in some cases, amended through individual Local Plans.

Our spatial framework will be out for official public consultation in October and we’re looking forward to getting feedback from far and wide on the options it puts forward. We’ve also just wrapped up what we called a ‘call for sites’ which has told us where housing developers and others would like to build new homes. Not all of these sites will make it through to the final plan, but it’s given us the base of evidence we needed to work out where we’re going to focus our efforts in the years ahead.

We think we’ve got a good plan ready to release in October, but at this point it’d be completely fair for you to ask that critical question: “what would happen if we didn’t have a plan in place?” There are two sides to the answer.

“We want to take control of our future and make sure we’re well connected and that prosperity reaches every part of Greater Manchester”

First of all, we’d fail to make sure that we planned new development so it included green space, more public transport connections, and important local assets like schools or health centres. Basically you’d get more houses being built, but there’d be no thought given to the pressure this would bring for local infrastructure. It’d be a massive missed opportunity.

The second problem would be that under the current legal rules, housebuilders could challenge our lack of a supply of land for more homes and be given the right to build wherever they want, including in the green belt, regardless of how local people might feel about it. Sounds crazy? Yes. But it’s happening right across England for places that haven’t got their plan together.

We want to take control of our future and make sure we’re well connected and that prosperity reaches every part of Greater Manchester.

You can have your say when the consultation goes live in October, before then, follow us on Twitter and we’ ll keep you posted on our plans for an Even Greater Manchester.