The second draft of Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework has been released this week. This is a very important document that will guide the development of new housing and infrastructure in Greater Manchester for the next 20 years.

I am strongly in favour of development being planned as I believe this is the only way to ensure we get the type of homes that we need and the infrastructure to support them. I believe we have to recognise that the deal offered to young people in the UK – housing at a cost which is now several multiples of what it was for previous generations – is not fair or sustainable. We need more homes. But planning development is a complicated and contentious issue.

Responsibility for this plan ultimately lies with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. In his election campaign Andy promised to better balance development with protection of the environment and improved transport infrastructure. The result, shown in this second draft, is something which addresses a lot of the concerns people previously had.

The whole thing is worth a read and can be found here, on the GMCA’s website. You can also collect a physical copy from any library in the constituency. The key news for our constituency is:

  • Proposed Green Belt reduction has been halved across Greater Manchester. Green Belt land will now only be reduced by 2%. Green Belt can only be reduced if there is insufficient brownfield land, which is the case in Greater Manchester.
  • For us, this means the Green Belt sites in Stalybridge and in Mottram have been removed from development plans entirely. Andy Burnham has identified town centre development as being key to this, and the success of projects like Summer’s Quay in Stalybridge town centre have shown there is a strong market for town centre residential developments.
  • The major Green Belt site in the constituency is therefore the proposal for a new garden village behind Hattersley station in Hyde. Combining the principles of the successful new towns, this is an attempt to do planning in a completely different way – delivering new infrastructure like transport improvements and public services – at the same time as a genuine mix of housing types. I think this is vastly superior to a lot of generic developer estates being delivered without any infrastructure or public say in what type of housing is built.
  • Disappointingly, both the Bowlacre and Apethorn Lane sites are still in the plan. This is my only major objection to this new draft and I will continue to request the removal of the Apethorn Lane site.
  • The plan identifies that under national planning policy it is not possible to demand all the brownfield sites are developed first, but does propose ways we could try and make this possible in Greater Manchester.
  • There are proposals to protect ‘green infrastructure’ which is not designated Green Belt. This means protecting sites like parks, open spaces, woodlands, rivers and canals. These are some of the most valued and well used green sites in our area and this is a very welcome proposals.
  • The plan incorporates wider environmental policy issues, such as a presumption against fracking within Greater Manchester.
  • There is a guarantee that the homes built will be diverse to meet all needs, and includes a target of a minimum number of 50,000 additional affordable homes across GM. There will be a new housing strategy to provide more detail on this including a GM definition of ‘affordable’.

There will now be a consultation on the second draft of this plan. Whilst I know some people oppose all new housing, it’s important to remember this would simply transfer the power to developers who can win sites on appeal if the land supply for housing is found to be insufficient in any Borough. The majority of concerns I received were more about the types of housing that would be built and whether there would be new infrastructure to support these. Therefore I think these plans are a real improvement, whilst still making substantial progress to alleviating the housing crisis and boosting the local economy – please have a look, submit your feedback to the GMCA, or you can comment on Facebook post.

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