What a Greater Manchester development plan means for planning authorities in the area

The statutory development plan being developed for Greater Manchester will aim to identify potential key locations for housing within the city-region's ten local authority areas, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) has revealed.

Manchester: concern that housing framework may delay local plan preparation
Manchester: concern that housing framework may delay local plan preparation

The ten councils comprising AGMA are working to produce the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which aims to focus on future housing and employment land requirements and provide a spatial vision for the city-region.

A report published this month by AGMA proposes that the GMSF would focus on the level of housing and employment development in each district and the key locations in which this would be delivered.

"Distribution within districts would be set out in their local plans, but would clearly be informed by the opportunity areas identified in the GMSF," the report adds.

Comprehensive site allocations, including the boundaries of the opportunity areas and the requirements for individual sites, would also be included in districts' local plans, according to the report.

Dave Trimingham, executive director at consultancy Turley, said while it supports the GMSF in principle, there is a danger that the proposals could "lead to delays and a bit of hiatus" for the preparation of local plans.

"Our view is that there will be a need for ongoing planning and release of land that cannot necessarily wait until adoption of the GMSF, which at the moment is 2018 at the earliest. If everything waits for that there are potentially three years of stagnation," he said.

Gary Halman, managing partner at consultancy HOW Planning, added: "In a complex metropolitan area where migration flows, housing, employment and infrastructure do not respect local authority boundaries, it is right to have a strategic overview such as this.

"I think therefore that although it is going to be a painful and probably challenging process, it will be less problematic than authorities having to tread the path themselves through their own local plans."

Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of Stockport Council and planning lead for AGMA, said the ten districts would be "fully involved" in the development of the GMSF.

"The districts will be aligning their local plan processes with the GMSF timetable to ensure that both the Greater Manchester plan and the districts' local plans progress in a timely fashion," he added.

Meanwhile, the report also reveals responses to a consultation undertaken last year on the emerging proposals. It outlined that there is "strong support for the rationale of the GMSF".

But it also indicates that respondents have "a general view that the vision lacks ambition", and questioned whether the objectively assessed housing need is too low.

According to the report, a "fundamental concern" expressed by "influential" respondents is that it is necessary to prepare a new comprehensive strategic housing market assessment for areas across Greater Manchester before assessing and calculating the objectively assessed housing need.

Boylan pointed out that during the consultation period, the Greater Manchester devolution agreement was announced, setting out plans for an elected mayor with the power to produce a strategic framework.

"Many of the consultation responses not unreasonably conflated the two and commented that the consultation document was not as visionary or bold as a 'Mayor's Plan' would be expected to be," Boylan said.

"Once we are clearer on the new process and have had time to review the consultation responses fully, along with new evidence - for example the sub-national household projections expected in February - we will respond to issues raised and set out our timetable for further work," he added.

Greater Manchester could also push for its city-region mayor to have call-in powers on major schemes.

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