In January, Andy Burnham released an updated plan for where new housing and employment sites should go across Greater Manchester for the next generation. The second draft of Greater Manchester’s Spatial Framework is a very important document that will guide what development looks like locally for the next 20 years.
Plans like these are usually met with a degree of heated debate. That is right – we all care about our communities, what our town centres and neighbourhoods look like, and what it will be like to live in them in the future. Because there are not enough brownfield sites to meet the Government-mandated housing target for Greater Manchester the plan will have to include a small amount of greenbelt land, which is particularly contentious.
However, it is also right that we have a plan. Long-term development planning is the only way to ensure we get the type of homes that we need and the infrastructure to support them. Without a plan, we still get new housing, because commercial developers get on with it where it suits them. Not having a plan just means you can’t control them. But having a plan also means we can think strategically and creatively about what we want our region to be like in years to come.
And we do need more homes. Housing now costs many more times what it did for previous generations. We have to recognise that the deal offered to young people in the UK – half their income spent on an unstable rental is not fair or sustainable; fewer and fewer people can afford to buy their own home, and for those that can, saving for a deposit often takes until their forties not their twenties. If the price of groceries had risen as quickly as the price of houses since 1971, buying a chicken to roast would cost £51. Increasing the housing stock is essential to curbing the unsustainable rate of house price inflation.
In his election campaign, GM Mayor Andy Burnham promised to better balance development with protection of the environment and improved transport infrastructure. The result, shown in this second GMSF draft, addresses a lot of the concerns people previously had.
There is much good news. Proposed Green Belt reduction has been halved across Greater Manchester, which will now see a reduction of just 2%. Green Belt sites like Sidebottom Fold in Stalybridge have been removed from development plans entirely. Town centre development is key to this, and projects like Summers Quay in Stalybridge have shown a strong market for town centre residential developments. There are also welcome proposals to protect much loved green space that is not “Green Belt” like parks, woodlands, river banks and canal sides.
The plans move to rule out fracking across GM, which will be a relief to many. They also include a guaranteed mix of housing types, and include a target of 50,000 additional affordable homes across GM. There will be a new strategy to deliver this including a GM definition of ‘affordable’.
The major proposal in our constituency is for a new garden village behind Hattersley station in Hyde. This is an attempt to do planning in a completely different, holistic way – delivering a mix of new housing types at the same time as road, rail, cycle and pedestrian improvements as well as a school places, shops and provisions for health etc. I think this is vastly superior to a lot of generic developer estates being delivered without any new infrastructure.
I still have some concerns with the plans –like the inclusion of the Apethorn Lane site in Hyde which does not present to me as a viable option for development, and which I will continue to object to. However, overall this second draft represents a marked improvement for our area.
A full consultation on these plans is now open. Please have a look and send Andy your thoughts. You can find all the details here or hard copies can be found at any of our local libraries. Together we can start to envisage the future of our area. The consultation closes on 18th March 2019. Don’t miss the chance to have your say.