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Greater Manchester to consider draft 'Spatial Framework' planning strategy this week

Out-Law News | 26 Oct 2016 | 10:28 am | 2 min. read

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) leaders will meet on Friday this week to decide whether to approve a draft planning strategy for the region, ahead of a public consultation on the proposals.

Once finalised, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will set the context for future local plans prepared across the ten local authority areas that make up the GMCA, according to planning law expert Elizabeth Wiseman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. The directly-elected mayor of the GMCA will be given powers over local planning as part of the devolution agreement for the area, she said.

In this context the importance of the framework, which is expected to be adopted in 2019, should not be underestimated, Wiseman said.

"The framework will play a key role in the devolution agenda by seeking to make Greater Manchester a financially self-sustaining city at the heart of the 'Northern Powerhouse'," she said.

"However, the release of the draft framework has been met with concern that it is simply not ambitious enough. While the framework seeks to secure land for 200,000 jobs, 227,200 new homes and investment in infrastructure, when the figures are broken down the numbers are lower than those that have been achieved by Greater Manchester in recent years. It is disappointing that a conservative, mid-range option for growth has been taken at a time when investment in Greater Manchester is at an all-time high," she said.

"The concerns that have been highlighted demonstrate the importance that the framework consultation process will have. Ultimately, it may ensure that a more ambitious plan for growth is adopted. It will be important for those with business interests in Greater Manchester to use the consultation period to analyse the detailed evidence base for the framework in the coming weeks, and ensure that they fully engage in the plan-making process to promote their interests in the framework," she said.

The GMSF is the GMCA's plan for land allocation across the Greater Manchester area. It identifies a need for an additional 227,200 new homes across Greater Manchester by 2035, split across 10 local authorities, in order to accommodate estimated population growth. The draft also proposes 2,450,000 square metres of new office floorspace, 55% of which should be within the city centre; and 8,126,000 square metres of land for industrial and warehouse purposes, of which around half should be delivered within the plan period.

The idea behind the GMSF is to ensure that homes and office space are delivered sustainably, and with the right transport and other supporting infrastructure in place. Greater control over the way in which land is allocated across the combined authority will "ensure development of new homes comes with investment in roads, school places, green spaces and public transport", according to the draft.

Around a quarter of the land required to deliver the commitments set out in the framework will come from the existing greenbelt, the boundary of which will be re-drawn in order to "check unplanned development" while also "meeting our housing and employment needs over the next 20 years", according to the draft. However, it will "minimise" the amount of the existing greenbelt land required for development by focusing on "relatively few, large sites" instead of multiple smaller developments.

The election of a mayor for the GMCA is due to take place on 4 May 2017. Under the Greater Manchester devolution agreement of November 2014, the mayor will have strategic planning powers including "the power to create a statutory spatial strategy". The mayor will also control a new £300 million housing investment fund, which it is proposed will help deliver 15,000 new homes in the area over the next 10 years.

The mayor, alongside the GMCA, will also have the power to ensure that developers make a "fair and reasonable contribution" towards the infrastructure needed to support the sites that they develop, according to the announcement.